The French Academy in Rome owes the creation of its library to Joseph- Benoît Suvée, the first director of the post-revolutionary period, who intended to establish an important study means for the fellows, like the ones established in the main Academies of Fine Arts in France and Italy. The first book collection - the two thirds of which is still part of the library - came from the revolutionary confiscation of the Cordeliers convent in Paris and was completed with an acquisition campaign achieved by the French Ministry of Interior. For the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, there was not a librarian in charge and the number of volumes rose thank only to donations and bequests. The Library was first settled into the apartment of the Cardinal and later arranged in one of the first floor's small salon.In the middle of the 19th century found its place in the Italian Grand Salon, then around the Napoleon III massive libraries where also were placed busts of directors and the monumental statues of Louis XIV and Louis XVIII.
It is only in 1964 that specific funds were allocated to the books' acquisition, a librarian was appointed and new wire-shelves were provided, all under the direction of Balthus (from 1961 to 1977). The Library found its final location in the old gallery of the Cardinal Ferdinand of Medici's antiques at the same period. The art historian Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios donated his important book collection on Fine Arts, only a part of which has already been transferred to Villa Medici along with an important and unique photo library. This recent gaining has endorsed the Villa Medici's library to be considered one f the greatest decorative arts library in Rome.
The library collection is mainly in French and has open access. It is composed of more than 32000 volumes, faithfully reflecting the main disciplines at the French Academy, Fine Arts, Architecture and History and of books on Photography, Cinema, Design and Scenography as well as music and literature. The cotalogue is partly available on line through the École Française de Rome internet site or the SUDOC.