Search the Website
History of the LNL
Home Page  >  History of the LNL  >  Historical Background
Historical Background
2012
1920
  • 1919
    Viscount Philip de Tarrazi (1865 – 1956), a bibliophile and a historian of the Arab press
    » more
  • 1921
    When his house could no longer hold an ever-growing collection
    » more
  • 1922
    On July 25, 1922, the official inauguration of the "Great Library of Beirut"
    » more
  • 1924
    The law on legal deposit (Order No 2385 signed by General Weygand
    » more
  • 1935
    The administrative status of the National Library was determined
    » more
  • 1937
    The Lebanese National Library (LNL) moved with its 32 thousand documents
    » more
  • 1939
    De Tarrazi resigned from his position as director of the National Library
    » more
  • 1940-1975
    The Library's collections amounted to approximately 200,000 printed documents
    » more
  • 1975
    The 1975 war fighting began in the city's downtown where the National Library was located
    » more
  • 1979
    The Lebanese Government decreed a freeze on the National Library's activities.
    » more
  • 1983
    In order to safeguard them, books and periodicals were put in boxes and transferred
    » more
  • 1993
    The Ministry of Culture and Higher Education was created with the authority
    » more
  • 1994
    An expertise mission of the French National Library established an assessment
    » more
  • 1995
    The amendment of the law on printed material entrusted the legal deposit
    » more
  • 1999
    Following a new expertise report from the French National Library
    » more
  • 2000
    In April 2000, the books and periodicals were moved to the premises
    » more
  • 2001
    A draft framework law by the Ministry of Culture, which established the National Library as a public institution
    » more
  • 2002
    Premises located in the Free Zone of the Port of Beirut were finally assigned
    » more
  • 2003
    The Rehabilitation Project of the National Library was launched for a three-year period.
    » more
  • 2005
    In October 2005, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
    » more
  • 2006
    The Rehabilitation Project of the National Library ended under the agreement
    » more
  • 2007
    The Lebanese Government launched the Revival Project of the National Library
    » more
  • 2008
    On October 16, 2008 Law No 36 was promulgated and published
    » more
  • 2010
    At the beginning of 2010, the State of Qatar commissioned the construction
    » more

1919

Viscount Philippe de Tarrazi
Viscount Philip de Tarrazi (1865 – 1956), a bibliophile and a historian of the Arab press, established a library in his own residence with his own personal collection. This collection included, at the time, around twenty thousand printed documents and nearly three thousand manuscripts in several languages.

1921

Inside back cover of a book from the Great Library of Beirut
When his house could no longer hold an ever-growing collection, de Tarrazi transferred what would later constitute the nucleus of the future National Library to the " Prussian Deaconesses " school. At that time, he called the institution the " Great Library of Beirut " and selected eight intellectuals to assist him.

De Tarrazi then struggled for recognition by the Lebanese authorities of this new institution. Finally, on December 8, 1921, the Lebanese state promoted the library to the rank of a National Library. As a state institution, it became attached to the Directorate General of Education.

1922

The "Prussian Deaconesses" school
On July 25, 1922, the official inauguration of the "Great Library of Beirut " took place at the "Deaconess" premises in downtown Beirut, under the chairmanship of the French High Commissioner, General Gouraud, and in the presence of Lebanese and French figures, as well as the country's intellectual figures and notables. De Tarrazi was then appointed General Secretary and then curator of this new institution. He held this position until 1939.

1922 - 1928: De Tarrazi undertook several trips to Europe and then to Egypt to acquire new books and collect donations. He established a network with intellectuals and bibliophiles of the region.

During his absence, the staff's negligence led to disorder in the library. When he returned from his trip, de Tarrazi found an institution in chaos and had to recruit a new team for reorganizing the work.

1924

The law on legal deposit (Order No 2385 signed by General Weygand, on January 17, 1924) was established.

1935

The administrative status of the National Library was determined by virtue of a Decree; it thus became a service attached to the Ministry of National Education.

1937

The new premises of the Library at the Parliament
The Lebanese National Library (LNL) moved with its 32 thousand documents to its new premises built by engineer Mardiros Altounian, in the Parliament building at Place de l'Etoile in Beirut. The official inauguration took place on June 7, 1937, in the presence of President Emile Eddé, and a host of figures. A team of 8 people who were detached from the Ministry of National Education served there. The LNL remained in that location until the beginning of the war in 1975.

1939

In the press of that time
De Tarrazi resigned from his position as director of the National Library on November 25, 1939.

From that date onwards, several librarians succeeded him, including Youssef Assad Dagher, Abdel Latif Charara, Hector Khlat, Khalil Takeyeddine, Noureddine Beyhum, and Ibrahim Mouawad. During that time, a team of thirty-five people worked at the Library and ensured its proper functioning.

1940 - 1975

Reading halls where you can see the wall-hung paintings
The Library's collections amounted to approximately 200,000 printed documents and manuscripts, in addition to an important archive collection (administrative and historical documents left behind by the Turks in 1918; documents and studies of the Huvelin mission that constitute the archives of the early years of the French mandate). The Library was at the time a resource for scholars, teachers, officials, and for all Lebanese libraries, mainly academic. A hall was entirely devoted to precious collections and valuable manuscripts, including the Shâh Nameh Al Ferdowsi. On the walls hung oil paintings representing the pillars of the Renaissance, from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

The collection was mainly developed thanks to several donors, including the first post-independence president, Sheikh Bechara el-Khoury, collectors such as G. Yanni and G. Safa, and the families of some Lebanese authors, such as Habib Fares.

1975

The abandoned premises of the Library
The 1975 war fighting began in the city's downtown where the National Library was located. During the war years, the library suffered significant damage. According to some sources, 1200 of most precious manuscripts disappeared, and no memory is left of the Library's organization and operational procedures of that time.

1979

Piles of books in the abandoned halls of the LNL
The Lebanese Government decreed a freeze on the National Library's activities. The historical collection was entrusted to the Bank of Lebanon and then to the National Archives. It included the manuscripts, the paintings and Philip de Tarrazi's collection of the first issues of Lebanese periodicals.

1983

Damaged books due to poor storage conditions
In order to safeguard them, books and periodicals were put in boxes and transferred to a storehouse at the Unesco, which in turn suffered damage from war. Storage conditions became detrimental to their preservation (insects and humidity).

1993

The Ministry of Culture and Higher Education was created with the authority to manage the National Library.

1994

Boxes of books in Sin el Fil
An expertise mission of the French National Library established an assessment of the situation and drafted a preliminary action plan. Temporary premises were consequently allocated to the LNL in Sin el Fil, Beirut East suburb, and the boxes were stored in a drier location.

1995

The amendment of the law on printed material entrusted the legal deposit to the National Archives.

1999

Following a new expertise report from the French National Library and the European Union, the Lebanese Minister of Culture announced that the Rehabilitation Project of the Lebanese National Library was one of 1999's top priorities.

-Decree No 29 of the Council of Ministers provided the Ministry of Culture with the current premises of the Faculty of Law of the Lebanese University in Sanayeh as a final location for the permanent establishment of the Lebanese Library.

-During this same year, the Ministry of Culture signed an agreement with the International ISBN (International Standard Book Number) Agency in Berlin, thus allowing Lebanon to adhere to the international system of book numbering that gives each book published in Lebanon an international number and a global identity. The ISBN became operational in 2000.

2000

Mass decontamination of infected and damaged documents
  • In April 2000, the books and periodicals were moved to the premises of the Lebanese University in Hadath. A global disinfection of the whole collection was carried out under the supervision of The International Center for Book Conservation of Arles (France) in the framework of the ManuMed (Manuscrits de la Méditerranée).
  • March 27, the Lebanese National Library Foundation was created by Notice 37/AD.

2001

A draft framework law by the Ministry of Culture, which established the National Library as a public institution and defined its missions in a clear manner, was adopted by the Council of Ministers and submitted to the Lebanese parliament for voting.

2002

The temporary premises of the LNL in the Free Zone of the Port of Beirut
Premises located in the Free Zone of the Port of Beirut were finally assigned to the safeguarding of the collections. The workshops were equipped and a team was hired to start cleaning, sorting and inventorying the collections.

2003

The Rehabilitation Project of the National Library was launched for a three-year period. Its objectives were: physical and intellectual treatment; human resource training; establishing the Library as an Institution; preparing the architectural competition.

This project was funded by the European Union with a budget of € 1,375,000, of which 80% was paid by the EU and the remaining 20% by the Lebanese State.

2005

Sanayeh building
In October 2005, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, announced a donation of $25 million for the restoration of the Sanayeh old premises and the construction of new spaces needed to house the National Library.

2006

The Rehabilitation Project of the National Library ended under the agreement with the Delegation of the European Commission in Lebanon. The architectural program for the construction of the future LNL in Sanayeh was established. The missions and functions of the LNL were defined, and an operational chart was drafted.

2007

The Lebanese Government launched the Revival Project of the National Library in continuation of the Rehabilitation Project and took its funding in charge. The missions of the Project are: cataloguing and indexing the Library's collections, restoring old works, conducting bibliographic search to develop the existing collections, and building the project's website.

2008

On October 16, 2008 Law No 36 was promulgated and published in the Official Gazette (OJ43/20/10/2008). It organizes public institutions attached to the Ministry of Culture (see the original version of the law on public institutions in Arabic.)

By virtue of this law, the National Library became a public institution under the supervision of the Minister of Culture.

2010

At the beginning of 2010, the State of Qatar commissioned the construction of the future premises of the Library in Sanayeh to the architectural firm Erga Group, through the close implementation of the architectural program. The official launching of the works took place on December 28, 2010.
The Library will be ready to welcome the public in 2014.
Sources
- فيليب دي طرًازي. خزائن الكتب العربية في الخافقين،– منشورات وزارة التربية الوطنية والفنون الجميلة (مطابع جوزف صيقلي)

- أحمد طالب: "المكتبة الوطنية : النشأة، الواقع والمرتجى" في نشرة جمعية المكتبات اللبنانية، مج 7، ع1 (خريف 1998)، ص ص 27-36.

- Architectural Program of the Lebanese National Library

- Stéphan-Hachem, Maud, « The Lebanese National Library», BBF, 2005, n° 1, p. 48-53
http://bbf.enssib.fr/consulter/bbf-2005-01-0048-012.

- Perrin, Georges, « Pour une renaissance de The Lebanese National Library», BBF, 1999, n° 6, p. 68-71
http://bbf.enssib.fr/consulter/bbf-1999-06-0068-009.

The Lebanese National Library: There is no mention of a unified official name for the Library in the old references or in the official documents of the Lebanese state institutions, until 1959. Prior to that year, many names were used, including: the Library (Dar al-kotob), the National Library (Dar al-kotob al-wataniyya), the Civic Library (Al-maktaba al-ahliyya), the Great Library (Dar al-kotob al-kubra), and the Lebanese Library (Dar al-kotob al-loubnaniyya). Decree No 2869 of 16/12/1959, which structured the Ministry of National Education, mentions the National Library under the name "the National Library Division". As for the name "The National Library", it is officially mentioned in the Law No 36 of 2008, pertaining to the public institutions attached to the Ministry of Culture.