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Rare Book and Manuscript

Reading Room



Opening hours:


Monday to Friday: 9.30am - 5.30pm
Item requests up to 5pm.

Saturday: - Closed


Additional services: 

Microfilm reading, at the

Main Reading Room

Digitisation on request



Tel. 21 7982054

Fax 21 7982138

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Rare Books and Manuscripts

The various collections that we generically term "Rare books and manuscripts" encompass the most valuable and important heritage assets in the BNP’s holdings.

The collection of Manuscripts is currently actually made up of six collections, with library and archive documents of various genres and types and with a wide range of origins, from the 12th century to the present day. The overall collection contains a total of around 15,000 codices and 36,000 sundry manuscripts.

The collection of rare Printed Books is made up of a selection of works whose rarity, age or publishing characteristics earn them a place in the BNP’s "Valuable Reserve" of printed books, which numbers more than 30,000 items. There are two main sections, which are divided on the basis of age: up until 1500 (Incunabula); and printed since 1501 (Rare books). We also have a number of other collections, which are grouped on the basis of a number of different criteria, such as subject, printer, or special characteristics.

The Historical Archive contains archive documents from a variety of sources, with an emphasis on personal and family archives. The oldest documents date from the 11th century. In total there are around 466 separate collections (or parts of collection). The BNP’s own Historical Archive is included under this heading.

The Archive of Contemporary Portuguese Culture (ACPC) is currently home to the collections of personal papers of 148 writers and other figures from the 19th and 20th centuries. Leading names include Fernando Pessoa, Eça de Queirós, Camilo Castelo Branco, Camilo Pessanha, Antero de Quental, Oliveira Martins, Jaime Cortesão, Raul Proença, Vitorino Nemésio, Vergílio Ferreira and José Saramago, among others.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Reading Room on Level 3 has seating for 36 and a collection of free-access reference works made up of specialised bibliographies, catalogues of Portuguese and foreign library collections, specialised works on manuscripts, old books, the history of the book and codicology, and studies on illumination, as well as works with a general scope, encyclopaedias and dictionaries.

This collection is accessible to Reader’s Card holders with special authorisation to consult the Rare Book and Manuscript collections. For the general terms and conditions governing access, see Regulations.