National Library of Malta

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National Library of Malta
Malta Libraries logo.png
National Library of Malta.jpg
The Bibliotheca in Valletta
Country Malta
Type National library
Established1776(243 years ago) (1776) (disputed) [1]
Location36, Old Treasury Street, Valletta
Coordinates 35°53′53.9″N14°30′48.6″E / 35.898306°N 14.513500°E / 35.898306; 14.513500 Coordinates: 35°53′53.9″N14°30′48.6″E / 35.898306°N 14.513500°E / 35.898306; 14.513500
Items collected Reference library
Legal deposit Yes
Website Official website
Malta Public Library, Valletta, painting by Charles de Brocktorff (1775-1850) Malta Public Library, Valletta, by Charles de Brocktorff.jpg
Malta Public Library, Valletta, painting by Charles de Brocktorff (1775–1850)

The National Library of Malta (Maltese : Bibljoteka Nazzjonali ta' Malta), often known as the Bibliotheca (Maltese : Bibljoteka), is a reference library in Republic Square, Valletta, Malta. It was founded by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc in 1776 out of the collections of the knight Louis Guérin de Tencin. It has been a legal deposit library since 1925, and it has the largest collection of Melitensia along with that of the University of Malta. The library also contains the archives of the Order of St. John, the Università of Mdina and the Università of Valletta.

Maltese language Semitic language spoken mostly in Malta

Maltese is the national language of Malta and a co-official language of the country alongside English, while also serving as an official language of the European Union, the only Semitic language so distinguished. Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic, the extinct variety of Arabic that developed in Sicily and was later introduced to Malta, between the end of the ninth century and the end of the twelfth century.

Republic Square, Valletta square in Valletta, Malta

Republic Square is a piazza in Valletta, Malta. The square was originally called Piazza Tesoreria or Piazza dei Cavallieri, since the treasury of the Order of Saint John was located in the square. After a statue of Queen Victoria was installed in the square in the 19th century, it became known as Queen's Square or Piazza Regina. Today, although its official name being Republic Square, it is still commonly referred to as Piazza Regina.

Valletta capital city of Malta

Valletta is the capital city of Malta. Located in the south east of the island, between Marsamxett Harbour to the west and the Grand Harbour to the east, its population in 2014 was 6,444, while the metropolitan area around it has a population of 393,938. Valletta is the southernmost capital of Europe, and at just 0.8 square kilometres, it is the European Union's smallest capital city.


The library is housed in a late 18th-century neoclassical building in the city centre, close to the Grandmaster's Palace, designed by Polish-Italian architect Stefano Ittar.

Neoclassical architecture Architectural style

Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century. In its purest form, it is a style principally derived from the architecture of classical antiquity, the Vitruvian principles, and the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio.

Grandmasters Palace (Valletta) Palace in Malta

The Grandmaster's Palace, officially known as The Palace, is a palace in Valletta, Malta. It was built between the 16th and 18th centuries as the palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, who ruled Malta, and was also known as the Magisterial Palace. It eventually became the Governor's Palace, and it currently houses the Office of the President of Malta. Parts of the building, namely the Palace State Rooms and the Palace Armoury, are open to the public as a museum run by Heritage Malta.

Stefano Ittar Italian architect

Stefano Ittar was a Polish-Italian architect.


Interior of the library BibliotecaInside.jpg
Interior of the library

The origins of the National Library of Malta go back to 1555, when Grand Master Claude de la Sengle decreed that all books belonging to deceased members of the Order of St. John were to be passed to the Order's treasury. [2]

Claude de la Sengle Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller

Fra' Claude de la Sengle was the 48th Grand Master of the Order of Malta, from 1553 his death. His successor was Fra' Jean Parisot de Valette.

Knights Hospitaller Western Christian military order

The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller or the Order of Saint John, was a medieval and early modern Catholic military order. It was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem until 1291, on the island of Rhodes from 1310 until 1522, in Malta from 1530 until 1798 and at Saint Petersburg from 1799 until 1801. Today several organizations continue the Hospitaller tradition, most importantly the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

In 1760, Louis Guérin de Tencin, the Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order, purchased a collection of 9700 books which had belonged to Joaquín Fernández de Portocarrero for 7000 scudi. A year later, he opened a public library in a building known as Il Forfantone in Valletta, containing books from his own library as well as Portocarrero's collection, the library of Comm. Sainte-Jay (which was previously kept at the sacristy of the Conventual Church of St. John), and books donated by members of the Order. De Tencin appointed Giovanni Pietro Francesco Agius de Soldanis as librarian, and paid his salary himself. De Tencin died in 1766 before managing to secure funds for maintaining the library. [3]

Joaquín Fernández de Portocarrero Catholic cardinal

Joaquín Fernández de Portocarrero y Mendoza, 4th Marquis of Almenara, 9th Count of Palma del Río was a Grandee of Spain who served Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor as Viceroy of Sicily and interim Viceroy of Naples, before entering the priesthood in his late forties and rising to the rank of cardinal, ending his life as Cardinal-Bishop of Sabina.

Maltese scudo official currency of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; the currency of Malta during the rule of the Order over Malta, which ended in 1798

The scudo is the official currency of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and was the currency of Malta during the rule of the Order over Malta, which ended in 1798. It is subdivided into 12 tarì, each of 20 grani with 6 piccoli to the grano. It is pegged to the euro.

Giovanni Pietro Francesco Agius de Soldanis Maltese lawyer (1712-1770)

Canon Giovanni Pietro Francesco Agius de Soldanis, often called de Soldanis, was a Maltese linguist, historian and cleric from the island of Gozo. He wrote the first lexicon and systematic grammar of the Maltese language, and he was the first librarian of the Bibliotheca Publica, the precursor of the National Library of Malta.

In 1776, Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc formally founded the Bibliotheca Publica, and it was also called the Bibliotheca Tanseana in De Tencin's honour. The Forfantone was considered too cramped to house the new library, so the Polish-born Italian architect Stefano Ittar was commissioned to design a new library building in 1786. The building was built on the site of the Conservatoria, where gold and silver bullion of the Order's treasury were stored. [3] It was completed in 1796, but it remained empty for some years due to the French invasion of 1798. It was eventually inaugurated on 4 June 1812 by Civil Commissioner Sir Hildebrand Oakes, and it became known as the Malta Public Library. [4]

Emmanuel de Rohan-Polduc Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller

Fra' Emmanuel Marie des Neiges de Rohan-Polduc was a member of the wealthy and influential Rohan family of France, and 70th Prince and Grand Master of the Order of St. John from 1775 to 1797.

Bullion is gold, silver, or other precious metals in the form of bars, ingots, or specialized coins that is said to maintain its worth better than conventional currencies and is therefore kept as a form of emergency currency by both governments and private citizens alike. Typically, bullion is used for trade on a global market where government backed currencies may not be sufficent. The word "bullion" comes from the French word bouillon, which meant "boiling", and was the term for the activity of a melting house which creates the ingots or bars from the raw material. The value of bullion is typically determined by the value of its precious metals content, which is defined by its purity and mass. To assess the purity of gold bullion, the centuries-old technique of fire assay is still employed, together with modern spectroscopic instrumentation, to accurately determine its quality to ensure that the true worth of the bullion is paid out; maintaining its security as an investment.

French invasion of Malta

The French invasion of Malta was the successful invasion of the islands of Malta and Gozo, then ruled by the Order of St. John, by the French First Republic led by Napoleon in June 1798 as part of the Mediterranean campaign of the French Revolutionary Wars.

It became a legal deposit library by Act no. II of 1925, and in 1936 it was granted the title of Royal Malta Library by King George V. In 1937, the archives of the Order were transferred to the library from the Public Registry. [2]

Legal deposit is a legal requirement that a person or group submit copies of their publications to a repository, usually a library. The requirement is mostly limited to books and periodicals. The number of copies varies and can range from one to 19. Typically, the national library is one of the repositories of these copies. In some countries there is also a legal deposit requirement placed on the government, and it is required to send copies of documents to publicly accessible libraries.

George V King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions

George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936.

Banca Giuratale (Valletta)

The Banca Giuratale, formerly also known as Banca dei Giurati, the Municipal Palace, the Palazzo della Città, Casa Città and the Consolato del Mare, is a public building in Valletta, Malta. It was built in the 18th century to house the city's administrative council, and it was subsequently used as the General Post Office and the Public Registry. The Banca Giuratale now houses the Ministry for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, and it is officially known as Palazzo Zondadari.

In 1976, the Central Public Library was opened in Floriana, and the Valletta library became a research and reference library known as the National Library of Malta. [2]


The library building was designed by the Polish-Italian architect Stefano Ittar, and it is an early example of neoclassical architecture in Malta. [5] It has a symmetrical façade with Doric and Ionic columns. The first floor is supported on a loggia, with the main doorway in the centre. A balustraded balcony is located above the doorway, and it is supported by Doric and Ionic columns. [6] The building is also well known for its neo-classic monumental staircase that spreads from the main entrance to the upper floors. [7]

Evidence shows that while Stefano was the main architect, his son Sebastiano Ittar continued the design after his father died before finalizing the work. [8]

The library building was included on the Antiquities List of 1925. [9] It is now scheduled as a Grade 1 national monument, and it is also listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. [6]


Pie Postulatio Voluntatis (1113) Pie Postulatio Voluntatis.jpg
Pie Postulatio Voluntatis (1113)

The National Library of Malta's collections include:

Further reading

Related Research Articles

António Manoel de Vilhena 66th Grand Master of the Order of Saint John

António Manoel de Vilhena was a Portuguese nobleman who was the 66th Prince and Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem from 19 June 1722 to his death in 1736. Unlike a number of the other Grand Masters, he was benevolent and popular with the Maltese people. Vilhena is mostly remembered for the founding of Floriana, the construction of Fort Manoel and the Manoel Theatre, and the renovation of the city of Mdina.

Mdina City and Local council in Northern Region, Malta

Mdina, also known by its titles Città Vecchia or Città Notabile, is a fortified city in the Northern Region of Malta, which served as the island's capital from antiquity to the medieval period. The city is still confined within its walls, and has a population of just under 300, but it is contiguous with the town of Rabat, which takes its name from the Arabic word for suburb, and has a population of over 11,000.

University of Malta university in Malta

The University of Malta is the highest educational institution in Malta. It offers undergraduate bachelor's degrees, postgraduate master's degrees and postgraduate doctorates (PhD). It is a member of the European University Association, the European Access Network, Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Utrecht Network, the Santander Network, the Compostela Group, the European Association for University Lifelong Learning (EUCEN) and the International Student Exchange Programme (ISEP). In post-nominals the University's name is abbreviated as Melit; a shortened form of Melita.

Saint James Cavalier

Saint James Cavalier is a 16th-century cavalier in Valletta, Malta, which was built by the Order of St John. It overlooks St James' Bastion, a large obtuse-angled bastion forming part of the Valletta Land Front. St James was one of nine planned cavaliers in the city, although eventually only two were built, the other one being the identical Saint John's Cavalier. It was designed by the Italian military engineer Francesco Laparelli, while its construction was overseen by his Maltese assistant Girolamo Cassar. St James Cavalier never saw use in any military conflict, but it played a role during the Rising of the Priests in 1775.

Architecture of Malta

Maltese architecture has its origins in prehistory, and some of the oldest free-standing structures on Earth – a series of megalithic temples – can be found on Malta. The islands were colonized by the Phoenicians and later the Romans, who established the cities of Melite and Gaulos. Although these were substantial settlements and are known to have had numerous temples, churches and palaces, few remains have survived apart from some architectural fragments.

Church of the Jesuits, Valletta Church in Valletta, Malta

The Church of the Circumcision of Our Lord, commonly known as the Jesuits' church, is one of the oldest churches in Valletta, Malta, and one of the largest in the diocese. It was originally built between 1593 and 1609 by the Jesuit order, and it is located adjacent to the Old University Building, which originally housed a Jesuit college known as the Collegium Melitense. The church was rebuilt in the Baroque style by Francesco Buonamici after suffering extensive damage in an explosion in 1634. The church remained in use after the Jesuits were expelled from Malta in 1768, and it is also used for Masters and Doctoral graduation ceremonies of the University of Malta, the successor to the Collegium Melitense.

St Pauls Cathedral, Mdina Church in Mdina, Malta

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Paul, commonly known as St Paul's Cathedral or the Mdina Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Mdina, Malta, dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle. The cathedral was founded in the 12th century, and according to tradition it stands on the site of where Roman governor Publius met St. Paul following his shipwreck on Malta. The original cathedral was severely damaged in the 1693 Sicily earthquake, so it was dismantled and rebuilt in the Baroque style to a design of the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafà between 1696 and 1705. The cathedral is regarded as Gafà's masterpiece.

French occupation of Malta

The French occupation of Malta lasted from 1798 to 1800. It was established when the Order of Saint John surrendered to Napoleon Bonaparte following the French landing in June 1798. In Malta, the French have established a constitutional tradition in Maltese history, granted free education for all, and established the freedom of press, such as with the publication of the Journal de Malte.

Auberge de Bavière

The Auberge de Bavière is a palace in Valletta, Malta. It was built as Palazzo Carneiro in 1696, and it was the residence of Grand Master Marc'Antonio Zondadari in the early 18th century. In 1784, it was converted into the auberge for the Anglo-Bavarian langue of the Order of Saint John, and it remained so until the French occupation of Malta in 1798.

Vilhena Palace

Vilhena Palace, also known as the Magisterial Palace and Palazzo Pretorio, is a French Baroque palace in Mdina, Malta. It is named after António Manoel de Vilhena, the Grand Master who commissioned it. It was built between 1726 and 1728 to designs of the French architect Charles François de Mondion, on the site of the meeting place of the Università. The palace was used a hospital in the 19th and 20th centuries, and it became known as Connaught Hospital after 1909. Since 1973, it has been open to the public as Malta's National Museum of Natural History.

Corte Capitanale

The Corte Capitanale is a former courthouse in Mdina, Malta, which currently serves as a city hall. It was built in the Baroque style between 1726 and 1728, to designs of the French architect Charles François de Mondion. The building is linked to Palazzo Vilhena, but it has its own entrance and façade.

Torre dello Standardo

The Torre dello Standardo is a tower in Mdina, Malta, forming part of the city's fortifications. It was built by the Order of St. John between 1725 and 1726, on the site of an earlier tower, and its purpose was to communicate signals between Mdina and the rest of Malta. Today, the tower is in good condition, and it serves as a tourist information centre and for occasional cultural events.

Palazzo Falson

Palazzo Falson, formerly known as Palazzo Cumbo-Navarra, Casa dei Castelletti, and the Norman House, is a medieval townhouse in Mdina, Malta. It was purposely built as a family residence by the Maltese nobility, and it is named after the Falson family. It is presently open to the public as a house-museum with seventeen rooms of historic domestic belongings and a number of antique collections.

Monte di Pietà (Malta) charitable institution

The Monte di Pietà, formerly known as the Monte di Sant'Anna, is a charitable institution which lends money to those in need at modest interest rates, on the security of gold, silver or other precious articles given in pawn. In Malta the institution was set up in 1598, was known in the British period as the Public Pawn-Brokery, and it is still in operation today as part of the Inland Revenue Department. Since 1773, the Monte di Pietà has been housed in a 16th-century building in Valletta.

Antonio Cachia

Antonio Cachia (1739–1813) was a Maltese architect, civil and military engineer and archaeologist who was active in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Maltese Baroque architecture

Maltese Baroque architecture is the form of Baroque architecture that developed in Malta during the 17th and 18th centuries, when the islands were under the rule of the Order of St. John. The Baroque style was introduced in Malta in the early 17th century, possibly by the Bolognese engineer Bontadino de Bontadini during the construction of the Wignacourt Aqueduct. The style became popular in the mid to late 17th century, and it reached its peak during the 18th century, when monumental Baroque structures such as Auberge de Castille were constructed.

Casino Notabile

The Casino Notabile, formerly also known as Point de Vue, is a former clubhouse located at Saqqajja Hill, outside the walls of Mdina, Malta. It is a small, ornate building, which was built in around 1887–88 to designs of Webster Paulson. It was in a dilapidated state and in danger of collapsing until being restored in 2016.

Old University Building, Valletta

The Old University Building, also known as the Valletta Campus, is the original campus of the University of Malta, located adjacent to the Church of the Jesuits in Valletta, Malta. Construction of the building began in 1595, and it originally housed a Jesuit college known as the Collegium Melitense Societatis Jesu. The building had to be repaired after being damaged in an explosion in 1634 and an earthquake in 1693.


  1. pp. 97-98
  2. 1 2 3 "History". Malta Libraries. Ministry for Education. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014.
  3. 1 2 Denaro, Victor F. (1959). "Houses in Kingsway and Old Bakery Street, Valletta" (PDF). Melita Historica. 2 (4): 204–205. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 December 2015.
  4. Vella, Charlene (24 June 2012). "An icon of learning and historical importance". Times of Malta . Archived from the original on 4 October 2015.
  5. Ellul, Michael (1988). "Punti d'incontro nell' architettura a Malta e in Sicilia" (PDF). Journal of Maltese Studies (in Italian). 18: 189–196. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 May 2019.
  6. 1 2 "Bibliotheca" (PDF). National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. 28 December 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 December 2015.
  7. Thake, Conrad (1 August 2007). Scenographic Baroque Staircases (Part 2). The Malta Independent. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  8. Ittar.
  9. "Protection of Antiquities Regulations 21st November, 1932 Government Notice 402 of 1932, as Amended by Government Notices 127 of 1935 and 338 of 1939". Malta Environment and Planning Authority . Archived from the original on 20 April 2016.
  10. "Nine hundred years since the recognition by Pope Paschal II". Order of Malta. Archived from the original on 16 October 2015.
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  12. "Catalogues". Malta Libraries. Ministry for Education. Archived from the original on 10 March 2015.
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