The National Library of Russia (NLR), located in Saint Petersburg, is the first, and one of three national public libraries in Russia. The NLR is currently ranked among the world’s major libraries.
It has the second biggest library collection in the Russian Federation, a treasury of national heritage, and is the All-Russian Information, Research and Cultural Center.
The construction of a classicist building designed by the architect E. T. Sokolov began in 1795 and lasted about 15 years.
As of January 1, 2012, the volume of the RNL funds amounted to 36,500,000 copies, of which about 30,000,000 copies of Russian publications (including more than 28,000,000 in Russian), and over 6,000,000 copies of foreign literature.
Every year the library receives more than 400,000 new documents, including more than 80% in Russian. The library is visited by about 1,000,000 people a year, and up to 5,000,000 hits are registered annually on the library’s website.
The lending of books in the reading rooms exceeds 7,000,000 per year, the reference services of the library issue up to 400,000 references per year, including half of them in an automated mode.
The library funds contain unique editions and 400,000 manuscripts, including the oldest handwritten books of the Ostromir Gospel (1056-1057), one of the oldest books in Russian that have survived to this day; fragments of the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century); The Leningrad Code of 1010 is the oldest complete dated copy of the Bible; “Izbornik” (1076), the Laurentian Chronicle (1377), beginning with “The Tale of Bygone Years”, the most valuable Western European and Eastern manuscripts, and other rare publications.
The National Library of Russia also holds a collection of 7,000 incunabula (books published before 1501), one of the largest in the world.
The Voltaire Library has 6,814 volumes and is a national treasure. It was bought in 1778 by Catherine II from the niece and heiress of Voltaire Denis. In 1779, the library was delivered to St. Petersburg on a special ship. Initially, it was housed in the Hermitage.