Did you know that the Royal Library of Portugal was moved to another country in 1807? The Royal family fled Portugal to escape Napoleon. They traveled in 14 big ships and took the Royal Library and its 60.000 items with them. And not only that, a famous city in this country became the new capital of Portugal at the same time. Pretty amazing, right? Do you know where we can find these Portuguese books and a beautiful Portuguese Reading Room to go with it?
It was November 1807, and the Royal Family of Portugal had to make a tough decision – To run to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to escape Napoleon and his troops.
The departure was well organised: about 15,000 people among family members and servants traveled to Brazil in 14 ships. With them, came one of Portugal’s most important riches: the Royal Library and its 60,000 items. In fact, one of the first acts of Dom João VI, the Portuguese Prince Regent, in Brazil was to establish the National Library, which went on to become the eighth biggest library in the world, with more than 15 million items.
Recognised as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world by TIME, the Royal Portuguese Reading Room in Rio de Janeiro (known as Real Gabinete Português da Leitura in Portuguese) is a hidden treasure in the city centre and an absolute must-visit. The plain exterior masks the inside which is breathtakingly beautiful with its lavish decorations and historical settings. Although founded in 1837, the construction only started in 1880 by Portuguese architect Rafael da Silva. The idea of creating the library came from a group of 43 Portuguese immigrants who wanted to spread culture and literature among the Portuguese communities living in Brazil. It was built in neo-manueline style with a limestone exterior displaying statues of past Portuguese explorers – Pedro Alvares Cabral, Luis de Camoes, Infante D. Henrique, and Vasco da Gama. It has a showcase collection of books – some 350,000 volumes of both foreign and national books and continues to receive about 6,000 new titles each year from Portugal. It houses some rare editions dating back nearly 500 years
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