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The National Library of Greece in Athens

Photographer: Simela Pantzartzi


The National Library of Greece is making a bet on its future. From the historic neoclassical building in the center of Athens, one of an iconic ‘triplet’ of imposing public buildings erected by Theophil von Hansen and Ernst Ziller in the 19th century, the library is methodically preparing for a historic move and its transition into a new era, housed in the airy yet monumental building erected by architect Renzo Piano for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC).


In its new 22,000-square meter premises, it will provide the Greek public with access to a wealth of Greek knowledge and literature, either directly or in digital form, or through temporary exhibitions.


At the building on Panepistimiou Street, preparations are underway ahead of the move. The reading room has been temporarily closed to the public and every corner is a hive of activity, with library employees and external staff, conservators in white coats and plastic gloves preparing the collections to be transferred, once the SNFCC is officially turned over to the Greek State on 23 February.


The move is expected to last up to six months and the library will then operate on a trial basis for about two months before an official inauguration in the autumn. The old building on Panepistimiou Street is destined to reopen as a reading room and as a conference and exhibition space in the city center.


National Library director Dr. Philippos Tsimboglou told the ANA that the library’s entire collection of books and periodicals, estimated at 760,000 volumes and other items, is to be moved.


The National Library’s collection includes a number of original editions from the earliest days of the printing press, such as the 1476 book ‘Epitome of the Eight Parts of Speech and Other Sundry Necessities’ by Constantinos Laskaris printed in Milan or a first edition of the Homeric epics printed in Florence in 1488 and others. There is also a large collection of hand-written codices, rare maps, engravings and other items either purchased, donated or presented under the depot legal, a law requiring that two copies of each Greek edition be given to the National Library dating back to its foundation in 1834.


Copyright Author @ ANA-MPA / Natassa Domnaki