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Biblioteca Palafoxiana – Palafoxiana Library

Puebla is the capital and the largest city of the Puebla State.

The Biblioteca Palafoxiana is a library in Puebla City’s historic center, in the Mexican state of Puebla. Founded in 1646, it is recognized by UNESCO for being the first and oldest public library in the Americas.

For more than 370 years, the Palafoxiana Library has been located in the Old College of San Juan within the Seminary founded by Palafox and Mendoza. It has more than 45,000 books and manuscripts, ranging from the 15th to the 20th century. In 2005, it was listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

The Biblioteca Palafoxiana owes its name and foundation to Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, bishop of Puebla. On 6 September 1646, Palafox y Mendoza donated 5,000 of his own items to the Colegio de San Juan—which was founded by him—on the condition that they are made available to the general public.

He wrote that “it is very useful and convenient that there should be in this city and kingdom a public library, where all sorts of people will be able to study as they wish”.

The creation of this library was approved by royal decree in December 1647 and reconfirmed by Pope Innocent X in 1648.

More than a century later, Francisco Fabián y Fuero ordered the construction of the premises which currently house the Biblioteca Palafoxiana. He donated his own collection, and the collections of the bishops Manuel Fernández de Santa Cruz and Francisco Pablo Vázquez and the dean of the Francisco Irigoyen Cathedral were gradually added, as were volumes from Pueblan religious schools and individuals. Books confiscated from Jesuits upon their expulsion in 1767 were also added.

The library was finished in 1773, consisting of a 43-meter-long vaulted hall on the Colegio’s second floor. Two levels of bookshelves were built, and a retablo of the Madonna of Trapani by Nino Pisano was acquired. By the mid-19th century, the size of the collection necessitated the third level of bookshelves.

Two earthquakes in 1999 caused damage to the building and shelves, leading to a restoration program in 2001.

The library has, since its inception, been used by any person who wishes to study.

Today, it houses the Institute for Bibliographical Research which has been in charge of publishing “Los Impresos de la Biblioteca Palafoxiana” promoting the historical value of the collections and its museum.

The Biblioteca Palafoxiana has more than 45,000 books and manuscripts, ranging from the 15th to the 20th century. It has three major collections: old books, manuscripts, and pamphlets, and broadsheets. It also has nine incunabula. The oldest text in the library is the Nuremberg Chronicle dated 1493.

The library is open Tuesday through Friday 10 am-6 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00.

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