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REAL GABINETE PORTUGUÊS DE LEITURA – ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LIBRARIES IN THE WORLD

REAL GABINETE PORTUGUÊS DE LEITURA – ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LIBRARIES IN THE WORLD

In the city of Rio de Janeiro there’s one place with a lot of beauty and tradition. Beyond all the architectural grandeur, this place has an extreme importance to the history. We are talking about Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (Royal Portuguese Reading Office), which preserves much of the history between Brazil and Portugal. Check out!

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Before we start talking about the history of this place, let’s exalt the elegance and recognition of the Real Gabinete Português.

RECOGNITION

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura was elected in 2014, the 4th most beautiful library in the world, among 20 positions, according to Time magazine.  

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Stunishing, right? Now let’s talk a little bit about history!

HISTORY OF REAL GABINETE PORTUGUÊS DE LEITURA

How and where did the idea of creating an institution that preserved so much of Portugal’s history in Brazil came from? The idea came a while after the arrival of the Portuguese royal family in Brazil, with the relocation of the Portuguese government headquarters to the colony.

Do you want to discover more details of the braziliand colonization and the history of portuguese royal family? Enjoy our Free Walking Tour Downtown and Lapa. We’ll tell you the history in a fun way and also we’ll visit some important tourist spots in the city.

WHO WERE THE IDEALIZERS?

More precisely in 1837, a  group with more than 40 portuguese immigrants met in the city of Rio de Janeiro and organized a meeting. The vast majority of the participants in this group were merchants, lawyers, journalists, and intellectuals.

Some of them had even emigrated to Brazil due to the divergence of ideas in Portugal in that historical period. This meeting took place at the residence of Dr. Antônio José Coelho Lousada (today is located at Rua 1º de Março), number 20 at the time.

THE GOAL OF THIS INSTITUTION

These gentlemen came up with the idea of creating a library. The purpose of this group would be to provide its members with the opportunity to develop and expand their knowledge. The idealists were concerned with the level of education of their companions and aimed to encourage the pursuit of reading. The Portuguese Reading Office was created on May 14, 1837.

HOW THE READING MOVEMENT EMERGED?

The reading movement emerged in France, right after the revolution of 1789. In the country, were created some stores that borrowed books for a few days at symbolic prices. With the emergence of this institution in the city, its first president was named José Marcelino Rocha Cabral.

jose-marcelino

MODIFICATIONS

In the beginning these spaces were known as reading offices, following the Portuguese model. And several other institutions in this style were being created in other parts of the country. In the middle of the nineteenth century, in São Paulo, such institutions were created with the proponents of the Masonic ideals and positivist republic.

Finally, the classification of these institutions as “Public Libraries”, for public access, occurred only in 1900. And the title of “Royal” came in 1906 by the then King Don Carlos I.

SPACES WHERE IT WORKED

In order to build larger and grander spaces to express the importance of the institution were acquired some other land. Here are some addresses where the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura worked:

1842: Na Rua da Quitanda, 55 

1850: Rua dos Beneditinos, 12 

1871: Rua da Lampadosa, (now called Rua Luís de Camões) 

1872: The old area of Hotel São Pedro 

1880: It was elected a new headquarters for the institution with the project of Portuguese architect Rafael da Silva Castro, with neo manueline features, aiming at the Camonian epic.

1888: The new headquarters building was opened by Princess Isabel.

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DETAILS ABOUT THE CABINET ARCHITECTURE

As we said before, the architect Rafael Da Silva e Castro was responsible for the construction of the headquarters building. Read about some interesting curiosities:

1 The neo manueline style of the building portrays the exuberance of the Portuguese Discoveries period. This style is called because it coincided with the reign of Dom Manuel (1495-1521); 

2 The cabinet facade is inspired by the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. It was made in Lioz Stone, the artist was the Germano José Salle, who were brought by ship from Portugal to Rio;

3 There are four statues in the building, are they: 

– Pedro Álvares Cabral (1467 – 1520); 

– Luís de Camões (1524 – 1580); 

– The infant Dom Henrique (1394 – 1460); and 

– Vasco da Gama (c. 1468 – 1524).   

dom-henrique-real-gabinete

4 The medallions on the facade represent such writers 

– Fernão Lopes; 

– Gil Vicente;  

– Alexandre Herculano; and 

– Almeida Garrett.  

exterior-real-gabinete

5 In the interior part of the building prevails the neo manuelino style. Follows the style by the bookshelves made of wood for books and decorative objects;

6 A beautiful chandelier and an iron-framed skylight are on display in the Reading Room. This was the first use of this type of architecture in Brazil; 

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7 In the same room there is a moment with reference to the Altar of the Homeland, which is made of silver, ivory and marble. It is 1.7 meters high, also in celebration of the Portuguese discoveries, acquired by the cabinet in 1923;

8 After being a space open to the public as early as 1900, it was very common to find in the reading office big names such as Machado de Assis, João do Rio and Olavo Bilac;

It was at the ‘Real Gabinete Português de Leitura’ that the first five solemn sessions of the Brazilian Academy of Letters were held.

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SOME RARE BOOKS THAT CAN BE FOUND IN THE CABINET

1 As Ordenações de Dom Manuel (1521) 

2 Os Lusíadas de Luís de Camões (1572) 

3 Manuscrito de Tu, só tu, puro amor de Machado de Assis 

IMPORTANT EVENTS

FIRST EVENT

One of the most important events that took place was the Tricentennial of Camões’ death in 1880. The official solemnity speaker was Ramalho Ortigão. At one point in his speech Ortigão said:

“And if one day the name of Portugal will disappear from the political letter of Europe, this House will still be as the monumental expression of the greeting of the prophecy put by Garrett in the mouth of Camões: … do not end the Language, the Portuguese name on earth.” Emphasizing the importance of the country’s greatness and its culture.

SECOND EVENT

The second major event that took place at the institution occurred shortly after King Don Carlos I named the “Reading Cabinet” as “Royal Cabinet” in 1906. That same year the new bibliographic collection had been organized in the cabinet. The head of the organization was an important Brazilian intellectual, Benjamin Franklin de Ramiz Galvão.

In commemoration an exhibition was held at the Hall of Arms of the institution. The exhibition contained paintings by José Malhôa with 125 paintings. 26 paintings were sold. Some paintings were purchased to be part of the Real Gabinete and can still be enjoyed in space.

real-gabinete-salas

THIRD EVENT

In the 1920s, the Royal Cabinet goes through a new phase. To commemorate the first centenary of Independence, a company was created with the purpose of editing in volumes the History of Portuguese Colonization in Brazil.

The historical project took place under the direction of Carlos Malheiros Dias (important historical researcher). This project also had big names from both countries, in various subjects such as arts, literature and science.

SOME OF THE NAMES

Luciano Pereira da Silva  

Duarte Leite 

Júlio Dantas 

Oliveira Lima 

Paulo Merea 

Pedro Azevedo 

Antônio Baião 

Jaime Cortesão 

BOOKS

The books of the History of the Portuguese Colonization were published in Porto, by the National Lithography, in several fascicles. Were distributed 12,000 copies in Brazil and 8,000 in Portugal. At that time the numbers impressed.

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FORTH EVENT

In 1931 the 1st Congress of the Portuguese in Brazil was held. The goal was to maintain the unity of the colony. It was really important to avoid the movements and buzz of opposition in the colony. The “Portugal Day” was also created. Being celebrated every year at the Real Gabinete.

ONE IMPORTANT DECISION

An important decision was taken by the Portuguese government on March 15, 1935. Decree No. 25,134 aimed to grant the Royal Cabinet the benefit of receiving from all Portuguese publishers a copy of their works.

This guarantees the institute the creation of an updated library with a collection of what is published in Portugal. Shortly thereafter, in the 1940s the ‘Instituto de Alta Cultura’ was created to provide cultural exchange between Brazil and Portugal.

FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES

Most benefactors and sponsors of institutions preferred to make investments and donations to spaces such as Santas Casas, Sisterhoods, Charities and Assistance Works. Thus, reading offices and other spaces such as lyceum almost never received this kind of financial aid.

WORST MOMENT

Around the 1950s, Real Gabinete began to suffer many financial difficulties. With the death of most of the institute’s “supporters” came the years of crisis. Expenses were largely paid by the board and many years later the Portuguese government provided a very low amount of financial aid to alleviate the crisis that the institution was suffering.

CREATION OF THE ‘STUDY CENTER’

The management realized that some activities needed to be changed so that the institution could return to its successful days. In 1969, President Antonio Pedro Martins Rodrigues decided to create the “Study Center”.

STUDY CENTER

In the Study Center of theReal Gabinete the main idea was to promote courses, lectures, congresses and conferences where university professors were responsible for directing these activities.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CENTER

In addition to promoting the exchange and collaboration of universities and cultural and artistic institutes between countries. The collaborating professors at the study center always had the collaboration of the most important names in areas such as literature, arts, sociology, history, anthropology and more.

There is also a Luso-Brazilian Research Center, created in 2001 by the teacher Gilda Santos. The research center has approximately 60 teachers and researchers.

biblioteca-portuguesa

FINANCIAL AID CAMPAIGNS

There were some financial campaigns to rescue the Royal Cabinet from that bad situation. Previously, the institution was made up only of Portuguese representatives, and started to receive collaborators from other Portuguese-speaking countries. Some Brazilian companies participated in the rescue of the Real Gabinete and helped to reorganize and modernize the institution.

COMPANIES THAT HELPED

Banco Itaú financed the entire computerization area, the creation of the cultural multimedia center and part of the restoration of the building. Another important contribution was made by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. This foundation donated the funds that were needed to acquire the reformation of Real Gabinete building.

Already the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal granted a help to the institution because it recognized the importance of the diffusion of Portuguese culture in Brazil. Many other companies, such as the National Library, Camões Institute, Portuguese Literary Lyceum, and Real Caixa de Socorros Don Pedro V, were extremely important for the history of the institution.

REAL GABINETE NOWADAYS

The Real Gabinete Português de Leitura is one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The prestige of the institution remains over the years. This bibliographic collection is extremely important for both countries.

Certainly Brazil is very proud of hosting such a well-known institution that represents the Portuguese culture in a grand way. The Real Gabinete Português de Leitura is the largest space to offer books by Portuguese authors outside Portugal, there are about 350,000 books.

INFORMATION OF REAL GABINETE 

Address: Rua Luís de Camões, 30 Centro – Rio de Janeiro 

Working Hours: From monday to friday, from 9am to 6pm.

Telephone: (21) 2221-3138 

E-mail: gabinete@realgabinete.com.br 

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Find out much more about the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura on the institution’s website. What did you think about the history of this spectacular space?

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