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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2023

An Ideal Library for an Ideal King? Showcasing the Collection, Organization and Function of the Royal Louvre Library in Late Medieval Paris

From the book Libraries in the Manuscript Age

  • Vanina Kopp


The librairie du Louvre existed for a short period of time, from 1368 to 1429. The Louvre library was the institutional frame in which all kinds of manuscripts were collected, inventoried by order and materiality due to a slowly professionalising procedure. Regularly, books were taken out for reading, as presents, or for loans. The inventories, and especially the lists of taken out and returned books, allow us to catch a glimpse of how translations, the circulation and reading of texts functioned at the late medieval French court. Apparently hardly followed up by the next kings and never as systematically institutionalised at the courts of the mighty contemporary dukes, this library underlines how rare and scarce this kind of institution was by then among the lay people in the medieval West. This article presents the historical sources as well as its discursive construction: The first part deals with the organisation and structure of the royal libraries, with a special focus on the Louvre library under the rule of Kings Charles V and Charles VI. The second part analyses the function of the book collection, their use and circulation, as well as reading habits. The third part argues for a discursive construction of an ‘ideal’ library in the service of royal power. The collection will be compared to the narrative choices made by medieval chroniclers in order to depict the literate king as the ideal king, and analyses how the Louvre collection helped in shaping and framing that trope.

© 2023 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston
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