The origin of the National Library of Myanmar is Bernard Free Library which was established by Sir Charles Edward Bernard, British Commissioner for Lower Myanmar. He founded his private library with the cooperation of Sir John Jardine, Chairman of Education Syndicate for Lower Myanmar, with his books at his own building (now BEHS No.1) on 21 February 1883 and opened to the public for freely use the library.
The collection of Bernard Free Library was increased by the publications in various subjects from west countries which were added by Sir John Jardine and Professor Childers from the Pali Department of Yangon University. U Po Hmyin and U Myo from Yangon also donated palm-leaf manuscripts and parabeik, and books in Mon, Myanmar and Pali languages for value of 10000 kyats of that period.
In addition, the library purchased palm-leaf manuscripts and parabeik collections of Bagan Minister U Tin and Kinwun Mingyi U Kaung which were moved from Mandalay Palace.
In 1920, the library purchased manuscripts and books from Kinwun Mingyi Pitakataik with 15000 kyats. In 1924, collections from Bagan Minister U Tin Pitakataik for 5000 kyats were added to the library.
After Independence, in 1952, the Ministry of Union Culture was established and the Bernard Free Library was transferred under the Ministry as government organization. On 1 June 1952, the Ministry of Union Culture opened the library as “State Library” under the name of State Library, Museum, Art Gallery and Theatre at the Jubilee Hall in Yangon. The State Library inherited the collections of Bernard Free Library which comprised printed publications of 1900 in Europe, oriental books, and manuscripts from Mandalay Palace of Yadanapon period.
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