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The library of a king who collected books

The library of a king who collected books

When we talk about antique books in Portugal it is inevitable to mention the story of King Manuel II and the Library of the Casa de Bragança. Truly in love with books, the last Portuguese king gathered works from the 16th century that he later compiled into what is considered one of the best collections of 16th-century Portuguese publications.

It all started in 1919. Manuel II, exiled in the United Kingdom after the fall of the monarchy, decided to write the history of the king, his namesake, in an attempt to shed light on the problem of the expulsion of the Jews in the 16th century. That same year, he hires the bibliophile Maurice Ettinghausen who is in charge of finding the old books he needed. 
The Implementation of the Republic gave the former monarch not only the time he needed to collect and analyze the works but also benefited the collection of monographs, manuscripts and documents due to the dissolution of several private libraries. A thorough work that earned the monarch a place at the top of the list of Portuguese book history, next to names such as Barbosa Machado and António Joaquim Anselmo. 

The idea of making a collection of old Portuguese books came later and took on such proportions that one has to go to Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal or Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal to find holdings comparable in number. The library of the last king of Portugal is now kept in the Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa da Casa de Bragança and contains manuscripts such as Mateus de Pisano's De bello Septensi (...) or Livro das plantas das fortalezas, cidades e povoações do Estado da India Oriental. It also contains first editions from 1526, such as the work attributed to Fernão Lopes, and others by Frei Luís de Granada and Frei Heitor Pinto.

At Livraria Lello, more precisely in Gemma, the area the bookshop dedicates exclusively to antique books, luxury books, object books and manuscripts, it is possible to find the first edition of the catalog that King Manuel II organized from his private collection. Livros Antigos Portuguezes 1489 - 1600, the most complete Portuguese bibliography of the 15th and 16th centuries, was released in a bilingual Portuguese and English edition with a limited edition of 698 copies and includes three volumes, the first two written by the king and released in 1929 and 1932. The third volume, released after the monarch's death, was written by his secretary, Margery Withers. 

On your next visit to the World's Most Beautiful Bookshop, you can see and buy one of the rare and much sought-after copies of this work of great historical, cultural, and collectible value that will delight any bibliophile. We also invite you to visit Casa de Bragança to get to know the library of the king that collected books in person.