Evora Library, or Evora Public Library, is an imposing building on the top part of the city, where other monuments were also built. You will surely find it when you explore the historic streets.
It opened in 1666 with the objective to be the Colégio dos Moços do Coro da Sé (college for the choir boys of the cathedral), according to an idea of the Governador do Arcebispado D. Frei Luiz de Sousa, Bishop of Oporto. By that time, the building was connected by a walkway to the Archiepiscopal Palace, today Museum of Evora.
Evora Library would only be founded in 1805, by the Archbishop Frei Manuel do Cenáculo, one of the most important figures of the Portuguese Illuminism. He donated his precious book collection, estimated in 50,000 books. On the initial stage, another one of the donators would be Frei Joaquim Xavier Botelho de Lima.
Nowadays, the Public Library of Evora is one of the oldest and richest in Portugal. Its collection of works is enormous and includes 664 Incunabula (books printed during the first periods of the printing press, with moveable types); 6,445 printed books from the 16th century; various nucleus of manuscript documents, of cartography, printed music and 20,000 titles of periodical publications.
Also on the collection, we find rare or unique documents, including important historical testimonies: Travel itinerary of D. João de Castro’s first voyage to India in 1538, Travel itinerary of Boa Esperança (Good Hope), Foral de Leitura Nova de Évora (charter).
In addition to the old works, Evora Library has accumulated in its collection, since 1931, numerous more recent works. That was the date in which it became Depósito Legal (Legal Deposit, the legal obligation for every publisher of books or any other publication in Portugal to send one or more copies to a specific repository). That is how we reached more than 612,000 copies! Not surprisingly, many investigators from Evora University or other universities in Portugal and the whole world come to this library to research.
The building is divided in three sections open to the public, each one with specific works and reading rooms. It also has a safe where the most precious books are kept.
Nowadays, Evora Library organises and holds many different activities. These introduce the library, its collections and services to visitors, as well as promote the habit of reading and scientific culture. The Centro Educativo para a Leitura (Educational Centre for Reading) hosts schools in the children and teenagers’ area.
With a facade totally modern and an interior really historic, the public library of the city of Evora is a place to visit. Enter the building and follow the great staircase to the first floor. Walk in the middle of shelves and bookcases filled with books. Watch older scholars or young students of the nearby University of Evora study. With luck, on the day of your visit, you will find one of the many public readings held here.