Missal of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois, c. 1480, Ms 410

Special Collections


Manuscripts, printed books

The history of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the present sanctuary of which was founded in 1163, is also made of books: manuscripts written for the service and kept in the church choir; textbooks for the students and their masters; books written, read or owned by the residents of Notre Dame cloister. Above all, the cathedral library, built up slowly since the thirteenth century, was by the end of the Ancien Regime a remarkable collection, obviously rich in religious works but also open to the sciences, travel books, secular literature and history. The cathedral library received books from other sanctuaries (abbey of Saint Denis, collegiate church of Saint Germain l'Auxerrois...), and numerous gifts from bishops and canons (some of whom were book collectors), princes and scholars. Although some three hundred manuscripts were sold to the king in 1756, the library had about 12,000 volumes at the start of the French Revolution, many of which came to the Mazarine Library.

The most important sets of books from Notre Dame are now held in the National Library (Manuscripts Department), the Arsenal and the Mazarine. In particular, the Mazarine has luxurious missals made for the great bishops Pierre d'Orgemont or Gérard de Montaigu in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, several liturgical manuscripts from the seventeenth century, the only known copy of the first edition of the Shepherds' Calendar (1491), and books by Charles Perrault (1628-1703).

Les livres de Notre-Dame [exhibition, Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, 14 december 2012 – 15 march 2013], directed by Cécile Davy-Rigaux, Jean-Baptiste Lebigue and Yann Sordet, in Notre-Dame de Paris 1163-2013, Turnhout, Brepols, 2013 (ISBN 978-2-503-54937).