Benedito Leite Public Library in São Luís do Maranhão

Benedito Leite Public Library in São Luís do Maranhão
Benedito Leite Public Library

The Benedito Leite Public Library is the second oldest library in the country.

Since its creation on 3 May 1831, it has always received notables in literature and science.

The collection of the State Government agency, linked to the State Secretariat for Culture and Tourism (SECTUR), holds precious items, such as the manuscript of Machado de Assis sent to Arthur Azevedo, the greatest expression of Brazilian theatre, as well as other documents, now digitised.

The Benedito Leite Public Library is housed in a neoclassical style building, built in what used to be called Campo de Ourique, which constituted one of the urban limits in the first centuries of the city;

The building was erected on the land where the Barracks of the 5th Infantry Battalion was located in 1797.

The construction was designed by the engineer Antônio Alexandre Bayma and inaugurated on September 12, 1951, during the government of Sebastião Archer da Silva, who promised “not to go down the stairs of the palace without leaving our only public bookstore in conditions to honour our forums of people focused on the activities of the spirit”.

In classical style, with a central dome, semicircular wings and window openings surmounted by pediments, columns in the atrium crowned with Corinthian capitals, it has reading rooms for the public and an auditorium on the fourth floor, which has been renovated and modernised. From the terraces of the 4th floor there is a beautiful view of the city centre;

Postcard image of Benedito Leite Public Library
Postcard image of Benedito Leite Public Library

First facilities of the Benedito Leite Public Library

The Benedito Leite Public Library was created by the then president of the province, Cândido José de Araújo Viana, on 3 May 1831, having as its origin a popular and voluntary subscription and receiving the name of State Public Library, the House until today houses a collection of books, magazines, works of art, collections of Maranhão newspapers dating from Independence (1822) and manuscripts from the 18th century.

The honour to the illustrious Maranhão Benedito Leite dates back to 1958.

A meeting place for journalists, writers, teachers, librarians and other intellectuals, the Benedito Leite Public Library plays a role of cultural relevance in Maranhão and in the country.

The famous Conferences of the Popular University of Maranhão were held there and the Oficina dos Novos, the Civic Society of National Dates and the Maranhão Academy of Letters were founded.


The first headquarters of the Benedito Leite Public Library was the Convento do Carmo, in Rua do Egito, where it was inaugurated on 3 May 1831.

In 1851, the space was annexed to the Liceu Maranhense. Then, by Law No. 752 of 1 June 1866, it was placed under the custody of the Maranhense Literary Institute.

On 10 June 1872, it was taken over by the 11 de Agosto Society, with facilities on the upper floor of the building on Rua do Egito, where the State Legislative Assembly later operated.

On 4 April 1883, it was opened to the public in the Sé Church, returning to the Carmo Convent in 1886, where it remained abandoned and forgotten.

In 1892, it was transferred to Rua Afonso Pena. Three years later, the collection was taken to the building on Rua da Paz, now the Maranhão Academy of Letters, where it reopened to the public on 25 January 1898, under the direction of Antônio Lobo.

From 1914 to 1927, it returned to the building on Rua do Egito for the ground floor, being transferred again to the mansion on Rua da Paz.

Tourism and Travel Guide of São Luís do Maranhão

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