The two-level metal structure with a gallery is representative of the libraries architecture in the nineteen century's second half. The iron shelvings are leather. Geography maps, arranged along the glass cabinets, were used as blinds to protect the books from light. A staircase behind the door, to the left of the fireplace, gives access to the gallery.
Unlike the other rooms of the Chateau, a sense of great sobriety was intentionally put into the layout. The space is above all functional, luxurious only in the materials used and the attention brought to details. The books, arranged by format, intellectual clusters and binding periods, are therefore brought forward. The bindings themselves become the decor because of their various colors and gilts.
The ceiling is ornated with the Grand Condé's comrades-in-arms coats of armors. Condé's bust by Coysevox rests on the mantlepiece.
On an easel, a painted by Gabriel Ferrier represents the Duke of Aumale in his Book Cabinet, in the company of Cuvillier-Fleury who used to assist him in the purchase of his books.
The Book Cabinet holds precious works which collectors have sought since the Ancien Régime, due to their ancient origins, their rarity, their intellectual or historical importance, or their aesthetic qualities. Many are still in their original binders or covers, or protected by ancient binders from the nineteenth century. Most pieces are, more often than not, remarkable.
The Book Cabinet contains 19,000 volumes, 1500 manuscripts and 17 500 printed, which deal with all subjects of universal knowledge. The manuscripts, the oldest dated in the XIth century, include 200 medieval manuscripts, often illuminated. The printed books include approximately 700 incunabula (books printed before 1501) and 2,500 books printed in the XVIth century.
Following the Duke of Aumale's wishes, books are accessible (upon written request and with the Curator’s authorization) in the reading room.
In the main window displays, temporary presentations introduce the visitors to the various matters of the Book Cabinet. The Very Rich Hours of The Duke of Berry, considered the most precious manuscript in the world, belongs to the Condé Museum Collections. For preservation reasons, what you can see on display is a facsimile. A CD-ROM retracing its details and history can be consulted free of charge.
The Book Cabinet is included in the open tour of the château. The audioguides (3 €) will also provide you with helpful information.