Located in the very heart of the old city of Valletta, a majestic building of the National Library of Malta attracts attention with its beautiful architecture and a fabulous marble monument of Queen Victoria, decorating space in front of the building. However, the library is especially noteworthy not so much by its well-graced neoclassical style, as by its unique collection of manuscripts, originated from the time of the crusaders.
The idea of creating a library was set forth by Fra Claude de la Sengle, who was the 48th Grand Master of the Order of Malta. According to his decree issued in the middle of the 16th century, all books and manuscripts owned by deceased knights had to be stored in one place – in the treasury of the Order. But in fact, the library began to develop as a public facility from the middle of the 18th century, when its funds were replenished by a precious collection of 9700 tomes gathered by Louis Guérin de Tencin, a knight of one of the highest ranks. He was the first who opened public access to the collection, and after his death the 70th Grand Master, Emmanuel de Rohan, continued the tradition by the formal opening of the Bibliotheca Publica, which was also named after de Tencin.
Initially, the library occupied a rather small building, so ten years later it was decided to construct a new building specifically for the public library. This order was carried out by Stefano Ittar, an architect of Polish origin, who designed a beautiful building with a symmetrical facade, both Doric and Ionic columns and monumental staircase. It was erected in 1796, but because of the French invasion, it was opened only in 1812. Since 1925 the library has been used as a repository for copies of each published document for bibliographic control ("legal deposit") and in 1976 it acquired the official name of "National Library of Malta".
Today the library houses around 300 thousand books and serves as Maltese written heritage archive, which is free for public access and research. It holds all sorts of thematic exhibitions presenting works of various writers, as well as expositions devoted to different historical events in Malta. Tourists come to observe the picture-postcard exterior of the library, while sitting at tables of cozy street cafes in front of the building, and visit an exciting 3D exhibition "The Great Siege of Malta" or other interesting exhibitions.