History of the collection
The Biblioteca Nacional de España holds the national collection of monographs, which is open to the public. The collection comprises works printed in Spain that the library has received by virtue of the Intellectual Property and Copyright Library acts, and which has increased through purchase, exchange or donation, in accordance with the prevailing acquisition criteria.
With the exception of rare or especially valuable documents (manuscripts, incunabula, drawings, engravings, photographs, music scores), which are held in special depositories, most of the prints are held in the General Depository and can be delivered to the General Reading Room, located in the centre of the Recoletos building.
Both copies held for preservation and loan and most of the books printed after 1986 are held in the Biblioteca Nacional de España's second depository, located at the Alcalá de Henares facilities.
The Recoletos General Depository contains some 1,900,000 volumes of monographs, including, in addition to the Spanish bibliographic production, foreign books acquired by purchase, along with a great many European prints from the 18th and 19th centuries from royal, noble or religious collections.
In the 19th century, valuable libraries were incorporated into the collection of the Biblioteca Nacional: assets from the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministries of Public Instruction, Public Works and Foreign Affairs, the convents of Madrid and other entities eliminated due to disentailment, as well as most of the Parliament Library. There are also Turkish, Arabic and Armenian works from the collection of Antonio López de Córdoba and works from the libraries of the dukes of Osuna, Uceda and El Infantado and from the library of the Arabist Pascual de Gayangos. Part of these collections is held in the General Depository. Many copies preserve valuable period bindings with book stamps or property marks that identify their owners. Ex-libris and hand-written notes also help to reconstruct the history of the copies and collections.
During specific periods of the 20th century, some bequests were used to form the so-called “Special Sections”, of which the following are good examples:
- The Latin American Section, created in 1949 to bring together Spanish prints and purchases related to Latin America, more specifically from the colonial period, including a noteworthy collection of Mexican and Filipino prints.
- The García Figueras collection, specialising in colonial Africa, to which the library of the old Office of Morocco and the Colonies was added.
- The library of Eduardo Comín Colomer, donated to the Biblioteca Nacional by his widow, comprising over 20,000 documents related to the contemporary history of Spain, with a predominance of assets related to the Spanish Civil War. During the War, the library could not continue to add these assets by standard procedures.
- The collection of children's literature gathered by Isabel Niño, which made up a specialised Section that also included works of children's and young adult literature received through the Copyright Library Act.
- The old Miscellaneous section, in turn, contains pamphlets from the 19th and 20th century and complements the reserved Special Miscellaneous collection.
- Among the books written in other languages or scripts, there are noteworthy collections of Hebrew and Arabic prints, as well as prints in Cyrillic characters. A significant portion of these collections is kept in the Reserved Manuscripts and Prints depositories.