Book printed by the Knights of Malta

National Library of Malta

History

 

The idea of a public Library in Malta originated in 1555 with the issue of a
decree by Fra' Claude de la Sengle, Grand Master of the Order of St. John,
whereby all books in the legacy of deceased knights were to pass to the Common
Treasury of the Order. It was not until 1776, however, that the formal
foundation of a Bibliotheca Publica was decreed at the Chapter General
of the Order convened by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan. The main collections
were those belonging to Fra' Louis Guérin de Tencin, Bailiff Grand Cross of the
Order who had died in 1766, and of Cardinal Joaquin Portocarrero, which de
Tencin himself had purchased on the Cardinal's death in 1760. The Library was
for a time named Bibliotheca Tanseana in de Tencin's honour.

De Tencin
is still today considered the founder of the Library. The books accruing to the
Library, some very rare or with fine bindings, continued to be kept in cramped
quarters in an edifice known as the Forfantone. De Rohan decreed the
building of new premises to the designs of Stefano Ittar, a Polish-born
architect residing in Italy. The building, situated in the heart of Malta's
capital city, Valletta, was completed in 1796 but two years later the Order of
St. John was expelled from Malta by Napoleon and during the French 2-year
period, the books remained at their former premises.

It was only in 1812 -
during the British administration - that the new premises were officially
inaugurated by the British Civil Commissioner, Sir Hildebrand Oakes. From then
on, the Malta Public Library, as it was then called, continued to flourish with
a number of new acquisitions. In 1925, the Library acquired its "legal deposit"
status by an Act of Parliament and 11 years later was granted the prefix "Royal"
by King George V. The following year the Royal Malta Library took over the
custody of the Archives of the Order of St. John which were transferred from the
Public Registry premises. With the setting up of the new Public Library in
Floriana in 1976, the Library in Valletta was officially designated as the
"National Library of Malta" and became solely a research and reference
Library.

 

 

In its capacity as National Library, the mission of the Bibliotheca,
as it is more commonly known, is to acquire, catalogue and preserve manuscripts
and all printed books, as well as periodicals and journals issued in Malta. Act
no. II of 1925 instituting the Legal Deposit imposed on all Maltese authors and
editors publishing in Malta or abroad, the obligation to deposit two free copies
of each of their publications, one at the National Library of Malta and the
other at the Gozo Public Library. For this reason, the National Library has
become the main source of Melitensia with the function of placing the written
heritage of Malta at the disposal of researchers and general public.

 

Since the year 1999, the Department has embarked on the project of finalising
a co-operation agreement with Local Councils involving in its entirety the
accountability or joint membership of Local Councils in the administration of
Regional and Branch libraries. To date, 40 Local Councils have signed the
agreement and are collaborating with the Department in upgrading the services
rendered by these librarians.

 

A Fire Detection and Suppression System, costing Lm700,000, was inaugurated
on 7th December, 2000. This project was financed under the 4th Italo-Maltese
Financial Protocol.

 

New doors were installed wherever necessary. These doors were designed to
provide a two-hour resistance to fire spread. Many of these doors are designed
to close automatically the instant smoke is detected anywhere within the
building. Two-hour, fire rated windows were also installed. These were designed
to keep fires originating from external sources, out of the building. Other
windows allow a degree of natural ventilation but are designed to close
automatically in order to contain the extinguishing gas inside the respective
compartment.

 

A detection and alarm system consisting of point type smoke detectors was
designed to cover all parts of the building. Halls containing books with a
particularly high value or books that were deemed irreplaceable were identified
and given special attention. Such halls have all been protected using a very
early aspiration type of detection. These systems have been designed to raise
the alarm within the library and to call the fire brigade automatically.

 

The project included also the installation of a new electrical system and a
new lightning protection system.

 

Another project undertaken by the Library was the installation of CCTVs in
the Reading Room and in several other sensitive points of the building, the aim
being to enhance the security of the Library by reducing as much as possible the
incidence of theft and mishandling of Library material.

 

In 2001, the National Library launched the Quality Service Charter. The aim
was to help in safeguarding the heritage conserved within the National Library
by increasing security in the building, upgrading the Library's regulations,
improving the services offered and raising an awareness of the National
Library's importance as a witness to our civilisation. The charter outlined the
services provided by the Library as well as the standards of service expected by
the public. Through this charter, the Library committed itself to providing the
public with a quality service.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

The National Library of Malta (also, Bibliotheca) began in 1555. It is currently the legal deposit and copyright for Malta. Its collection spans the personal libraries of the Knights of Malta (also the archives and treasury manuscripts of that order), including archives from the medieval Università dei Giurati of Mdina and Valletta.

Early history

The idea of a public Library in Malta began with the issue of a decree by Fra' Claude de la Sengle, Grand Master of the Knights, whereby all books in the legacy of deceased knights were to pass to the Common Treasury of the Order. It was not until 1776, however, that the formal foundation of a Bibliotheca Publica was decreed at the Chapter General of the Order convened by Grand Master de Rohan. The main collections were those belonging to Fra' Louis Guérin de Tencin, Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order who had died in 1766, and of Cardinal Joaquin Portocarrero, which de Tencin himself had purchased on the Cardinal's death in 1760. The Library was for a time named Bibliotheca Tanseana in de Tencin's honour. De Tencin is still today considered the founder of the Library.

Architecture

Stefano Ittar, a Polish-born architect residing in Italy, completed the designs to de Rohan's specifications. The building, situated in the heart of Malta's capital city, was completed in 1796 but two years later the Order of St. John was expelled from Malta by Napoleon and during the French 2-year period, the books remained at their former premises. It was only in 1812 - during the British administration - that the new premises were officially inaugurated by the British Civil Commissioner, Sir Hildebrand Oakes.

Current Use

Malta's Bibliotheca is open to visitors, students and academics

From then on the Malta Public Library, as it was then called, continued to flourish with a number of new acquisitions. In 1925 the Library acquired its "legal deposit" status by an Act of Parliament and 11 years later was granted the prefix "Royal" by King George V of the United Kingdom. The following year the Royal Malta Library took over the custody of the Archives of the Order of St John which were transferred from the Public Registry premises. With the setting up of the new Public Library in Floriana in 1976, the Library in Valletta was officially designated as the "National Library of Malta" and became solely a research and reference Library.

In its capacity as National Library the mission of the Bibliotheca (as it is more commonly known) is to acquire, catalogue and preserve manuscripts and all printed books, as well as periodicals and journals issued in Malta. Act no. II of 1925 instituting the Legal Deposit imposed on all Maltese authors and editors publishing in Malta or abroad, the obligation to deposit two free copies of each of their publications, one at the National Library of Malta and the other at the Gozo Public Library. For this reason, the National Library has become the main source of Melitensia with the function of placing the written heritage of Malta at the disposal of researchers and the general public.

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