Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Music in Italian National Libraries

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Music in Italian National Libraries

Article excerpt

In 2011, Italy celebrates its 150th anniversary as a unified nation; it seems quite a long period, but it is still possible to find many traces of the previous division into several autonomous states or foreign domains. This is the reason why, for instance, there is not a single national library, but many, created as public libraries in the former states and still tied to their territories: Piedmont (now called the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria, Turin), (2) Lombardy (Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, Milan), (3) Veneto (Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice), (4) Regno delle due Sicilie (Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III, Naples).5 Two important public libraries were turned into national libraries when Italy became a single state: Florence in 1861, when the capital was moved there because Rome was not yet conquered (now Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze), (6) and Rome in 1876, six years after the annexation of the city to the Regno d'Italia and the proclamation of the new capital (Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma) (7); these two institutions have the status of national central libraries and have special duties, such as the management of the national bibliography and the publication of the bulletin of modern foreign publications. Other national libraries were created later, and many of the 46 state public libraries have similar functions, collections, history and importance. After the unification, all were affiliated to the Ministry of Education (Ministero della pubblica istruzione) until the creation, in 1974, of the Ministry of Culture (Ministero dei beni culturali e ambientali, now Ministero per i beni e le attivita culturali).

Other bodies have a central role, like ICCU (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico), (8) which manages the national library service, and sets cataloguing rules, standards and guidelines, and ICBSA (Istituto Centrale per i Beni Sonori e Audiovisivi), (9) the former Discoteca di Stato, or national sound archive.

Music collections in national libraries

Most national libraries were founded by opening court, private or ecclesiastical libraries to the public: Turin's national library was founded in 1723, when King Vittorio Amedeo II di Savoia decided to merge the collections of the town, those of the Royal University and the books of the Crown into the new rooms of the University. Milan followed in 1786, when Maria Theresia, Empress of Austria, decided to create a seat of culture in the former Jesuit convent in Brera: she founded the Academy of Fine Arts, the art gallery, historical institutes, an observatory, and a public library, moving there the collection of Count Francesco Pertusati, which was donated by the State Congregation of Lombardy to the future governor, her son Archduke Ferdinand. Venice's national library dates back to 1468, when Cardinal Bessarione donated his collection of about 1,000 codices to the Republic, which took on the commitment to create a 'pubblica libreria'. Naples got its public library in 1804, after the transfer to the Palazzo degli studi of the collections of the royal palace of Capodimonte, including the Farnese library owned by the royal family of Borbone since 1734. Florence's national library originated in 1714 due to the generosity of the scholar Antonio Magliabechi who left his books 'for the universal benefit of the city'; the library was opened to the public in 1747, while Rome's national library was created from the former Jesuit Secret (or Major) Library, with the addition of 69 convent libraries.

Collections grew rapidly with manuscripts and printed books in the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, in most cases through generous donations and bequests, or by absorbing other court libraries, or when monasteries and religious congregations were suppressed. Laws on legal deposit of printed materials were also enacted very early: 1603 in Venice, 1737 in Florence (extended to Tuscany in 1743 and to Italy in 1869), and 1788 in Milan, but it was only in 2004 that the obligation to deposit has been extended to all published materials, including sound and video recordings. …

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