Mr. Mohamed Dekkak believes in the saying ‘READING IS FOOD FOR THE SOUL AND MIND’. Since childhood, he is fond of collecting books of different genres. Reading is one of his favourite pastimes, as it not only helps him discover new information but it also helps him to keep up with trends and events of this generation.
During his travel to Paris, he made sure that he drop by and spend time reading in one of the largest public and research libraries in the world, The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF). The humble beginning of the National Library of France commenced during the medieval period. Charles V established a small personal archive in the Louvre in 1368 but it is during the reign of Louis XI that the collection flourished into a full-fledged library. Because of this, Louis XI can be entitled as the founder of the royal library. He maintained its purpose up to the second half of the XVth century. The manuscripts were joined by the collection of inscriptions, prints, awards, gifts, coinages, and books as the French monarchy grew. Thanks to the introduction of the printing media in 1450.
In 1537, King Francis I required publishers to deposit a copy of every book printed in the kingdom in the library, which absolutely facilitated the collection to grow. At present, this system called ‘double legal deposit’ is still practised and requires all bookshops and printers to make a contribution. The library now houses around 14 million books and 250,000 manuscripts.
The realization of Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) was made possible by the merger of the old National Library with the new Library of France in 1994. The BNF composes of five wings: François-Mitterrand, Richelieu, Arsenal, The Opera Library and Maison Jean Vilar in Avignon, as well as Gallica, the digital collection. The most visited parts of the library are the Richelieu, which accommodates the most ancient archives and François-Mitterrand has the most up to date collections.
By early 2000s, the facilities of the library had suffered deterioration, which made it impossible to stand the test of time. Due to this concern, a major overhaul of the library was started. The renovation started in 2011, Bruno Gaudin was assigned to manage the project, while the refurbishment of the listed ‘salle Labrouste’ was assigned to Jean Francois-Lagneau. The project runs in two phases in order to keep the library partially open and its completion is expected in 2020.
In January 2017, the former site of the national library located at rue de Richelieu in Paris has reopened. The architectural design of the library now exhibits a contemporary glass airlock, which diverges from the building’s old design.
The library in Richelieu is well known for its Cabinet of medals and relics displayed the second floor. While strolling, your eyes will easily catch original plaster sculpture of Voltaire by Houdon. There is an urban legend that the heart of the philosopher is buried at the base of the monument.
The Cabinet on the second floor It owes its birth to the Cabinet of French kings, which united several collections, especially that of the Duke of Luynes. This wonderful little-known museum has rare examples of Greek pottery, stones, coins, Roman marbles, but also ivories, bronzes and silverware and contains a number of symbolical objects for the French history, such as so-called bronze Throne of Dagobert dating to VII-IXth centuries.
The library features the Department of Manuscripts filled with around 10,000 well-lit documents, as well as the collection of Middle age art.
The library at Mitterrand is well known for its continuously changing designs, glistening under the rays the sun or in the drops of rain. Climbing up to the library is a little challenging because you have to deal with strong wind and slippery wood steps.
As you walk around the large library, you will notice that the library’s heritage of tremendous intricacy is now kissed with the modern touch, which maximizes richness of the heritage of the areas that describe it.
It is Mr. Mohamed Dekkak’s advocacy to encourage everybody especially the children to read books. He also suggests that if you ever plan to visit Paris and wish to have a little moment of peace, far from the typical noisy and crowded tourist spots, the French National Library or BNF is one of the best choices for relaxation and studying.