5 of the Oldest Libraries in the World

As a fan of the arts, it is always a pleasure to spend time in a library.  The experience becomes even more surreal when a library carries history and tradition from centuries ago.

It’s time to travel around the world and visit some of the oldest libraries in existence. There is no better place for bibliophiles to be than iconic libraries with ceiling-high bookshelves that compliment the age-old wooden tables and the sweet smell of old books.

Here are 5 of the most legendary libraries with ancient art and architecture that stood the test of time:

5) Malatestiana Library (1452) – Italy

The Biblioteca Malatestiana, Italy

The Biblioteca Malatestiana is a public library in Cesena, Italy is the fifth oldest library in the world and is a part of UNESCO’s prestigious “Memory of the World” sites.  This library is a monastic library with over 400,000 books including 343 books that are chained to the tables for reading.


4) National Library of France (1368) – France

Bibliothèque nationale de France (The National Library of France)Known as the ‘Bibliothèque nationale de France’ which aptly translates to the National Library of France in English, this library is home to an astonishing 40 million items from 14 million books, newspapers, journals, stamps, recordings and much more.

This library was France’s first royal library and it also has over 180,000 manuscripts and prints.


3) Sorbonne Interuniversity Library (1289) – France

Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de la Sorbonne (Sorbonne Interuniversity Library)The ‘Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de la Sorbonne’ contains more than 2 million documents and is now a part of the University of Paris. It has a 200 feet wide reading room that can house 260 avid readers.

This magnificent library was founded in 1289 and it distributed a lot of its books to other libraries during the French Revolution in 1791 in order to protect them.

Most of the books have been recovered by now and the library’s original architecture was restored in 2013.


2) Al-Qarawiyyin Library(825) – Morocco

Al-Qarawiyyin Library, Morocco
All the book enthusiasts around the world were drooling when Morocco’s Al-Qarawiyyin Library was restored in 2016. Founded in the 9th Century by a woman named Fatima al Fihria. It’s the oldest functional library in the world and is located in Fez, the world’s oldest continually operating university. 


1) St. Catherine’s Monastery Library (565) – Egypt

St. Catherine’s Monastery Library, MoroccoLocated at the foot of the fabled Mount Sinai, the St. Catherine’s Monastery Library is the oldest continually operating library in the world. Furthermore, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is also one of the oldest functioning Christian monasteries in the world.

This library is a sight for sore eyes with its second largest collection of ancient manuscripts and codices after the Vatican City.

All Images via WikiMedia Commons 

Written by Sparsh Paul

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