The Cabinet des Médailles, more formally known as Département des Monnaies, Médailles et Antiques de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France, is a department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. The Cabinet des Médailles is located in the Richelieu-Louvois building - the former main building of the library - on the Rue de Richelieu.
The Cabinet des Médailles is a museum containing internationally important collections of coins, engraved gems, and antiquities, with its distant origins in the treasuries of the French kings of the Middle Ages. The disruptions of the Wars of Religion inspired Charles IX (1560-1574) to create the position of a garde particulier des médailles et antiques du roi ("Special guardian of the Crown's medals and antiques"). Thus the collection, which has been augmented and never again dispersed, passed from being the personal collection of the king to becoming a national property - a bien national - as the royal collection was declared during the Revolution.
A stage in this aspect of its development was the bequest of the collection of pioneering archeologist comte de Caylus, who knew that in this fashion his antiquities would be most accessible to scholars. Other collectors followed suit: when the duc de Luynes gave his collection of Greek coins to the Cabinet Impérial in 1862, it was a national collection rather than simply an Imperial one he was enriching. The State also added to the treasury contained in the Cabinet des Médailles: a notable addition, in 1846, was the early sixth century gold Treasure of Gourdon.
The Cabinet – a term which in French implies a small private room for the conservation and display of intimate works of art and for private conversations, rather than a piece of furniture - took a stable shape under Henry IV, who nominated connoisseur Rascas de Bagarris garde particulier des médailles et antiques du roi, the "particular guardian of the medals and antiquities of the King".
Among the antiquarians and scholars who have had the charge of the Cabinet des Médailles, one of the most outstanding was Théophile Marion Dumersan, who began working there in 1795 at the age of sixteen, protected the collection from dispersal by the allies after Napoleon's defeat, and published at his own expense a history of the collection and description, as newly rearranged according to historical principles, in 1838. Earlier printed catalogues of parts of the collection had been published. Pierre-Jean Mariette, urged by the comte de Caylus, published a selection of the royal carved hardstones as volume II of hisTraité des pierres gravées}.