the exterior of this stately building and immaculate like the other colonial buildings in the centre of Rio de Janeiro. But in entering in the Cabinet royal Portuguese reading, amazing library with dramatic flourishes, one has the impression of finding themselves immersed in the world of Harry Potter. “We saw this in Harry Potter, we see libraries like this!” exclaims Didier Margouet, French tourist of 57 years, filled with awe at the many shelves full of old books with bindings of leather. All lighted by a chandelier, monumental stained glass windows, octagonal, which allow to filter the light of day through the ceiling.
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“Yes, it is like in the movies”, agreed his companion Laeticia Rau, 50 years. This jewel of gothic architecture was built in the Nineteenth century by an association of Portuguese immigrants who still attends today of its conservation. The mosaics, sculptures and sumptuous bas-reliefs in wood to celebrate the golden age of the great discoveries of Portuguese navigators in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries. With 350.000 books, some very rare, the library has the largest collection of books in the Portuguese language outside Portugal. Despite its name “cabinet de lecture”, it is more a tourist place than a place to study, even if it continues to attract some of the faithful devourers of old books.
Among them, Carlos Francisco Moura, 86 years of age, with a passion for Portuguese history. Arrived in Portugal at the age of four with his parents, he goes to this library since early childhood. “This is the alma mate r of the Portuguese in Brazil,” says-t it. According to him, since the 1930’s, each book published in Portugal account a copy to the Cabinet of reading Rio.
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The architect Carlos Francisco Moura frequent the library since his earliest childhood. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP
The links between the largest countries of Latin America and its colonizers lasted for more than 500 years, the Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral is the first european to have landed on the coast of brazil, in 1500. In 1808, the court of King John VI of Portugal, fleeing from napoleon’s troops, was established in Rio de Janeiro, which became the capital of the Portuguese Empire. John VI himself has declared seven years later the independence of Brazil, of which he became the first emperor. The Portuguese is still the official language of Brazil and the two countries feed on, even today, many cultural exchanges. Exchanges symbolised by the flags and brazilian Portuguese, which float on top of the Cabinet of reading Rio.
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As Carlos Francisco Moura, Orlando Inacio, manager of the library, came to Rio from Portugal still a child. “It is a real pride to know that this library was created by the Portuguese is one of the most beautiful in the world”, he says. He recalls with passion the history of the Firm of reading, an institution founded in 1837. “The goal was to help the immigrants, who were mostly poorly educated, so that they have access to the knowledge,” explains the manager.
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The association continues to fund the library, its members are required to pay a monthly contribution to fund a portion of maintenance expenditure. The rest is covered by the rents from the leasing of property belonging to the association. Orlando Inacio is aware that the “library” are less numerous in the internet era, even if some continue to attend the Office of reading for consulting rare books not available online. He is the proud custodian of a unique space not only for its beauty, but for what it represents for the relationship between Brazil and Portugal, through the language.