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The library was established on July 9, 1833, by decree of the king's court of Porto, D. Pedro, Duke of Braganza, and endorsed by Cândido José Xavier, Minister Secretary of State for affairs of the kingdom. The name Royal Public Library of Porto was given to it.
The Library was originally installed in 1841 in the Franciscan Hospice, located in the praça da Cordoaria and in 1842 was finally installed in the house that served as the Convent of Santo António Hospice, next to the Jardim de S.Lázaro/Rua D. João IV. The first librarian was appointed by the Minister Inspector and the first book collection of the new cultural establishment was formed mainly by libraries of the convents and those handed over by the diocese, and the libraries of numerous wealthy private book collectors.
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According to Alexandre Herculano, the library initially consisted of 36,000 volumes, plus 300 manuscript codices. The first books in the library had been sixteen manuscript volumes which at that time were well used.
In 1842 the library consisted of 24,256 works in 47,322 volumes, and some 4,200 volumes from the former convents of Vila do Conde and others. The first printed catalogs of the Library of Porto also appeared.
The collection of rare manuscripts of this library was in 1877 enriched by the legacy of the Conde de Azevedo. This library was transformed into a municipal library by determination of the Charter Act of January 27, 1876, promulgated by D. Luís I, and signed by António Rodrigues Sampaio and the mayor of Porto, Francisco Pinto Bessa.
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