History of The University of Granada Library

By María José Ariza Rubio and Cristina Peregrín Pardo

In order to know the History about the University of Granada Library we need to take into account its origin and its evolution, both the Library as an institution at the service of the University and the holdings that have constituted its rich cultural legacy.

Origins under the Austrias regime

Documentation kept from this first period is quite limited, due to the fire ocurred in the Archive of the University of Granada in 1886. It can be said that the Library origin dates from the foundation of the institution Estudio General de Lógica, Filosofía, Tecnología y Cánones (General Study of Logic, Philosophy, Technology and Canons), established when Carlos V visited Granada in 1526.

During this period, the University was linked to the Royal School and its Library, at the time, both libraries were located in the main room of the current Curia, opposite the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel. Subordination to ecclesiastical authorities and their control of the University intellectual activity were reflected in the documents that proved the frequent visits of the Holy Office to supervise orthodoxy in teaching and texts. The only content remaining from these documents is the inventory of the Royal School Library collected from Santa Cruz (Royal School) and Santa Catalina, carried out due to their supression in 1835. It is composed by 1,775 volumes.

Period of development under the Bourbon dinasty

As in other features of the civil life, the University was positively affected by political and cultural changes derived from the arrival of the French dinasty of Bourbons and their influence in the illustrated thinking. These changes were reflected in the intervention of the State in all the features of citizens life and their concern to increase the intellectual level.

The sucessive Curriculum and University changes ocurred throughout the second half of the 18th century gave shape to the modern University and opened it up to intellectual currents from the rest of Europe.

Regarding infrastructures, the expulsion of the Jesuits, ordered by King Carlos III in 1767, the resulting confiscation of all his patrimony and, subsequently, Mendizábal ecclesiastical confiscation, provided the University with some resources it was lacking of until then.

The University moved to the ancient building of the Jesuit School of San Pablo, and the library was established in a spacious room in the upper floor, well illuminated by big windows. Holdings from this Library were also at disponsal of the University, which increased its books up to 29,483, including some incunables, as well as some valuable codexes and several bundles (according to the inventory carried out by Rodríguez Mohedano brothers in those dates). Another evidence of the importance that the Library achieved as institution was the appointment of the first known librarian, Juan Gil Palomino in 1780. In 1784 Professor Juan Velázquez de Echevarría replaced him and, subsequently, Antonio de Pineda y Barragán. Both of them created some inventories, proving their efficiency as professionals.

In 1841 the University of Granada Library became richer again with another important book adquisition: the books seized to the convents in the city and the province, which were finally granted under custody of the University after trying to create a museum in the city to keep the artistic and cultural goods confiscated.

The foundations of the current Library

Throughout the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th the modern University of Granada Libray started to take shape. With the creation of the Cuerpo Facultativo de Archiveros, Bibliotecarios y Anticuarios (Facultative Body of Archivist, Librarian and Antique dealers) in 1858 and the Auxiliares (Assistants) in 1932, librarian activities became professional and independent of the teaching staff, which left administrative and technical tasks into the hands of librarian specialists instead of professors and teachers. Furthermore, the library structure became more and more complex and emerged in the libraries of the different Faculties, with holdings more and more specialised. Every library had its own catalogue, both alphabetical and systematic in order to control and spread its books. The General Library had a similar main catalogue.

From the second half of the 19th century, Faculties became more independent, and were placed in the same central building of the University (such as the Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculty of Law), in new annexes (such as the Faculty of Sciences) or in their own buildings (such as the Faculty of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Medicine). This way libraries had their own rooms, depots to set their holdings and budgets to acquire more books.

In the new century, several Faculties moved to new buildings: The Faculty of Pharmacy moved nearby to Caicedo Palace, opposite San Bartolomé y Santiago hall of residence; the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities moved to Columnas Palace (currently headquarter of the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting); in 1944, the Faculty of Medicine moved from a building in Calle Rector López Argüeta, next to San Juan de Dios Hospital to a building specifically built for its location, next to Clínico Hospital. In the second half of the century new buildings were built for the Faculty of Sciences (1968) and for the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts (1977). The University spread out in wide campuses, which were composed of the different Faculties and Schools (Medicine, Law, Translation and Interpreting, Arquitecture, Human Resources, Politics and Rector's office were placed in the centre of the city; Sciences, Technical Architecture and the new technical building were located in Fuente Nueva Campus; Humanities, Psichology, Economics and Business Studies, Education, Dentistry, Documentation and the University publishing were placed in La Cartuja Campus, and Arts and Computer Science spread out within the city). In 1980, the General Library moved to the new Rector's headquarter in the Royal Hospital, a beautiful Renaissance building founded by Isabella the Catholic and built under Carlos V reign, which had been recently restored. From that date, the library lies in the upper floor, where most of the rich holdings are displayed in made-to-measure bookshelves, a very accurate reproduction of the ancient room of San Pablo School. Apart from the holdings and the reading room, this building also hosts the principal office of the University of Granada Library and its central services.

In all these buildings, the University of Granada Library was a very important institution and, despite until the present day it coexists with the libraries of other Departments created from the first quarter of the century (especially in deeply-rooted Faculties such as Law, Humanities or Medicine), the general tendency was to centralize holdings, services and budgets in order to achieve a higher profitability from human and economic resources. From 1990, the library has had a central budget to invest in monographs, periodicals and book binding, which are shared among the libraries of the Faculties and Schools according to certain distribution criteria. This budget is complemented with the resources provided by Institutions, Departments, and Groups and Research projects.

Holdings: Origin and Evolution

From the data we have at our disponsal we can deduct that until the middle of the 19th century holdings came from donations. The first purchase of books was made in 1839.

According to data from inventories and statistics, we can state that until 1875 the University of Granada Library had received a total of 16,789 books in 42,629 volumes throughout different periods: in 1768 there were 10,555 books in 29.483 volumes; in 1837, 822 books in 1775 volumes were received from Santa Cruz y Santa Catalina School; in 1840, 3,131 books in 5,583 volumes were received from the extinguished convents; between 1839 and 1875 a total of 2,281 books in 5,788 volumes were received from purchases and adquisitions.

But from the holdings received in 1875 only 11,014 books in 20,406 volumes were left (5,788 books in 22,223 volumes had dissapeared), which dealt with Theology, Jurisprudence, Arts and Sciences and History.

What was the evolution of the holdings during this period and why did these 22,223 volumes disappear?

The following are data from several indexes carried out until 1856:

  • Year 1768, index from Fathers Mohedanos: 10,555 books in 29,483 volumes.
  • Year 1785, index from Velázquez de Echevarría: 4,979 books in 9,549 volumes.
  • Year 1813, index from Antonio Pineda: 4,780 books in 7,260 volumes.
  • Year 1856, index from Antonio José de Córdoba: 8,291 books in 14,222 volumes.

They explain how the biggest lost of holdings happened between 1768 and 1785. After the University and the Library moved to San Pablo School, all the holdings from the library of Fathers Jesuitas and from the University were left in a disorganized way in unapproriate premises. They stayed there until 1780, suffering irreparable damages and losses.

Apart from the losses due to robery and deterioration, many documents (minutes from the Cloister from the 7th June 1780 and the 30th June 1784, Order of the Council from 9th Aug 1780) make reference to the habit of selling “useless, old and deteriorated books”. The aim of this was to pay the library expenses (material to write, bookshelves, ect.), but never to replace holdings. Because of this, many invaluable books did not belong to the patrimony of the University anymore.

Between 1785 and 1813 there was a slight decrease of books, but in this case it can be due to the normal loss occured from the activity of the library, especially if we take into account that the only mean of increasing holdings were donations and none were received during this period.

From these dates the evolution of holdings rose, with a noticeable increase between 1813 and 1856, especially due to the annexation of the holdings from Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina School and from the extinguished convents. They had been placed in the Museum of Granada but subsequently they went to the University.

The two additional articles from the first Regulations of the University of Granada Library, written in 1839 and approved in 1840 can give us an idea of the procedures followed in order to select the new adquisitions. They state that the Cloister would name a committee composed of a Professor of each Faculty and four members from the Cloister so that they wrote a list of books by order of urgency and necessary subscriptions. These lists would be submited to the Cloister in order to be able to acquire those books depending on economic means.

Premises and organization of the holdings

When the library, which had belonged to the Jesuits, moved to San Pablo school in 1769 it was arranged in three different departments: The General Library of the Jesuits which had the books written by their members on the right and the books written by external authors on the left (works such as the Holy Fathers and Holy Bibles). Also a “second library” or archives where manuscripts were placed, and books located in the rooms of the Jesuits.

The University was overwhelmed by the great amount of holdings, so it piled them up in the premises of the General Library, where they stayed unorganized until they were placed in appropriate premises in 1780. Compared to the inventory carried out by Fathers Mohedanos, the one implemeted by Father Echevarría in 1785 showed the dramatic consequences that these years of disorganization and neglect caused to the rich holdings bequeathed to the University.

In their new location (presently occupied by the Library of the Faculty of Law), in which it stayed until its move to the Royal Hospital in 1980, books were arranged by Father Echevarría in fourteen sections that coincided with the of the subjects of the catalogue or index:

1. Holy Scriptures, Holy Fathers, Exhibitors; 2. Scholastic and Dogmatic Theology; 3. Moral Theology; 4. Civil and Canon Law; 5. Biblical and Profane History; 6. Biblical and Preached Oratory; 7. Medicine; 8. Scholastic Philosophy; 9. Moral and Natural Philosophy; 10. Liberal Arts; 11. Poetry; 12. Grammar and Languages; 13. Ascetics and Devotion Books; 14. Miscellany.

In 1813, Antonio de Pineda y Barragán made a new index and a coherent reorganization of the holdings. It consisted mainly of the change of the name of some sections and the addition of new ones which were adapted to the evolution of the subjects taught. The following subjects were added: “Chemistry, Botany and Natural History”, “Physics, Geography, Mathematics and Liberal Arts” and “Political and Christian Economy”. This shows the desacralization that the University was experiencing in favour of a higher increase of the pure and natural sciences.

The annexation of the holdings which belonged to Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina School in 1837 and to the extinguished convents in 1840, along with the increase of books due to purchases and donations, requiered a new reorganization and a new index of the whole library. The new reorganization started with Mr. Pineda and finished with Antonio José de Córdoba y Gómez in 1856. The room was divided into three parts in which the following sections were distributed: 1. Holy Scripture and Holy Fathers, Religion, Philosophy; 2. Mechanics Arts, Industry; 3. Medicine, Surgery, Pharmacy, Veterinary Science; 4. Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy; 5. Mathematics, Arts, Literature, Miscellany; 6. Oratory, Grammar, Languages; 7. Poetry; 8. Jurisprudence; 9. History, Geography.

Currently, the library holdings are composed by 1.100.000 monographs in paper and more than 240.000 electronic books; around 17.000 paper-based periodicals and more than 45.000 electronic periodicals.

These holdings (except the ones in electronic format) were distributed over the different libraries, according to the subjects taught in the Faculties where each library was located.

Old holdings are mainly located in the Royal Hospital Library and in the Faculties of Philosophy and Humanities, Law, Medicine and Pharmacy. The first one has around 20,000 volumes, among which we can highlight: 47 incunables, 6,472 imprints from the 16th century, 2,556 from the 17th century, 5,746 from the 18th century and 3,154 between the 16th and the 18th century, whose date cannot no be specified. The Library also owns 792 manuscripts: 4 of them from the 14th century, 153 from the 15th century, 191 from the 16th century, 268 from the 17th century, 93 from the 18th century, 46 from the 19th century and 37 from the 20th century.

Free access to books is still combined with the book depot in the organization of the holdings within the different libraries. However presently the most consulted holdings are free access in the libraries which have enough space.

Indexes and Catalogues

In the previous sections, we have mentioned the different indexes carried out within this period, the number of books offered and the subjects provided. The following is a brief review of their organization.

- Index carried out by Rafael and Francisco Rodríguez Mohedano and Ignacio Carmona Valle: It was started as a result of the expulsion of the Jesuits and the annexation of its library to the University. It was finished in 1769. It was in alphabetical order; below each letter appeared firstly the existing books in the “General Library”, secondly the existing imprints in the second library and finally the books located in the Fathers rooms.

This index contained the following data: author, title, place, publisher, year, number of volumes, size and price. Books with unknown author and which were related to the Jesuits were placed under Societatis Jesu, except the documents which were bound in miscellanies, which appeared individually listed under the word “miscellanies”. Allegations, reports and other legal documents which were not related to the Order appeared under the epigraph “Documents about Law”.

- Index by Juan Velázquez de Echevarría: It was carried out in 1785 and it was in alphabetical order. Every letter was subdivided into fourteen subjects which coincided with the sections in which the library was divided. Bibliographical data were divided into six columns: author (by surname, except the ones who were better known by their surname), title, place of publishing, size, number of volumes, number of the bookcase, number of bookshelf and number of the book in that shelf.

- Index by Juan de Pineda y Barragán: It was carried out in 1813 and it was ordered by subjects (17 in total, which coincide with the sections of the library previously mentioned). Data contained by each book were the same as the ones from Echevarría Index.

In 1837, Pineda and others produced an inventory on the holdings which belonged to the currently disappeared Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina School once they passed to the University of Granada Library. In the section which deals with the holdings we have already explained the figures and the inventory about the holdings from the extinguished convents carried out in 1840.

- Index by Antonio José de Córdoba y Gómez: It was carried out in 1856, in line with a new reorganization of the library boosted by the entrance of holdings from the annexation of the libraries of Santa Cruz y Santa Catalina School and the extinguished convents. This index showed more modern features compared to the previous ones: Two instruments of description, one by authors and one by subjects, according to the classification followed to arrange the library (see section which deals with holdings).

Data collected from each book were much more precise than the previous ones: author, title, language, size, year, place, publisher, edition, binding, volumes, bookcase, shelf, number of the book and observations.

Francisco Fernández Alonso, successor of Antonio José de Córdoba in the charge, described it as not very ellaborated, since under the word anonymous appeared many which were not. This index showed several books by its commentator or translator, also some with errors in the date and editions and some with the box of observations in blank. Apart from these mistakes, these indexes were binded and lacked of the necessary gaps for quotations. However, they contained the data required for the bibliographic description and the localization of the books. In Fernández Alonso comment, technical specifications were already showed (in 1858 the body Cuerpo Facultativo de Archiveros, Bibliotecarios y Anticuarios was created).

In 1865, once Francisco Fernández Alonso was already a librarian, the catalogue in index cards and other tasks such as the gathering of statistical data from 1870 began.

The current catalogues can be divided in several phases: until 1989, when the computarization of the library started, an alphabetical manual catalogue by authors and anonymous books and a systematic one by subjects according to the UDC still remained. These manual catalogues covered two different periods: the previous one to 1982 and the one that contained the books which came in from 1982 until 1989, whose records were written according to the ISBD.

From 1989 the computarized data base of the University of Granada Library started to develop. Presently it contains a record of 578,215 books.

The technical process of the books is carried out in every library, since the computer system allows to feed an unique database from the different premises.

The computarized system for management used by the Library is called Millenium.


  • La Biblioteca General Universitaria / Cristina Peregrín Pardo . En: El Hospital Real (1990)
  • La Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada ayer y hoy / Cristina Peregrín Pardo . En: Boletín de la Asociación Andaluza de Bibliotecarios (1984, vol. 1, n. 0, p. 8-12)
  • El fondo histórico de la Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada / Cristina Peregrín Pardo . Separata de: El libro antiguo en las bibliotecas españolas (1998, p. 237-260)
  • Impresos en español de la Biblioteca del Colegio Mayor Reunido de Santa Cruz y Santa Catalina de Granada : Siglos XVI al XVIII / Cristina Peregrín Pardo . En: De libros y bibliotecas, homenaje a Rocío Caracuel (1994, 287-294)
  • La Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada / Mª José Ariza Rubio . En: Boletín de la ANABAD (1996, vol. XLVI, n. 3-4, p. 119-136)
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