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Overviews of the Collections

Belgian Collections at the Library of Congress

Grant Harris
Chief, European Division

The General Collections

The Library's general collections of monographs, bound periodicals, and annuals include approximately 75,000 titles from or about Belgium. The total number of volumes exceeds 125,000, since many of the individual titles are multi-volume. These materials cover all disciplines of the humanities, social sciences and sciences, with particular strengths in history, language and literature. Roughly half of these materials are in French and forty percent in Dutch. The remainder is in English, German, and more than a dozen other languages. Since the 1970s, the Library has averaged annual receipts of more than 600 monographic titles from Belgium and an additional 100 titles about Belgium published outside that country.

The European Reading Room

The European Reading Room provides direct access to a large number of reference works on Belgium, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, histories, biographical directories, bibliographies and other reference sources. The reading room makes available for onsite use numerous bibliographic databases and full-text resources, many of which contain citations or texts pertaining to Belgium. Current issues of a few selected newspapers and periodicals can be found on display.


Several current Belgian newspapers and periodicals are available in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room. In addition, that reading room provides retrospective holdings of older Belgian newspapers, many of which are on microfilm. The Library's general collections include runs of approximately 3,000 retrospective or current journals, bulletins, annuals and other serials from Belgium.

Rare Books

The Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room has custody of approximately one thousand volumes from or about Belgium. A majority of these were published before 1800, including more than fifty incunabula. When Thomas Jefferson sold his personal book collection to the Library of Congress in 1814, it included eighteen titles published in Belgium. Although only six of those titles survived a fire in 1851, replacement copies have been acquired for many of the lost volumes.

The Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, with its focus on illuminated books, includes among its many treasures more than one hundred volumes prepared by Flemish printers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Also of note from the Rosenwald Collection is the second book ever to be printed in the English language, a volume prepared in Belgium by the English printer William Caxton, entitled The Game and Playe of the Chesse [Bruges: after 31 March 1474/75]. The following two bibliographic guides focus on the Belgian-related portion of the Rosenwald Collection:

Early Printed Books of the Low Countries: An Exhibition in the Library of Congress, April 2, 1958, to August 31, 1958. Washington, 1958. 37 pages. LC call number: Z881. U5 1958.

Goff, Frederick Richmond. Early Belgian Books in the Rosenwald Collection of the Library of Congress. [1947] 11 pages. LC call number: Z733. U63 R63

Students of the history of the book will find of interest a unique collection of some 1,300 broadsides and pamphlets from the years 1811-1909, announcing forthcoming or just-published books, newspapers and journals, grouped under the heading "Publishing Prospectuses from France and Belgium." Although primarily from Belgium and secondarily from France, prospectuses from ten other countries are included here. Some prospectuses are for intended publications that never materialized.


The Geography and Map Reading Room provides access to millions of maps, atlases and other cartographic materials, including thousands of maps pertaining to Belgium. These comprise general, specialized, city and other maps of the past six centuries. Several maps by the reknowned Flemish cartographers of the sixteenth-century are represented here, such as the atlas prepared in 1595 by Gerardus Mercator, whose last name is synonymous with projection maps. In 1993/94, an exhibit of Dutch and Flemish maps at the Library of Congress was accompanied by a 19-page guide entitled Leo Belgicus: The Dutch & Flemish World, 1500-1800. To view maps that have been digitized by the Library of Congress, see Map Collections: 1500-2003 on the American Memory site.


The Manuscript Division collects Americana, including materials pertaining to U.S. relations of any nature with other countries. Here may be found the papers of many American diplomats and others from the United States who worked in or had correspondence with individuals from Belgium. Some manuscripts pertain to U.S.-Belgian relations during the two world wars. One collection, "Belgian Children's Letters to President Woodrow Wilson, February-March, 1915," comprises 8,400 letters in Flemish or French (with a few English translations) expressing gratitude for American relief efforts during World War I.

American Folklife Center

The American Folklife Center includes resources from American ethnic groups as well as from every region of the world. The finding aid listed below describes the Archive of Folk Culture's unpublished ethnographic collections that document the traditional music and other aspects of the folklife of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and their diaspora.

Benelux Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture, Acquired through 1996. LC Folk Archive Finding Aid No. 28. Compiled by Alan L. Mosely. Library of Congress, May 2002. 14 pages.

Other Special Collections

Other special collections pertaining to Belgium include prints and photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings, music scores, microfilm and digitized materials. Because not all items in these collections are separately listed in the Library's online catalog, readers and researchers should contact the appropriate reading rooms for advice from specialists and to obtain access to additional finding aids. Many Library of Congress collections have been digitized and are available online. For photographs and other images, see the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. To search for all digitized materials at once that relate to Belgium, whether maps, music, photographs, early motion pictures, etc., use the American Memory search engine.


The Law Library Reading Room makes available more than 2,500 titles pertaining to law in Belgium. The reading room possesses substantial holdings of the Belgian official gazette, entitled Le Moniteur Belge = Belgisch Staatsblad (Sept 1832-June 1836; 1846-2002). Since January 1, 2003 this title has appeared only in an onlineExternal link version.

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  February 8, 2017
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