The cultural heritage collections of the Médiathèque Pierre-Amalric d’Albi in southern France are made up of around 75,000 documents, whose diverse themes reflect the origins of the collections. This collection is constituted of about 500 manuscripts from the 8th to 20th centuries, 119 incunables, and 17,000 documents printed between 1501 and 1811, as well as modern works of bibliophilia.
The municipal library of Albi was founded, like many others in France, following the confiscations of the 1789 revolution. In the case of Albi, the collections of the cathedral chapter, the archbishopric, and the numerous congregations present in the city (Jesuits, Capuchins, Carmelites, Dominicans, etc) form the basis of this first library, with the main focus on religion and history. The former archivist of the diocese, Jean-François Massol, became the curator and endeavoured to complete the collections. For example, he abandoned a ‘worn’ copy of L’Esprit des lois for a first Spanish edition of Don Quixote, but he also did not hesitate to exchange or sell medieval manuscripts, even illuminated ones, for other works that he considered more ‘useful.’
At the end of the 19th century, this first core was considerably enriched by the bequest (12,000 volumes) of Admiral Henri Pascal de Rochegude, a native of Albi and a great bibliophile. He was interested in travel accounts, medicine, literature and philology. He also bequeathed his private residence, where the municipal library was housed during the entire 20th century. His library was preserved as it was, keeping the cataloguing system that had been set up by its owner. Rochegude’s heiress, however, removed the works that were philosophical or licentious, which were burned.
Many other gifts helped the library grow during of the 20th century, generally linked to local personalities, like the romantic authors Maurice and Eugénie Guérin, the poetess Louisa Paulin, and Dr. Honoré Cuq, a specialist of mycology and Occitan.
Since 2001 the library has changed both its location and name, taking on the name of another bibliophile from Albi, Pierre Amalric. The special collections continue to grow thanks to gifts and acquisitions. Regular exhibitions and a digital library contribute to highlighting the collections. In the framework of Bouclier Bleu an emergency plan has been put into place, which allows for the quick removal (less than fifteen minutes) by firefighters of the most precious and/or rare documents (at the moment 70) in case of disaster.