The Library was founded by Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza in 1646 when he donated his private bibliographic collection of 5,000 volumes to the College of San Juan for the use of the Pontifical Seminary of Puebla. This was the first public library in America and is the only one that survives from the colonial period. The Baroque-style room where the collections are located was built in 1773 by the order of Bishop Francisco Fabián y Fuero, who named the library in honor of Bishop Palafox. This bishop also donated a significant number of texts to the library.
Throughout its existence, the Library has preserved its original plan and structure. It has 42,556 books, 5,345 manuscripts, and 9 incunabula printed from 1473 to 1910. The documents are on more than 57 different subjects. Its rich heritage and the efforts for its preservation have been recognized in two instances: In 1981, it was recognized by governmental decree as a Historic Monument of Mexico, and in 2005 when UNESCO accepted it as part of the Memory of the World.