History of the library

Known around the world, the Institut Henri Poincaré library holds some exceptional collections about mathematics, theoretical physics, and history and philosophy of science.

An ever growing collection

At the time of its foundation in 1928, the library was already strong of the Gaston Darboux and Nicolas Goffart collections, 138 journals and every French theses in mathematics since 1850. Soon many donations came in, including books and manuscripts from the Faculty of Science of the University of Paris. The library also inherited over 600 mathematical models, made from plaster, wood, wire or thread. Some of them are exhibited permanently in the library's hall. Most of those models were created in Germany by Ludwig Brill and Martin Schilling between 1890 and 1920. Those made of wood were built in Paris between 1912 and 1915 by Joseph Caron, Professor of descriptive geometry at École normale supérieure (ENS).

Pierre Gauja, secretary of the French Academy of Science managed the library until 1949. Paul Belgodère took over the management until 1986 and—with the assistance of Denise Lardeux—transformed it into a large and internationally renowned library. The book holdings grew from 4 000 to 23 000 and the journals from 120 to 250. Since then, the library has established an international reputation. As an homage, the reserve of old and precious books has been named Salle Paul Belgodère, while the library's exhibition space is called Salon Denise Lardeux.

Since then, the library has been managed by Hélène Nocton (1987-2003 / CNRS crystal medal 1997), Liliane Zweig (2003-2007 / CNRS crystal medal 2007), Brigitte Yvon-Deyme (2007-2015), Alexandra Miric (2015-2020), Nayara Gil-Condé (2020-2023) and Henri Duvillard (since 2024 / CNRS crystal medal 2023). And for 38 years, from 1981 until 2019, Dominique Dartron provided invaluable assistance to those in charge.

The library also holds a collection of about 800 rare books from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Today, the library's collections concist of:

  • 40 000 research monographs (including almost 2 800 unicas),
  • 3 000 titles intended for a wider audience,
  • 1 200 printed journals titles including 101 ongoing subscriptions,
  • 2 000 theses in mathematics,
  • 800 rare books from the 17th and 18th centuries,
  • and the access to numerous digital resources (e-books and journals).

Focus on research and teaching

The library is open to researchers and teachers in mathematics, theoretical physics and/or the history and philosophy of these fields, and in particular to participants in programs organized by the Centre Émile Borel.

Our patrons are greeted in French or in English.

The IHP library is affiliated to Sorbonne Université Library. It is also an active member of the RNBM (French national network of mathematics libraries).


Réseau national des bibliothèques de mathématiques (RNBM)

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Bibliothèque de Mathématiques-Informatique Recherche (MIR)
Site Jussieu - Sorbonne Université / Site Sophie Germain - Université Paris Cité

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Shared conservation plan for periodicals in mathematics

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Répertoire de fonds pour l'Histoire et la Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques (RHPST)

An exhibition space

Since the refoundation of IHP in 1994, the library regularly hosts various exhibitions. Sometimes they are portrait exhibitions of great scientific figures, sometimes they are exhibitions mixing arts and sciences.

  • from June 11 to July 24, 2024 : exhibition Regards de géomètre, 7ème édition by the association « Les Maths en scène » ;
  • from November 16, 2023 to February 29, 2024: exhibition Sur-Faces by Michel Delaunay;
  • from April 11 to October 27, 2023 : exhibition Emmy Noether (1882-1935) : mathématicienne d'exception ;
  • from May 19 to September 24, 2022 : exhibition Regards de géomètre, 5ème édition by the association « Les Maths en scène » ;
  • from March 2 to 15 April 15, 2022: exhibition Rencontre des infinis by the Galerie Wagner;
  • from September 14, 2021 to February 25, 2022: exhibition Émile Borel, un mathématicien au pluriel;
  • from September 21, 2020 to September 3 2021: exhibition Jean Perrin, une oeuvre, un héritage;
  • from March 3 to July 24, 2020: exhibition L'OuPeinPo en vient aux maths;
  • from October 24, to December 21, 2018: exhibition Gaston Darboux : La profondeur des surfaces;
  • from June 6 to July 20, 2018: exhibition Fourier : de la Révolution française à la révolution numérique;
  • from November 8 to December 22, 2017: exhibition Démasquer, Arts & Sciences en Afrique, set up by the Association pour la Promotion Scientifique de l'Afrique with the support of IHP and the Fondation Iagolnitzer;
  • from September 22 to October 20, 2017: exhibition Dialogue entre art et science : carte blanche à l'École Boulle - Rendre visible l'abstraction mathématique, in partnership with École Boulle;
  • from March 8 to July 8, 2017: exhibition Ésthetopies : Variétés d'espaces sensibles, by Pierre Berger;
  • from November 22, 2016 to January 26, 2017: paintings exhibition Promenade en Mathématique, by Daniel Martet;
  • from March 18 to June 30, 2016: exhibition Patrice Jeener, le graveur de mathématiques;
  • from November 19, 2015 to February 19, 2016: exhibition Einstein et la Relativité Générale, une histoire singulière;
  • in 2013: exhibition Sur les pas de Joseph-Louis Lagrange (1736-1813);
  • in 2012: exhibition Henri Poincaré : du mathématicien au philosophe;
  • in 2012: exhibition Alan Turing : du langage formel aux formes vivantes;
  • from October 17 to November 25, 2011: exhibition Évariste Galois : un mathématicien dans l’histoire;
  • from June 7 to September 14, 2010: Mathématiques et Arts, exhibition by Claude Bruter;
  • from November 28, 2008 to May 28, 2010: IHP 80, exhibition for the 80th birthday of the institute;
  • from March 3 to April 21, 2006: Série I.H.P. (dessins, peintures), exhibition by Sylvie Pic;
  • from July 8 to September 29, 2005: Partition, photographs exhibition by Ed Alcock;
  • from January 22 to June 30, 2005: Mathématiques et Arts, exhibition by Claude Bruter;
  • from October 20 to November 14, 2003: Mécanique céleste, exhibition conceived by Alain Chenciner, first exhibited in 1996;
  • from September 4 to October 3, 2003: Papillons et documents, exhibition by Laurent Schwartz;
  • from June 2 to 26, 2003: exhibition about the Norvegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel;
  • from October 15 to 21, 2002: Les 72 savants de la Tour Eiffel, exhibition about 12 scientists among the 72 scientists chosen by Gustave Eiffel;
  • from June 7 to 30, 2000: Un monde fractal, exhibition by the atelier EcoutezVoir;
  • from October 10 to December 15, 1998: Vies secrètes, paintings exhibition by Laurence Burguière;
  • from March to June 1998: Vie et oeuvre de Gottfried Wielhem von Leibniz, 1646-1716;
  • from March 20 to June 15, 1998: Anatomies du chaos, sculptures and drawings exhibition by  Jean Letourneur;
  • October 10 and 11, 1997: La Science en Fête, open-door at the library, old books, mathematical models, games of Edouard Lucas, Dominique Dartron and Hélène Nocton with the participation of Jean Brette;
  • from June 14 to December 15, 1997: Histoire des nombres complexes, exhibition conceived by Jean Brette, Adrien Douady and Jean-Luc Verley;
  • from May 24 to June 27, 1997: Confrontations, exhibition of works from Thérèse Chotteau, Véronique Roca and Ciliana Villegas;
  • from October 7, 1996 to February 15, 1997: Métamorphoses et dissections géométriques, exhibition by Jean-Noël Buffière;
  • from May to December 1996: Mécanique céleste, exhibition conceived by Alain Chenciner;
  • from May 24 to July 13, 1996: Formes et figures, presentation of works from Thérèse Chotteau, sculptor;
  • in September 1995: Vie et oeuvre de René Descartes, 1596-1650;
  • in January 1995: Vie et oeuvre de Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, 1857-1894;
  • in October 1994: Une sélection d'ouvrages rares, exhibition made with the help of J.-L. Verley;
  • in October 1994: Une sélection de la collection des modèles mathématiques, exhibition made with the help of Jean Brette ;
  • from June to July 1994: Henri Poincaré, exhibition lent by the Archives Henri-Poincaré, University Nancy 2.