The documental proof of a Study Library dates back before the definite transference of the University to Coimbra in 1537. It operated according to the regulation of the several Statutes, determining, the ones from 1591 and 1597, that the library would have a public nature. The old statutes conferred to the university in 1653 by King John IV, would follow, in this matter, the previous ones. Meanwhile, its funds had improved since the 16th century with several donations and with the purchase of bibliographic sets as the one from Flanders by intervention of Pedro Mariz, a bookseller and printer.
Nevertheless, the Philippine domain and the accidents of the Restoration Wars did not allow the undergoing development. It was only during the reign of King John V that the construction of a magnificent building was allowed. This situation would, however, suffer significant changes. In 1772, as a consequence of the Pombaline Reformation of the University, several technical libraries would be created, especially the ones dedicated to the exact sciences, allowing this theme to become the priority in the acquisitions of the University Library.
During the 19th century, the consequences of the French Invasions and of the Liberal Battles as well as the extinction of the Religious Orders in 1834 determined the dislocation of part of the Library’s estate, and a significant decrease in its bibliographic collection. In the 20th century, the works in the University City provided the Faculty of Letters with a new library (new building) that came into operation in 1962. In addition, the improvement of the Legal Deposit, which is held by the University since 1932, as well as the acquisitions, donations and various incorporations, brought it a progressive and significant growth.
The General Library of the University of Coimbra is composed by two buildings. The Baroque Library (Biblioteca Joanina), with its magnificence architectural and decorative richness is classified as National Monument. The Baroque building hosts an exquisite bibliographic set of books printed between the 16th and the end of the 18th centuries. This collection has been undergoing technical treatment since 1991.