The Collections

The Gennadius Library’s collection reflects the many interests of its founder, Joannes Gennadius (1844-1932).

Since its foundation in 1926 the Gennadius Library has collected books based on Joannes Gennadius’s interests. New acquisitions are guided by a carefully-formulated Acquisitions Policy, inspired by the founding collection and complementing the collections of the Blegen Library across the street, which are focused on earlier periods of Greek history and prehistory.

The Research Collection of 90.000 titles is classified according to the Library of Congress classification system; a general description of the holdings can be found here. Registered readers may access them in open stacks.

The Rare Books and Special Collections numbering 50.000 items is made up of manuscript codices, watercolors, engravings, historical maps, pamphlets, and various memorabilia and still follows Gennadius’ own cataloging arrangement. 

Joannes Gennadius began his collection of books, manuscripts, and works of art after 1870 and by 1895 his Library had reached its full growth. He conceived it as being a comprehensive collection on Greece emphasizing continuity from antiquity to the present day. His aim was “to form a library that represents the creative genius of Greece at all periods, the influence of her arts and sciences upon the western world, and the impression created by her natural beauty upon the traveler.”  Yet, the collection covers not only the history of Greece but also of the neighboring regions such as the Balkans, the history of the Jews, the history of the Near East and Turkish history. A significant portion of the collection focuses on the History of the Book.

Some of the highlights of the holdings, which include artifacts of many different kinds as well as printed matter, are described below.

Turning the Pages

Browse some highlights of the Gennadius collection as if paging through an open book. Maps of the Aegean, paintings illustrating General Makrygiannis’s Memoirs, a 16th c. costume album by Lambert de Vos, the Charta of Rigas Feraios, and one of John Gennadius’s scrapbooks from the Ballan Wars are all included here.

This award-winning system was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation.