Arsenal Library in Paris

The Arsenal Library (Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal) was founded by a man named René d’Argenson (1652-1721) and was declared a public library in 1797.

Historical sign

This historical sign about the Arsenal Library says that this was the site of a royal arsenal from the fourteenth century. There was a fire here in 1716, after which the architect Boffrand (that would be Germain Boffrand, 1667-1754) reconstructed the arsenal and built the long, narrow building which now houses the library.

The author Charles Nodier (1780–1844) was the librarian of the Arsenal Library from 1824 until his death twenty years later. During these years he established an influential literary salon which included such writers as Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset and Alexander Dumas.

Charles Nodier was twenty-two years older than Victor Hugo, but by coincidence they were both born not only in the same city, Besançon, but also on the same square, which was then called Place Rondot Saint-Quentin but is now called Place Victor Hugo. (Decades later, the inventors Auguste and Louis Lumière were also born on the same square.)

The Arsenal Library is now one of the four Paris sites of the National Library of France. The other three are:

Rimbaud sculpture

In front of the Arsenal Library there is a sculpture by Jean-Robert Ipoustéguy (1920-2006) in honor of the poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891). The sculpture was commissioned by the President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, and was set up here in 1985.

The Arsenal Library is located between Rue de Sully and Boulevard Morland, across from the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, the center for urbanism and architecture of Paris and vicinity.

Location and aerial view of the Arsenal Library on

My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on the 4th arrondissement of Paris.

7 thoughts on “Arsenal Library in Paris”

  1. Building up a list like this before you go is an excellent idea, thank you for sharing it. Was the 1800 conversion to a public library as part of the 1st Republic?

  2. A handsome building, and I love the Rimbaud sculpture – yet another thing to look out for when we finally get to visit Paris again (should have been going this month, but …)

  3. Fascinating. We’ve only passed there once and were driving (and lost) so didn’t see the statue. We’ll have to go back and find it. I’m sure you’ve seen the poem “Le Bateau Ivre” by Arthur Rimbaud on the wall along rue Férou near Eglise St. Sulpice. We found that by accident another time we were lost only on foot. We’re usually lost on foot but we’re often lost. Paris is a great place to get lost. 😉

    1. Yes, I do know that wall along rue Férou with the poem “Le Bateau Ivre”, and I think I might even have some photos of it somewhere. Apparently Rimbaud first read the poem to his friends in a nearby café.

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