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The Lost Library of the King of Portugal

The Lost Library of the King of Portugal


The destruction on the morning of All Saints’ Day 1755 of the heart of the city of Lisbon by an earthquake, tidal wave and the fires that followed was a tragedy that divides the eighteenth century in Portugal. One casualty was the Royal Library in the Paço da Ribeira founded by Dom João V, which, by the time of his death in 1750, was hailed as one of the most magnificent court libraries in Europe.

This documented study tells the story of this lost library for the first time: its creation, collection and cultural significance in eighteenth-century Portugal, together with the important role played by its talented diplomats. Single volumes, rare manuscripts and entire libraries were acquired from across Europe, together with a remarkable collection of maps, prints, drawings, medals and the most advanced scientific instruments. This library-museum, with its cabinet of natural history and display of specimens from across Portugal’s global empire, is also seen in a wider European context and as a collection that reflected and defined the emerging spirit of the Enlightenment in Portugal.

  • Angela Delaforce

    November 2019

    Published by Ad Ilissvm

    Hardback, 280 x 240 mm

    330 pages, 200 colour illus.

    ISBN: 978-1-912168-15-6

  • About the author

    Angela Delaforce studied at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Courtauld Institute of Art. She specialises in the history of art and collecting in Spain and Portugal and their artistic relations with Italy, on which she has published extensively. She has worked with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon on various projects, including as curator for the major exhibition, The Alliance Revisited (1994). In 2002 she was awarded the Ordem de São Tiago da Espada for services to Portuguese art and culture

  • In the press

    "This is an enticing and important book ... Beautifully organised and sumptuously designed, it casts new light on the contextual and circumstantial evidence for a great library overwhelmed by the forces of nature." —The Burlington Magazine


    "This is an indispensable and rich source of study for knowledge of so many aspects of 18th-century Portugal." —The Art Newspaper


    "...the disinterested spirit of inquiry that marks the Enlightenment at its best, a spirit that is also brought vividly to life in this well-constructed and beautifully written book."—Journal of the History of Collections


    "Painstakingly researched and lavishly illustrated, Delaforce’s Lost Library reconstructs both the royal library and the political and intellectual cultures that shaped the king’s vision of book collection." —Journal 18


    "This is an outstanding piece of archival research which ingeniously rescues a brilliant collection from oblivion." —Library & Information History


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