Posted by: bluesyemre | November 4, 2021

RGPL Real Gabinete Português de Leitura

Virtual Tour:

Due to its prestige in intellectual circles, the architectural beauty of the building at its headquarters, the importance of the bibliographic collection and the activities it develops, the Royal Portuguese Reading Office is, in all respects, a remarkable institution that greatly dignifies Portugal in the Brazil.

On May 14, 1837, a group of 43 Portuguese emigrants from Rio de Janeiro – and it should be noted that this only takes place 15 years after the country’s independence – met at the house of Dr. António José Coelho Lousada, in the former Rua Direita (today Rua Primeiro de Março), nº 20, and decided to create a library to expand the knowledge of its members and give the opportunity to Portuguese residents in the then capital of the Empire to illustrate its spirit.

Among these men, most of whom were merchants from the square, were some who had been persecuted in Portugal by absolutism and who had emigrated to Brazil. This was the case of José Marcelino Rocha Cabral, a lawyer and journalist, who was to be elected the institution’s first president.

It is possible that, by caring about the level of education of their compatriots and wanting to instill in many a taste for reading, the founders of the “Cabinet” were inspired by the example coming from France, where, soon after the revolution of 1789, the so-called “boutiques à lire” began to appear, which were nothing more than stores where books were lent, for a fixed period, upon payment of a certain amount.

Following the example of “reading offices” of Portuguese roots, and still in the second half of the 19th century, similar institutions that were also called “ reading offices” and which were later transformed into municipal libraries.

It is at this point that the leaders begin to think about building a larger headquarters, in keeping with the institution’s importance. For this purpose, land is acquired on the former Rua da Lampadosa. And the commemorations of the tercentenary of the death of Camões (1880) will be the great pretext to motivate the Portuguese “colony” and carry the project forward. Portugal was going through frightful crises: they were the deficits of the Court and the threat of the great powers to the colonies of Africa; they were the ills of a society that did not react to the criticisms and barbs of the “losers of life”; it was the “tobacco scandals” and the struggles of the parties; they were the “cortejos do codfish” in the “downtown” of Lisbon to belittle the 16th-century Epic; it was the lack of interest in the new ideas that came from Europe,

The project chosen was that of the Portuguese architect Rafael da Silva Castro, with its neo-Manueline style evoking the Camón epic.

Ramalho Ortigão, invited to be the official speaker at the ceremony, then delivered a remarkable speech. At one point he said: “On the day when the European preponderance has fallen to the intellectual domain of the world – because there are no eternal preponderances and the movement of civilization is destined to oscillate like the movement of the seas and the configuration of the continents between the two hemispheres of the earth – when through this evolution the importance of the geographical domain of the current lines has shifted, if this house still exists, it will show our grandchildren that working men, oblivious to the country’s political intrigue and the dispute of power, absent from their homeland, in a remote country, foresaw in the mission of their race the reach of science and the reach of art, which, with the aim of safeguarding the interests of intelligence, making them prevail over the interests of greed, ambition and human selfishness, it is the origin of positive morality as well as the basis of common sense and the mainstay of moderation…”. And later on, the writer concluded his speech: “And if one day the name of Portugal should disappear from the political charter of Europe, this House will still be like the monumental expression of the fulfillment of the prophecy placed by Garrett in Camões’ mouth: .. . Language, the Portuguese name on earth does not end”.

In 1900, the Portuguese Reading Office was transformed into a public library – any of the people could have access to the books in its library. Soon after, Benjamin Franklin de Ramiz Galvão, one of the most illustrious Brazilian intellectuals, was invited by the President of the institution, Ernesto Cibrão, to organize a new catalog of the bibliographic collection, a task that will end in 1906. It is precisely in that year that King D Carlos attributes the title of “Real” to the Cabinet and a large exhibition of paintings by José Malhoa takes place at the Salão dos Brasões, whose inauguration is attended by President Rodrigues Alves. On the first day of the exhibition, of the 125 paintings presented, 26 were sold, and one of them, called “The Infante’s Dream” (picture on the right), was purchased to stay at the Real Office.

And then there was a reference to what the country owed to the Portuguese in Brazil. In cities, who own the best palaces? Who ordered to build houses and pay for improvements? Who do the manufacturing establishments belong to? Who orders to open and reform the paths in the provinces? Who pays for church improvements, vestments and implements? Who orders the construction of asylums, hospitals and schools? Who subscribes to the actions of the railways? Who responds to the needs of the State and buys half of the public debt bonds in circulation? Who?

 Registradas as mágoas e ressentimentos da colônia, em parte devidas aos confrontos que na época dividiam o país provocados pela campanha crescente do Partido Republicano e as convulsões da Monarquia, o Real Gabinete abre na década de 20 uma nova fase de sua existência. E dois homens se destacam nesse período: um, Carlos Malheiro Dias, com seu labor intelectual, as suas pesquisas históricas, a sua influência na formulação de uma estrutura em que se vai manter o universo associativo de origem portuguesa no Brasil e que irá resultar na criação da Federação das Associações Portuguesas em 1931; o outro, Albino Sousa Cruz que, tendo vendido aos ingleses a fábrica de cigarros, passa a dedicar-se inteiramente e a ser o grande mecenas da instituição.

For the commemorations of the 1st centenary of Independence, a company is set up in Real Office with the purpose of publishing, in fascicles, the monumental History of the Portuguese Colonization of Brazil, under the literary direction of Carlos Malheiro Dias, the artistic and cartographic direction of Roque Gameiro by Councilor Ernesto de Vasconcelos.

The most eminent figures from both countries in the arts, sciences and literature will collaborate in the work, from Luciano Pereira da Silva to Duarte Leite, from Júlio Dantas to Oliveira Lima, from Paulo Merea to Pedro Azevedo, from António Baião to Jaime Cortesão, from H. Lopes de Mendonça to EM Esteves Pereira, without mentioning, of course, the coordinator, the most important of all – Carlos Malheiro Dias.

The  History of Portuguese Colonization was edited by the Litografia Nacional do Porto, in fascicles, and these reached around 20,000, with 12,000 distributed in Brazil and 8,000 in Portugal – an impressive number for the time.

In 1931, the 1st Congress of the Portuguese in Brazil is held at the Real Cabinet, when efforts are made to avoid, with the creation of the Federation of Portuguese Associations, the stepping-stones in the associative milieu and to give a certain unity to the movements of the colony. Its first president will be Carlos Malheiro Dias, and another 80 associations from all over Brazil are integrated into the federative body which, by tacit consensus, becomes the spokesperson for collective aspirations and concerns.

As a result of the 1st Congress of the Portuguese in Brazil, the “Portugal Day”, promoted by the Federation of Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian Associations, is celebrated every year at the headquarters of the Royal Cabinet. The ceremony, in addition to other liturgies, has the presence of distinguished speakers, Portuguese and Brazilian invited for the civic greeting. It is worth recording the list of these guests over the years.

On March 15, 1935, by Decree No. 25.134, the Portuguese government granted the Royal Cabinet the benefit of receiving a copy of the works printed by them from all Portuguese publishers. This statute allows the library to be constantly updated in terms of what is published in Portugal.

In the 40s, the Instituto de Alta Cultura was created with the aim of developing cultural exchange between the two countries.

The following decade is one of great financial difficulties for the institution. The patrons had disappeared and the legacies and codicils over time always favored welfare and religious institutions – the Charities and Mutual Aid Funds, the Casas de Portugal and the Works of Assistance, the Brotherhoods and the Santas Casas. The “Reading Offices”, the “Grêmios” or the “Lyceus”, these were never remembered by most benefactors. Supported by the patronage of Albino de Sousa Cruz and a few others – Sousa Baptista, Count Dias Garcia, Visconde de Morais, Garcia Saraiva, etc. -, the entity, with the disappearance of that generation, was in extreme poverty. Their expenses were apportioned by the boards and only much later the Portuguese government, for some years, under the old regime,

It was necessary to change the previous system in several ways: first, to give more dynamism to its activities, in 1969, during the administration of President António Pedro Martins Rodrigues, the “Study Center” was created, where courses and courses were systematically taught. lectures by university professors. The first course was taught by Prof. Robert Chester Smith, from the University of Pennsylvania, on “Aspects of Portuguese Art in the 18th Century”. And the first director of the Center was António Gomes da Costa. Then there were financial campaigns to rescue the Royal Cabinet from its penury situation and give it the means to survive. In recent years, its membership, which previously consisted only of Portuguese, started to receive citizens from other Portuguese-speaking countries and, at this point, several Brazilian companies – such as Banco Itaú, which financed the entire computerization process of the library – have already contributed to the development of the Real Cabinet, the formation of the cultural multimedia center, the restoration of the building, etc. In this chapter, it is fair to highlight the extraordinary help received over the last few years from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which even provided the necessary resources for the acquisition and construction of the building adjacent to the Real Office where the multimedia center is located. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal has also provided permanent assistance since, both in the government of Cavaco Silva and António Guterres, the institution’s importance for diffracting Portuguese culture in Brazil was recognized. Other entities – from the National Library to the Instituto Camões,

A. Gomes da Costa


  1. Sempre que podia dava uma fugida neste prédio de magnífica arquitetura ,onde me perdia em meio a milhares de livros fantásticos. Fiz várias pesquisas em um ambiente mágico regado por um silêncio especial. Amo !! Que possa sempre existir.!!


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