In terms of diversity and volumes, the Royal Library’s collection of newspapers is by far the largest in Belgium. From seventeenth century journals to last week’s papers - we have them in our collection. Many of those newspapers are available online too, thanks to the digitizing projects. About one quarter of all the titles can only be consulted on microfilm.
The Royal Library has collected newspapers since its founding in 1837. The newspapers held by this institute are distributed across several departments, as a consequence of the rarity, antiquity and nature of the newspapers, the evolution of library technology and the processing methods.
How to search for a newspaper
There are various ways of searching in the Royal Library’s newspaper collections:
- Using the online catalogue
- For defunct newspapers: in alphabetical, topographical and chronological catalogues on cards (to be consulted in the Library)
- On microfilm (almost 600 Belgian newspaper titles): using the “Mic Perm Catalogue of microfilms” (to be consulted in the Library)
- Via BelgicaPress
- Via The Belgian War Press
How the collections are distributed
You can consult the large majority of the newspaper collection in the Reading Room of the Newspapers and Contemporary Media Department (formerly the Newspapers and Journals Department).
This department has approximately 2,000 different Belgian newspaper titles in its repository in broadsheet (grande presse) and/or large format (measuring more than 50 cm in height). These newspapers belong to the collection “J.B.” (Journaux belges or Belgian newspapers), which covers the period from the last years of the eighteenth century up to today.
In addition, there are around 500 different foreign newspaper titles in broadsheet format (grande presse), either as original copies or on microfilm.
Lastly, there are a few collections of precious works, such as the Gaston Mertens Collection (Fonds Spécial XLVIII), which has more than 60,000 specimens from some 1,650 Belgian municipalities (dating from the mid-seventeenth century to 1948), and the Philippe Vandermaelen Collection, which contains 2,405 specimens of nineteenth century foreign newspapers (mostly from Europe and the United States).
The holdings in this department were primarily acquired by purchase, donation and as part of the Legal Deposit (since 1966).
The Rare Books Department contains:
- Old journals and magazines (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries)
- Clandestine newspapers dating from both World Wars
- Unusually exceptional publications (including Vlaemsch België, Deutsche Brüsseler Zeitung and Le Charivari belge)
The General Reading Room of the Department of Contemporary Printed Books holds hundreds of petite presse titles, i.e. weekly or monthly journals or magazines focusing on social issues, trade unions, health insurance, political matters, professional subjects, student matters or artistic fields. These journals and magazines are usually smaller in size than broadsheets (grande presse).
Lastly, the Center for American Studies gives access to a large range of American newspapers, journals and magazines.