The “Rare Books” section is devoted to antique and modern books. This bibliophile ensemble contains some manuscripts dating from the end of the Middle Ages, thirty incunabula (among them the Chronicle of Nuremberg), an important set of books from the 16th century, numerous books printed in the 17th and 18th centuries (among them many significant illustrated editions such as the Chansons de La Borde, the Recueil de peintures antiques by Bartoli and several special celebration books), neoclassical editions (the Racine from the Louvre) and neoclassical editions (the Gil Blas illustrated by Gigoux, the Paul et Virginie published by Curmer and numerous illustrations by Gustave Doré), the very first books by painters (such as Sonnets et eaux-fortes and two books illustrated by Edouard Manet, Le Fleuve by Charles Cros and L’après-midi d’un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé) as well as turn-of-the-century books, among which appear a large number of books embellished with Art Nouveau images (works by Mucha, Schwabe and de Feure for example).
This book-lovers’ collection is filled out with numerous books from the 20th and 21st centuries, whether they are actual books by painters (such as the Pasiphae by Montherlant illustrated by Matisse and the books by Pierre Lecuire) or books by artists produced by creators like Sol Lewitt, Lawrence Weiner, Christian Boltanski and, in Belgium, Marcel Broodthaers and Jacques Louis Nyst.
The Library also holds several major collections, such as the Charles and Colette Bertin Collection, the Collection of Charles Plisnier archives and the Geoffroy de Beauffort Collection. One of the characteristics of the “Reserve Collection” is that it also has a remarkable collection of bindings that are antique (in particular a Grolier binding), Art Nouveau (bindings by Charles de Samblanx and Jacques Weckesser) and contemporary (Micheline de Bellefroid, Tchékéroul, Liliane Gérard, etc.).
In addition to books, the “Reserve Collection” also holds nearly ten thousand handwritten documents (written by historical, scientific, literary, artistic and musical celebrities such as, for example, the kings of France, Napoleon, Erasmus, Diderot, Lamartine, Rembrandt, Beethoven, Chopin, etc.), as well as medals and engravings, in particular around six hundred engravings and lithographs by Félicien Rops.
The “Reserve Collection” is accessible only upon request in advance to the management of the museum.