From the beginning of the late Middle Ages, a gradual reappraisal of reading, understood as a royal and noble virtue, took place in European Courts.
The libraries of Alfonso V in Naples, Matthias Corvinus in Hungary, Philip the Good in Burgundy and Federico da Montefeltro in Urbino were soon imitated as models in other Courts, and the establishment of the Vatican Library in 1448 enabled the concept of the universal library to be recovered. The monarchs of the House of Austria did not lag behind in this process. From the time of Emperor Maximilian I, several of his descendants, such as Philip II and Philip IV in Spain, or Ferdinand I and his son Maximilian II in Austria, founded important public libraries. The interest of these monarchs in assembling large collections of manuscripts and printed works was part of a planned cultural policy in which books became a symbol of the greatness of the dynasty, and its functions as defender of humanism and religion. The libraries of kings, members of their families, and their courtiers were not only spectacular architectural spaces, but also intellectual centres where a wide range of literary, political and religious patronage practices could be found. The aim of this line of research is to reconstruct the collections of these libraries, the cultural practices and relationships that arose in them, and the symbolic and artistic languages centring on the book in Spanish royal libraries during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It also examines the circulation of printed books and manuscripts in the Habsburg territory, the network of typographical cities in the Empire, the constitution of ideal libraries and the forms of patronage typical of the new print culture.