Russian Books Oval Room


Oval Room on the First Floor. Drawing by P.F. Borel. 1852

"... This beautiful room has the same oval shape as the Reception Hall under it on the ground floor. Ten high columns, parallel to the walls, support an entablature. On it there is a wide gallery linking different places on the top (second) floor, and a balustrade decorated with busts of wize ancient men. Somewhat lower, at half column height, is an oval passage, connected to the galleries of all other rooms..." 

"The room has two sources of lighting: below, there are three large glass doors overlooking the balcony; at the top, there are three windows. Outside the oval, at both corners closest to the street, there are two hanging iron stairs: one ... leads down to the Reader Service Desk at the reading room; the other goes up to the second floor ... "

Imperial Public Library Guidebook. 1860


The Library interiors, designed by Sokolov, combines classic elegancy with lustre. The Oval Room stood out in particular. Its second floor was especially remarkable because of a colonnade of ten Ionic columns which supported a gallery. The room has a gently sloping dome ceiling, its central part was beautifully decorated by modeled elements. Artificial marble columns and statues of ancient gods were placed against a background of heavy red curtains. Wooden parquet floors were covered with red carpets.


1879 1879


In the room there were showcases with rarities, and portraits in bronze frames hung on the walls. Three doors led from the room to a balcony of the main facade. This balcony provides a picturesque view of Nevsky Prospekt and Sadovaya Street.

This room is where the inauguration of the Library took place on 2nd January 1814. The event was attended by more than 214 people, including high officials, writers and scholars, ladies, members of the clergy and the library staff. Nikolai Gnedich, the poet and translator of Homer's Iliad, gave a speech Why Morality is Important in the Education of Youth. The famous fabulist Ivan Krylov read his new fable Divers. Library Director Alexey Olenin welcomed all the participants. The guests were presented with Rules for the Library Visitors, printed in Russian, Latin, German and French.

Unfortunately, the appearance of this room has changed a lot since then. To reduce the risk of fire, the architect Vasily Sobolshchikov removed the tall columns that adorned the room; wooden balustrades were replaced by cast-iron ones.
Today the room houses the Russian Books Collection.


Photo Gallery



How the Library interiors have changed since 18th century
Bookplates in the Russian Books Collections
About Russian Books Collections
Architects of the NLR.
Fragment with views of the Russian Books Oval Room
Examples for the benefit and pleasure of children ...
Russian Literary Landmarks in the Digital Library
LENINBURG. Fragment with views of the Russian Books Oval Room (The film is in Russian)