Royal Library of Belgium

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Koninklijke Bibliotheek België / Bibliothèque royale de Belgique
(Royal Library of Belgium)
Kongelige-bibliotek (4888584851).jpg
Country Belgium
Type National library
Location Boulevard de l'Empereur 4, 1000 Bruxelles
Size 6M volumes
Legal deposit Yes
Website Official website

The Royal Library of Belgium (Koninklijke Bibliotheek België in Dutch, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique in French, abbreviated KBR and sometimes nicknamed Albertina) is one of the most important cultural institutions in Belgium. The library has a history that goes back to the age of the Dukes of Burgundy. In the second half of the 20th century, a new building was constructed on the Mont des Arts in central Brussels, near the Central Station. The library owns several collections of historical importance, like the famous Fétis archives, and is the depository for all books ever published in Belgium or abroad by Belgian authors.

There are four million bound volumes in the Royal Library, including a rare book collection numbering 45,000 works. The library has more than 700,000 engravings and drawings, 150,000 maps and plans, and more than 250,000 objects, from coins to scales to monetary weights. This coin collection holds one of the most valuable coins in the field of numismatics, a fifth-century Sicilian tetradrachm.[1]

The library also houses the Center for American Studies, a new institute of higher learning established by the University of Antwerp, the Free University of Brussels, the University of Ghent, and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, which is internationally accredited for delivering Master of Arts degrees in American Studies.

The Royal Library is open for reference only. Patrons must be at least eighteen years of age and must pay an annual membership fee.[2]

The tower of the old Royal Library of Brussels on the site of the modern building of the Albertina (drawing by Léon van Dievoet)

Music Division[edit]

The Royal Library of Belgium's Music Division is considered one of Belgium's most important centers for the preservation and study of music-related documents. The Music Division maintains a rich and varied collection composed of hundreds of thousands of manuscript and printed scores, about a hundred thousand sound recordings, a large collection of correspondence, printed works, concert programs, posters, photographs and other iconographic documents, not to mention varied objects such as medals, busts, casts, music instruments. Although most music-related documents in the Royal Library are held in the Music Division, certain additional works are held in the Manuscript, Rare Books and Prints and Engravings divisions of the Library.

The Music Division was founded in 1965, building upon the more than 5,000 printed and manuscript documents that made up the private collection of the important 19th century Belgian musicologist François-Joseph Fétis, acquired by the Royal Library in 1872. The internationally renowned Fétis Collection is an indispensable source for the study of early music, and holds a number of important documents such as the autograph manuscript of Johan Sebastian Bach's BWV 995 – Suite in G minor.[3] Among the oldest pieces of the Fétis Collection are several late 15th century manuscripts by theorist Johannes Tinctoris.

The Music Division maintains an active policy of acquisitions through donations and purchase of documents linked with Belgian musical figures such as André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry,[4] Henry Vieuxtemps, César Franck, Eugène Ysaÿe [5] and Guillaume Lekeu, not to mention other European figures such as Albert Roussel,[6] Darius Milhaud, Franz Liszt,[7] Béla Bartók [8] and Edvard Grieg. More recently, the purchase of the Marc Danval and Eric Mathot collections enriched the Music Division's collections with tens of thousands recordings and scores of jazz, salon and other popular music from Belgium and abroad. Through legal deposit, the Music Division also acquires a considerable number of musicological works and scores printed in Belgium.

The Music Division assumes an active role within various international associations, notably the International Association of Music Libraries (IAML), the Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM) and the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM).

The non-profit organization 'Archives Béla Bartók de Belgique' was created in 2002 and has its headquarters in the Music Division.


  • 1837-1850 : Frédéric de Reiffenberg (nl)
  • 1850-1887 : Louis-Joseph Alvin
  • 1887-1904 : Edouard Fétis
  • 1904-1909 : Henri Hymans
  • 1909-1912 : Joseph Van den Gheyn (fr), S.J.
  • 1913-1914 : Dom Ursmer Berlière O.S.B.
  • 1919-1929 : Louis Paris
  • 1929-1943 : Victor Tourneur
  • 1944-1953 : Frédéric Lyna
  • 1953-1955 : Marcel Hoc
  • 1956-1973 : Herman Liebaers
  • 1973-1990 : Martin Wittek (fr)
  • 1990-1991 : Denise De Weerdt
  • 1992  : Josiane Roelants-Abraham
  • 1992-2002 : Pierre Cockshaw
  • 2002-2005 : Raphaël De Smedt
  • 2005-  : Patrick Lefèvre

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Murray, Stuart A. P. “The Library: An Illustrated History.” New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012, p. 249-250.
  2. ^ Murray, Stuart A. P. “The Library: An Illustrated History.” New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012, p. 250.
  3. ^ Bibliothèque numérique de la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique - Collections - Musique: Johann Sebastian Bach, Suite pour la luth
  4. ^ Documents Grétry dans les collections de la Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier: [exposition: Bruxelles, Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier, 27 oct. - 7 déc. 1989]: catalogue / rédigé par Yves Lenoir. - Bruxelles : Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier, 1989. - 182 p., [24] pl.: ill., facsim., mus.; 26 cm. (ISBN 2-87093-046-1)
  5. ^ Eugène Ysaÿe, 1858-2008: [exposition à l’occasion du cent cinquantième anniversaire de la naissance d’Eugène Ysaÿe, Bruxelles, Galerie Houyoux, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, du 16 mai au 23 août 2008] / publication rédigée par Marie Cornaz. Bruxelles: Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, 2008. - 81 p.: ill.; 15 x 22 cm + CD. - ISBN 2-87093-165-4
  6. ^ Fonds « Les Amis belges d'Albert Roussel » (Collection André Peeters) / Catherine Miller. Bruxelles: Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, 2001. - 158 p.: ill., facsim., mus.; 26 cm. - ISBN 2-87093-129-8
  7. ^ Franz Liszt, 1811-1886: [catalogue: exposition: Bruxelles, Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier, Chapelle de Nassau, 17.11.1986 - 29.11.1986] / Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier; [avant-propos : Martin Wittek]. - Bruxelles: Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier, 1986. - 42 p., [9] pl.: ill., facsim.; 26 cm. - ISBN 2-87093-031-3
  8. ^ Archives Béla Bartók de Belgique: fonds Denijs Dille: exposition organisée à la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique du 3 août au 14 septembre 2002: catalogue / rédigé sous la direction d'Yves Lenoir. - Bruxelles: Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, 2002. - 263 p., [23] pl.: ill., facsim., mus.; 25 cm. - ISBN 2-87093-135-2

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°50′40″N 4°21′23″E / 50.84444°N 4.35639°E / 50.84444; 4.35639