Strasbourg's national university library (BNU) was created by the German government in 1871, and has a tradition of paying particular attention to coverage of German culture.
Recognised as an area of excellence since the library's foundation, regional documentation (Alsace-related material) occupies an important position; acquisitions in this field have always been systematic, and the BNU still aims to achieve fully comprehensive coverage of printed and audiovisual material closely or more loosely related to the region.
Ever since its creation, the BNU has had a particular interest in ancient history, archaeology, and ancient languages and literature, all fundamental fields of research at Strasbourg University since the nineteenth century. It is estimated that the Ancient History collections currently contain 200 000 volumes.
The BNU offers its readers collections on art that are estimated as containing almost 200 000 items (books and journals, engravings, posters, etc). Books and journals alone acquired since 1920 account for 90 000 items. For the older collections, it is estimated that in 1920 the collections devoted to the various fields of art represented about 60 000 volumes.
The library's law collections may be estimated at 270 000 volumes, 130 000 of which have been acquired since 1920.
When the BNU was created in 1871, economics, agriculture, public finances, politics, administration and society formed part of a major documentation group entitled Staatswissenschaften (political sciences);
The library's collections usually designated as "General works" may be estimated as containing 150 000 volumes. These include not only encyclopaedias, bibliographies, and the history of books and libraries,
Since the outset, the BNU has always given history and geography and important position in its collections. These currently represent about 450 000 volumes. Even in 1920, the two disciplines together accounted for about 230 000 volumes.
The BNU began constituting its collection on scientific popularisation and the history of science in 1992.
Languages and literature have been a strong point at the BNU ever since its creation; the collection is currently estimated at about 700 000 volumes.
The number of works relating to philosophy, psychology and education is currently estimated at 270 000 volumes.
From the mid-twentieth century to date, Strasbourg has constantly reinforced its role as capital of Europe.
The BNU's collections on religious sciences have been built up on the basis not only of purchases but also gifts of works and university and other academic publications, successive deposits (professors' libraries, works from the Foundation of the Chapter of St Thomas, the Franciscan collection, etc.) as well as regular acquisitions.