The ancient printed works conserved by the library come principally from confiscations in 1791 during the French Revolution: books from the Abbaye de Fécamp, the Abbaye du Valasse, the Couvent des Capucins in Le Havre, the Couvent des Ursulines in Le Havre, the Couvent des Pénitents in Ingouville, the Couvents des Capucins in Harfleur and Fécamp and, to a lesser extent, the Prieuré de Graville and the Abbaye de Saint-Wandrille. To this should be added the libraries of priests and emigré noblemen, including the library of the Château de Bailleul.
When the library opened, it offered the public some 13,000 volumes, catalogued by Charles Le Thuillier, who was appointed head librarian in 1799. A first catalogue was printed in 1837 and a second, thematic one in 1886, which took account of the new acquisitions, bringing the total number of works to around 55,000 volumes. Today, there are about 25,000 which pre-date the Revolution.
The incunabulas which are conserved showcase the productions of 33 printer-booksellers.
The only work in French is by Alain Chartier and is entitled Les fais maistre Alain Chartier notaire et secrétaire du Roy Charles VI, published in Paris in 1489. Similarly precious for the beauty of the printing, with its large ornamental capitals featuring lilies of the valley, the Missal of Salisbury (published by Michaël Wensler in 1486) emphasises the similarity between incunabulas and manuscripts. The only incunabulum which does not originate from the confiscations during the Revolution was acquired at the Costey auction in Le Havre in March 1899. It is the Expositio libri noni Almansoris edita a clarissimo physico Joanne Arculano, printed in Padua in 1480. This volume, which comes from the Couvent Saint-Antonin in Isenheim, has conserved its original wooden binding.
The incunabula of Le Havre's library are inventoried in the library's online catalogue and in Catalogues régionaux des incunables des bibliothèques publiques de France, vol. 17, Valérie Neveu, Haute-Normandie, Paris, Droz, 2005.