Music in the National Central Library of Florence: Legal Deposit and National Bibliography of Music

By Gibbin, Paola | Fontes Artis Musicae, July-September 2011 | Go to article overview

Music in the National Central Library of Florence: Legal Deposit and National Bibliography of Music


Gibbin, Paola, Fontes Artis Musicae


In 2011, Italy celebrates the 150th anniversary of the unification of several Italian states under the Regno d'Italia, which ruled the nation until the end of the Second World War when the Italian Republic took its place.

On 22 December 1861, King Victor Emmanuel II signed a decree unifying Florence's famous public library Magliabechiana--formed by the scholar and bibliophile Antonio Magliabechi (1633-1714)--with the Palatina collection which belonged to the reigning house of the former state (the Granducato di Toscana) in the person of the late Grand Duke of Tuscany, while his huge music collection was given to the music school of the Accademia di Belle Arti. In 1862, the music school became the Regio Istituto musicale di Firenze (which is now known as the Conservatorio di musica Luigi Cherubini). Here the Grand-ducal music collection is preserved as the Fondo Pitti, after the name of Palazzo Pitti, the seat of the reigning house. The new library born in 1861 from this combination of public (Magliabechiana) and private (Palatina) collections was the National Library, which in 1885 took the name of National Central Library of Florence (Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze: BNCF).

Florence was the capital of the kingdom from 1865 to 1870, at which time Rome replaced it as the capital city of the Italian state, and the smaller Vatican City State took the place of the former Stato della Chiesa (Papal States). Six years later, in 1876, the National Library of Rome was founded and shortly after became the National Central Library of Rome (Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma: BNCR). From the beginning the two national central libraries had similar but not identical duties: both are involved in managing legal deposit at a national level but the BNCR takes responsibility for the finding list of foreign modern works in Italy and produces the Bollettino delle opere moderne straniere (BOMS), while the BNCF produces the Italian National Bibliography. Thus from 1886 to 1957 BNCF published the Bollettino delle pubblicazioni italiane ricevute per diritto di stampa (Bulletin of Italian Publications Received by Legal Deposit, known simply as the Bollettino) which in 1958 became the new series Bibliografia nazionale italiana (BNI).

Before the unification, conservatory libraries at different levels were involved in the legal deposit of music, in accordance with the history of each individual state and the level of interest taken by each conservatory in documenting and giving access to printed music. In Milan (Lombardy), for instance, where legal deposit on behalf of the Ambrosiana Library was adopted at the end of the 18th century, it was later managed by the Biblioteca nazionale Braidense when the Austrian government ruled the city (1814-59). Books and music printed in the province of Pavia were instead deposited at the Biblioteca universitaria in Pavia until 1859. A copy of each publication was then given to Venice (they are now preserved at the Biblioteca nazionale Marciana) and one copy to the capital of the empire, Vienna. The two general libraries in Lombardy had no interest in managing the legal deposit of music and music was therefore scarcely documented. The Conservatory Library in Milan was entrusted with the legal deposit and preservation of locally published music in 1808, when the Ricordi firm--which was to become the most important Italian music publisher--started its activity. In 1850, a decree gave the legal deposit of music of the Lombardo Veneto region to the Conservatory Library of Milan. Therefore the music collections of the Biblioteca nazionale Braidense in Milan and of the Biblioteca universitaria in Pavia were moved to the Conservatory: often without being documented. Unopened parcels of music were reorganized by the Conservatory Librarian Agostina Zecca Laterza (who managed the Library from 1974 to 2004), who could account for only about 5,000 of the 15,000 items that should have been transferred from the Biblioteca universitaria in Pavia. …

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