The Schœlcher library

This library was created on the initiative of Victor Schœlcher, a famous abolitionist, who donated his private library of about 9,000 books and 250 musical scores to the General Council of Martinique in 1883 on the condition that a public library be built in the colony.
Schœlcher was a humanist and a famous opponent of slavery who fought all his life for abolition. He was a member of parliament and subsequently a senator for Martinique and participated in the drawing-up of the abolition decree of 1848. Many of his works bear witness to his fierce struggle for the cause of slaves and black people.

The Schœlcher library © CG972

Plan of the Schœlcher Library © CG972

The library, an avant-garde building for its period, was designed in 1884 by the architect Henri Picq who succeeded in combining different materials - concrete, wrought iron and wood - to overcome the hazards of the swampy land of the town of Fort-de-France and the many risks facing Martinique, such as hurricanes and earthquakes.
The Schœlcher library has been a scheduled historical monument since 1973 and stands out in the town of Fort-de-France through its exotic architectural style borrowed from various schools reminiscent of the colonial universe of the time.


Its mandate

The Schœlcher library has two main mandates: it ensures the preservation of heritage documents related to Martinique and to its environment, the Caribbean, with a view to transmitting a local collective memory. Consequently, it is the reference heritage library in Martinique.
At the same time, it contributes to the development of reading and cultural activities throughout Martinique. It ensures access to information and training for everyone and participates in the battle against illiteracy. It is a study and research facility, is developing its encyclopaedia collections and has a programme of activities.


The Pavillon Bougenot © CG972

Its reading mandate covers the Pavillon Bougenot, an annex of the Schœlcher library since 2004. The Pavillon Bougenot is a colonial-style house dating from the 19th century. It is the former home of the engineer Emile Bougenot, a rich industrialist and owner of the Galion sugar factory. It now houses the press and documentation Multimedia Cultural Space / Cyberbase with a press area for the visually impaired.


The digital collections

The Schœlcher Library has a particularly rich historical heritage collection. It offers everyone the possibility of discovering or studying all the aspects - economic, social, literary and political - of the life of our country and its environment, the Caribbean, from the 16th century to today.
Handwritten letters, typescripts, exercise books, drafts of published works, travel notes, post cards, plans, photographs, prints, musical scores, books, geographical maps, past exhibitions, etc. are preserved in the storage area in the best possible conditions, coming down through time to tell us about Martinique’s history. These rare, precious or very old documents are fragile and are being digitalized under the digitalization plan.
Henceforth, this site will contain information about the treasures of our heritage collections, old post cards, the Schœlcher collection, old manuscripts, old periodicals, etc.
The Schœlcher collection
The Schœlcher collection, whose contents are still being discovered today, covers everything that concerns Victor Schœlcher and that can contribute to knowing or studying the man, his work and his life. It includes signed handwritten letters, unpublished manuscripts, his works, his correspondence, photographs, past exhibitions and articles and books on Victor Schœlcher.
The manuscripts
Many manuscripts from the 17th and 19th centuries contribute to the richness of the historical collection.
An abundant correspondence from politicians having played an important role in the history of Martinique and the neighbouring islands - Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Haiti, etc. - contributes to a better understanding of the political and social conditions of the time.
Special topics concerning life on different plantations, trade and the sale of slaves provide information on the economy.
Historical post cards and historical periodicals bear witness to the social life of Martinique in the 17th and 19th centuries.



The Schœlcher library

La bibliothèque Schœlcher

Rue de la Liberté

97200 Fort-de-France

Tel: +596 (0)596 70 26 67