The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Atlas Obscura

The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading

This stunning Brazilian library contains the largest collection of Portuguese texts outside of Portugal itself. 


Rising three-stories above the central study area on each wall, the book collection contained in the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading has created one of the most stunning examples of “library porn” on the planet as well as showing the history and breadth of writing that has come out of Portugal.  

The doors of this massive library were opened in 1887, bringing a nearly endless collection of Portuguese texts to readers in Rio de Janeiro, then the capital of the Empire of Brazil. The cabinet was founded in 1822 by a trio of Portuguese immigrants who wanted to bring their country’s literary tradition to the newly independent nation of Brazil, which had previously been a Portuguese colony since 1500. The collection’s current home was built specifically to house their growing collection, and was designed to evoke a Gothic-Renaissance influence that was popular at the time. At 350,000 titles, the collection soon became the largest collection of Portuguese works outside of Portugal; it includes rare original manuscripts, singular works of literature, and unique proofs.

Today the collection receives around 6,000 new titles a year and the collection is rising towards 400,000 volumes. The walls are lined with rising strata of stacks creating one of the most fantastical atmospheres in the world. There are also paintings and other pieces of Portuguese cultural ephemera contained in the collection, making it not only a jaw-dropping library, but a vital accumulation of Portugal’s history.    


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