In 1555, through an announcement by Fra Claude de la Sengle (Grand Master of the Order of St John), the idea of a public library in Malta was born. This came up so all books in the legacy of the knights who passed out were passed on to the Common Treasury of the Order. Only in 1776, the formal foundation of a Bibliotheca Publicawas was announced at the Chapter General of the Order. The main collections belonged to Fra Louis Guerin de Tencin, Baliff Grand Cross of the Order who died in 1766, and of Cardinal Joaquin Portocarrero, which de Tencin himself had purchased on the Cardinal’s death in 1760. At this time the Library was named Bibliotheca Tanseana in de Tencin’s honour, by which today de Tencin is still considered as the founder.
At the Library today one can find the Readers Services Unit, Bibliographic Services Unit, Archives Unit, Reprographic Section, the Bindery, and the Digitization Unit. Several interesting Collections are found at the Library, such as The Incunabula Collection, Melitensia, various Maps and Plans starting from the 16 Century, and some very rare Bindings Collections.