Introductory Text

This document contains the introductory material from "Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture." This book, published by Yale University Press, serves as catalogue for the exhibit at the Library of Congress, which will present for the first time outside of Rome a selection of objects from the Vatican Library's remarkable collections. Although the excerpts below mention the book in particular, they also provide a good introduction to the exhibit itself, as presented both at the Library of Congress and through computer networks.

This document includes:

  • Preface, by James H. Billington
  • The Vatican Library, by Father Leonard Eugene Boyle, O.P.
  • Acknowledgments
  • Contributors
  • List of Fondi with Abbreviations
  • See the exhibit catalog for more information about the book "Rome Reborn." It is avaliable from the EXPO Book Store


    The exhibition which this book accompanies is the first in a series of exhibitions that the Library of Congress plans to present about great libraries of the world. The catalogs that will provide a record of each of the exhibits intend to go far beyond simple descriptions of artifacts. These books will be distinguished by highly readable scholarly studies, written by leading specialists, of the intellectual, social, and cultural environments that created the objects on display.

    It is especially fitting that this series begin with the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. The Vatican Library is the prototypical modern research library of western culture. Surprisingly, its collections are not primarily theological. From its founding by Pope Nicholas V in the 1450s, the Vatican Library consciously pursued an acquisitions policy that focused upon the liberal arts and sciences. Consequently, the library has special strengths in unexpected areas, such as the history of the exact sciences, East Asian languages and literatures, and music history.

    As Professor Grafton makes clear in his introductory essay, this counterintuitive acquisition policy was not accidental; it reflected the conscious determination of the Renaissance papacy to place knowledge systematically at the service of governance. Heir to that tradition, Thomas Jefferson assigned precisely the same function to the Library of Congress in the context of American democracy: to ground the world of public affairs in the world of learning. It is, therefore, fully appropriate that this exhibition take place in the Library of Congress, an institution that represents the ultimate modern embodiment of an ideal that originated with the Renaissance popes.

    This volume and the exhibition it describes also testify to a special relationship that exists between the Library of Congress and the Vatican Library. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Library of Congress, supported by a grant from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, sent teams of technical experts to assist in the modernization of the Vatican Library's technical operations. The first time I met Fr. Leonard Boyle, the present prefect of the Vatican Library, he recounted to me the history of this extensive collaboration. As Father Boyle suggests in his essay, this unique exhibition is the Vatican's elegant way of repaying the assistance given by its American collaborator.

    The Library of Congress's curatorial team learned new and surprising things in the process of selecting the two hundred manuscripts, rare books, maps, and fine prints for display. Certain schools of western historiography have depicted the papacy as fighting a long rearguard action against the rise of modernization and enlightenment. Our curators discovered quite a different reality. They were impressed by the level and depth of papal sponsorship of the life of the mind throughout the Renaissance--especially the birth of Near and Far Eastern studies and the rise of modern science and classical studies. Beyond the well-known story of papal patronage of the arts remains another untold story of great historical interest.

    It is my hope that this magnificent exhibition and its accompanying volume will stimulate serious academic research on this and other heretofore neglected topics.

    The Librarian of Congress

    The Vatican Library

    by Father Leonard Eugene Boyle, O.P.

    Traditionally, Pope Nicholas V (1447-55) has been regarded as the founder of the Vatican Library, but in the past twenty-five years Sixtus IV (1471-84) has come to be assigned that role. According to recent research, chiefly that of Jose Ruysschaert, lately vice- prefect of the Vatican Library, it was indeed Nicholas V who conceived the idea of a public or "Vatican" library, as distinct, that is, from a purely papal or private one, but it was Sixtus IV who actually put flesh on the idea. To be effective, the argument runs, an installation such as a library needs a place, order, and organization. It was precisely Sixtus IV who supplied these, first in theory in his bull "Ad decorem" of 1475, then in practice between 1475 and 1481, when the redoubtable Bartolomeo Platina was his librarian. (1)

    Does it really matter which pope gets the credit for founding the Vatican Library? It could be argued that it does, not least because the spirit and ideals of a founder are not without some importance when assessing the genius of a library. But there is also the plain fact that for all the beauty and decor of its physical location and the splendor of its organization, a library is not a library without books. For all that Sixtus IV is known to have contributed some of his own books to the library in his lifetime, and to have acquired others, there is also the inescapable fact that Sixtus did not have to begin from scratch. He had in fact inherited from Nicholas a large library of some 1,100 codices in Nicholas's Latin and Greek libraries, not to speak of the unrecorded contents of the "Bibliotheca secreta" or papal library proper. More importantly, he had inherited a library that was not simply a haphazard accumulation from the papal past, but a library whose purpose was already set. (2)

    That Nicholas had a visible library structure, as distinct from a hodgepodge of Latin and Greek manuscripts, can hardly be doubted. Pius II, who was the next successor of Nicholas but one, says explicitly in his "Commentaria" that Nicholas "set up a most ornate library of old and new codices, in which he placed about three thousand volumes." Platina himself, when speaking of Nicholas in his "De vitis pontificum" (dedicated to Sixtus IV, who had commissioned this compilation of lives of the popes), is just as explicit when he says that to appreciate Nicholas's devotion to books, "it is sufficient to look at the papal library so marvelously increased by his industry and generosity." (3)

    Leaving aside the "Bibliotheca secreta," about which we know little or nothing before Platina's inventory of 1481, Sixtus on his election as pope in 1471 found himself with two distinct collections or libraries of books, one of Latin codices, the other of Greek. Each was a creation of Nicholas V, and together they gave the fledgling Vatican Library a breadth and ecumenicity of character that it has never lost.

    What Nicholas had in mind, as he wrote in a celebrated letter of 1451 to Enoch of Ascoli, was to ensure that "for the common convenience of the learned we may have a library of all books both in Latin and Greek that is worthy of the dignity of the Pope and the Apostolic See." (4) As his contemporary Vespasiano da Bisticci tells us, it was the intention of Nicholas "to build a library at St. Peter's for the common use of all the court of Rome," which, he goes on, "would have been a marvellous thing if it had come to pass, but his death prevented it from being finished." (5)

    Sixteen years after the death of Nicholas, when the then papal librarian Giovanni Andrea Bussi urged the new pope Sixtus IV to take up where Nicholas had left off, it was precisely the building of a library that was at the heart of his plea: "If you do not do it, who will ever hope again to find someone interested in building libraries?" (6)

    It may seem odd that Bussi speaks of building "libraries" and not just a library, but it is quite understandable if one remembers that the papal library which Sixtus inherited in 1471 was in fact three separate rooms or "libraries": the "Bibliotheca secreta" of the papacy itself and the "Latina" and "Graeca" that Nicholas had built up. Hence it was for the "building of libraries" that Sixtus gave orders through his chamberlain a month or two after Bussi's exhortation of 1471, (7) only to turn instead on Bussi's death four years later to the less expensive task of refurbishing the three library areas that Nicholas temporarily, one presumes, had installed on a floor of the wing he had reconstructed and added to in the Vatican palace, at the level of the Cortile del Pappagallo.

    This north wing of Nicholas V, as it is known, was the obvious place for Nicholas's own library. If Sixtus IV now chose the ground floor of that wing for his "libraries," the chances are good that this is because he had no choice. The library of Nicholas V was already there. All it needed was to be touched up.

    It was a library divided into three areas that Sixtus inherited from Nicholas in that north wing. But it was in a sorry state and "lurking in squalor," as Platina says in an epigram that is usually taken to refer to the ground floor as such and not just to the library. (8) By 1475, when Platina became librarian and began to prepare the area as a public library, twenty years had gone by since the death of Nicholas, and the reputed indifference of the three intervening pontificates had taken its toll. Hence the flurry of plasterers, painters, and mosaicists in the first five years of the account books kept by Platina. (9) Hence, too, the striking amount of work that is noted as restoration, and the piles of goldleaf in the hallway upon which the restorers Paolo and Dionigi drew to regild the decoration, now tatty, in Nicholas's library. What is more, it seems clear that only parts of the tri- partite "old library" were decorated before the death of Nicholas in 1455. Perhaps indeed only one compartment, the middle one or "Bibliotheca graeca," was complete and habitable. Certainly it was the only one that seems not to have had need of decoration or of repair in 1475-81, apart from repainting its doors, improving the lighting with windows, and some restoration of the decoration already there.

    Given that the central "Bibliotheca graeca" is the only one of the three library rooms that appears to have been finished by the time of the death of Nicholas in 1455, it is no great surprise to find that this "Bibliotheca graeca" is the only one in which there is any trace of Nicholas V himself. His stemma and cipher are there in the center of the ceiling, simply and strikingly. Of course Redig de Campos, under whose direction the old library of Nicholas V and Sixtus IV was restored in 1966, attributes the presence of the coat-of-arms of Nicholas in this room to the magnanimity of Sixtus IV. This is highly unlikely, given that Sixtus, while manifestly echoing Nicholas V about the purpose of the library in the bull "Ad decorem" of 1475, never mentions Nicholas once or the fine collection of Greek and Latin manuscripts he had inherited from him. Sixtus was not famous for generosity of spirit, so much so that Redig de Campos expressed surprise on finding that the "Bibliotheca graeca" bore not the arms of Sixtus IV as did the two other rooms, but those of Nicholas, remarking that this was "an unusual tribute to the dead founder of the Vatican Library." (10)

    In spite of the fact that there is not the slightest mention in the account books of fresh painting or decoration in this "Bibliotheca graeca," Redig de Campos also firmly attributes the painting and architectural designs there to the time of Sixtus IV and indeed to the workshop of the Ghirlandaio brothers (whose undoubted work may be seen in the two other rooms). There is, however, good reason to believe that when the "Bibliotheca graeca" was set up under Nicholas V it was also decorated at that same time, as Toby Yuen has suggested, by Andrea Castagno of Florence, who certainly was in Rome in the year before Nicholas died and was indeed paid in October 1454 for work done in the Vatican. (11)

    In a sense Sixtus failed, as Nicholas had failed, to build a new library or libraries, but he succeeded, where death had thwarted Nicholas, in putting into effect Nicholas's ideal of "common convenience." Although he never mentions Nicholas, and indeed gives the impression, belied by Platina in his life of Nicholas, that the library situation was chaotic by 1475, the spirit of Nicholas is firmly if tacitly present in Sixtus's so- called foundation charter, the bull "Ad decorem." In a preamble or "arenga" in which he sets out a general justification of his action in "gathering together into one place scattered volumes of his own and of his predecessors," Sixtus takes his cue from Nicholas, saying that this sort of action on the part of a Roman pontiff is "for the enhancing of the church militant, for the increase of the Catholic faith, and for the convenience and honour of the learned and studious." (12)

    What is strikingly common to this preamble and the Letter of Nicholas to Enoch of Adcoli is the concept of a library that is "for the common convenience of the learned." This is the spirit that enlivens the Vatican Library, and this is the genius of the twin Latin and Greek libraries that Nicholas created and which, together with the "Bibliotheca secreta," Sixtus IV in his bull of 1475 clothed with library structures such as staff, offices, and endowments, and in 1481 increased in space by the addition of a fourth room or library (in fact, the only authentic "library" of Sixtus IV).

    That too is surely the spirit of the one significant change in staffing the library in the century that separates Sixtus IV from the "third founder" of the Vatican Library, Sixtus V (1585-90): the establishment about 1540 of three scriptores or academic staff to represent the interests of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages. (13) Although there is nothing to document the innovation, the simultaneous appearance of this threesome on the library staff was hardly an accident. At root, it was simply an application of the humanist ideal that the man of culture should be "trium linguarum gnarus," that is, be conversant with Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. It was an ideal that had led from around 1500 to the founding of trilingual colleges or, in some cases, of a chair in three languages at, for example, the universities of Alcala in Spain (1499), Wittemberg in Germany (1502), Oxford in England (Corpus Christi College, 1517), Louvain in Belgium (1517), and Paris in France (1530: the "noble and trilingual academy," later, as now, the College de France). (14)

    The Vatican Library was not, of course, a university. But by taking over the trilingual ideal now thriving all over Europe, it declared itself firmly to be something more than a repository of books: that it was also an academic center in the best humanist tradition. Nicholas V had stated in 1451 that the library was "for the common convenience of the learned." Now, just a century later, a body of learned men was declared to be part of its structure. That structure was further enhanced by the appointment of the first cardinal librarian in the person of the fine Greek scholar Marcello Cervini (later Pope Marcellus II) in 1548, thus initiating an office which would endure with more or less success until the changes introduced by Leo XIII in 1883.


    The library of Nicholas V, as structured by Sixtus IV, continued in the southeast corner of what is now the Cortile del Belvedere for a hundred years after the death of Sixtus IV in 1484. Then, from 1585 to 1590 another Franciscan--and a further Sixtus, the Fifth--constructed a new and spacious library, more or less the library of today, across the first plateau to the north of the Cortile del Belvedere as it rises to the Belvedere of Innocent VIII on the second plateau.

    In its new location, under a succession of prefects and cardinal librarians, some brilliant and few unable, the library gathered and grew, until today it is a tidy complex of almost 2,000,000 printed books and serials (including just over 8,000 incunabula), some 75,000 Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Ethiopian, Syriac, and other manuscripts from the second century A.D. onward, 65,000 units of archival volumes in twenty-three deposits or fondi, 100,000 prints, engravings, maps, and drawings, 330,000 Greek, Roman, and papal coins and medals, and a small but valuable assemblage of sacred and secular artifacts in the musei of the library (museo sacro, museo profano--the original "Vatican museums" dating from the middle of the eighteenth century).

    Since many of the manuscript collections form the backbone of this volume, it may be useful at this point to list summarily the names and the dates of arrival of the principal ones. (15)

    Although some manuscripts and printed books were acquired by the library or donated to it in the first century-and-a-half of its existence, notable increases do not come before the seventeenth century. Then in fairly quick succession there arrived the Palatine Library from Heidelberg, with some 2,000 Latin and 430 Greek manuscripts and 8,000 printed books, the gift of Maximilian of Bavaria to the Vatican when he captured Heidelberg in 1622, the splendid collection of 1,500 Latin manuscripts of the dukes of Urbino, acquired in 1658, and the over 2,000 Latin manuscripts of Queen Christina of Sweden, purchased from her heirs in 1690. In the eighteenth century there were two fine acquisitions: the small but valuable Capponiani collection of some 300 manuscripts in 1746 and the more spectacular hoard of some 3,000 Latin and 473 Greek manuscripts from the Ottoboni library two years later. After that, if one excepts the losses suffered during the French occupation of Italy and Rome during the Napoleonic period, there is a considerable lull in the activities of the library until the turn of the present century, when the library acquired one after another the Borghese collection of 386 manuscripts (almost all from the old papal library at Avignon in the fourteenth century), in 1891; the library and archives of the Sistine Chapel, with 1,200 musical and other manuscripts, in 1902; the great Barberini Library of some 30,000 printed books and 11,000 Latin, 600 Greek, and 165 Oriental manuscripts, purchased in the same year; and, again in the same year, the marvelously eclectic collection of 768 Latin, 276 Arabic, 178 Syriac, 136 Coptic, 88 Armenian, 81 Turkish, 37 Indian, 37 Ethiopian, 27 Greek, and 15 Georgian manuscripts from the library of Propaganda Fide, being in the main the collection put together by Cardinal Stefano Borgia (1731-1804), when prefect of Propaganda. Twenty years later there followed the Rossi library of some 1,200 Latin and Greek manuscripts, deposited by the Jesuit order in 1922, and, in 1923, by gift of the government of Italy, the considerable archives and library of the Chigi family, including about 3,500 manuscripts.

    Over the centuries, and particularly after Sixtus V in 1585-90 provided for the upkeep of eight scriptores, various prefects and scriptores explored the growing collections and, on occasion, went foraging for more. To take the period up until 1880, there were, for example, the Assemani brothers and nephews, who did so much to increase and catalog the Oriental collections of manuscripts, the Ranaldi generations of indefatigable prefects, scriptores and scholars, the great Leone Allacci, a native of Chios, who supervised the transfer of the Palatine Library from Heidelberg in 1623, the renowned Belgian antiquarian and prefect Emmanuel Schelstrate, the noted Barberini librarian and short-lived prefect Lucas Holstenius of Hamburg, and polymaths such as Gaetano Marini, Angelo Mai, and Giuseppe Mezzofanti. (16)

    But for all the competence, and in many cases brilliance, of the personnel of the library, somewhere along the line the ideal of Nicholas V was lost sight of, or, rather, it was all to often seen, if it was seen at all, in terms of the academic staff of the library. The library garnered and stacked, and the staff cataloged and meditated and from time to time published something, but the "common convenience of the learned" was to a large extent stunted, not just because of restricted or uneasy access, but because those who were fortunate enough to be admitted had little or no means of finding out what was in the library. A catalog of printed books was nonexistent; the inventories of manuscripts were haphazard and jealously guarded.

    The library of course was not invariably inhospitable. There is record in the archives of the prefect of some hundreds of successful requests to consult manuscripts between 1475 and 1881, (17) and Montaigne's achievement in being allowed to see manuscripts of Plutarch and Seneca in early 1581 in the library of Nicholas V is well known. (18) But the fact remains that the occasional visitor had to be content with a little display of set pieces--a codex of the Bible, the Vatican Virgil, the Bembino Terence, and the "love letters" of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn--as in the case of Montaigne himself. Or, in the case of the English diarist John Evelyn some sixty years later: "As to the ranging of the bookes, they are all shut up in Presses of Wainscot, and not expos'd on shelves to the naked ayre; nor are the most precious mix'd amongst the more ordinary, which are shew'd to the curious onely; Such as those two Virgils written in Parchment, of more then a thousand yeares old; the like a Terence.... "

    Evelyn, who is largely quoting from the "Mercurius italicus" of Johann Heinrich von Pflammern, published in Lyons in 1627, was happy with his visit to this new library of Sixtus V, "doubtlesse the most nobly built, furnish'd, and beautiful in the World, ample, stately, light & cheerfull, looking into a most pleasant Garden." He had seen what was on display, and that was enough. (19) Not so the Spanish priest Juan Andres toward the end of the next century, some twenty years after an ordinance of Clement XIII had severely limited the consultation of manuscripts. Andres, it is clear, wanted something more than the set, celebrated pieces, which to his mind made the place less a library than a mausoleum: "A silly policy," he wrote to his brother in 1785, "keeps this wonderfully rich library jealously locked up." His two visits had jarred his literary nerves: so much space, so many beautiful book cabinets, so much money, going to waste. And to what end? "All for the sake of burying a host of codices and literary treasures, locking them away under double keys, watching over them so singlemindedly that no one can see them or know what they are, in a word, in order to make a cemetary of books not a library: en fin para hacer un bibliotaphio, no una biblioteca."

    On a less rhetorical level Andres noted the inaccessibility of the prefect, who alone had the keys to the locked cupboards, the want of order in the catalogs, "and generally the bad set-up of this enormous library." (20)

    Things did not change for a long time. The century that followed was notably dismal. In the first three-quarters of that century, when all over Europe libraries and learned societies were coming to life, if not bustling with activity, readers scarcely ever came to the Vatican Library; and those who did come usually had no direct access to such indexes or inventories as there were.

    In the last quarter of the century, however, there was what Eugene Tisserant some sixty years ago charitably described as "an awakening after a long sleep." (21) Under Leo XIII (1878-1903), and then under the direction of the brilliant German Jesuit Franz Ehrle as prefect (1895-1914), the library came out of its isolation and the ideal of Nicholas V began to reassert itself. On 18 August 1883, Pope Leo formally declared the library open to qualified researchers, as he had done some two years earlier for the Vatican Archives next door. New statutes were formulated; a spacious reading room with forty places was opened underneath the celebrated reading room or Salone Sistino of Sixtus V in 1888; there was a modest injection of fresh blood into the staff; and the office of the cardinal librarian was redefined in relation to that, now more concrete, of the prefect.

    With the advent of Father Ehrle, first as a consulter, then as prefect, the library came to life as never before. New collections, notably the Borghese and Barberini libraries, were sought out and acquired. A conservation department, one of the first in Europe, was set up with a staff of seven or eight. The great Studi e Testi series, now at some 350 volumes, was begun, and a stream of photographic reproductions of the more famous codices was initiated both as a conservation measure and as a means of making the resources of the library more available to scholars. (22) The present large reference room was devised, complete with some 30,000 volumes (today it has 75,000), for the convenience of students of manuscripts in the library and for that of researchers in the adjacent Archivio Segreto Vaticano or Vatican Archives (which, since 1612, has been a distinct institution with its own administration). (23)

    More importantly, the problem of providing and publishing catalogs of the manuscript holdings was at last tackled, though not quite in the spirit of Nicholas V. It is arguable that what would have served best "the common convenience of the learned" would have been simple, straightforward inventories. Instead, the library decided to concentrate on a series of exhaustive catalogs in which each codex became the object of a minidissertation. The result of almost a hundred years of dedicated work on the part of the academic staff and of a goodly body of external collaborators is an impressive array of meaty catalogs, but the fact remains that some two-thirds of the manuscript holdings are still not at "the common convenience of the learned" (though of course those who are able to frequent the library have many old handwritten and some modern typed inventories at their disposal). The time has now come, as arguably it should have come almost a century ago, to press ahead with inventories, two of which indeed have recently been published. (24) When inventories of all holdings have been published for common convenience, it should not be impossible to continue the elaborate dissertation-type catalogs with even greater results.

    The "common convenience of the learned" has been better served in the case of printed books (I leave aside the question of access to the more than 8,000 incunabula which, after a century or more of false starts, now at last have a scientific--and fully automated--catalog ready for publication). (25)

    With the help of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Library of Congress between 1927 and 1939, an excellent card catalog to all the printed books has been available to readers for over sixty years. Sadly, a similar and very promising scheme to provide an author and subject index of all the manuscript holdings faltered after ten years in the late 1930s, and then died in 1947, and is now represented by 160 drawers of cards that still prove a boon to researchers every day. (26)

    As tradition has it, all this North American connection came about because Gen. William Barclay Parsons of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was writing a book, later published posthumously, on "Engineers and Engineering in the Renaissance." When he reached Rome after researches in London and Paris in 1925, he found, as Nicholas Murray Butler puts it in his introduction to the work in 1939, that in the Vatican Library "what was certainly a rich mine of material was almost inaccessible through lack of a catalogue and of modern library classification and arrangement." (27)

    According to Professor Butler in that same introduction, General Parsons brought these facts to his attention in 1925 "and suggested that the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace could make a real contribution to international cooperation and international understanding were it to give assistance to the modernization of the Vatican Library in order that its usefulness might be greatly increased."

    Nicholas Murray Butler was then president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Shortly afterward he and the trustees of the endowment set matters in motion, first contacting the Vatican itself, with encouraging results, and then asking William Warner Bishop, director of libraries at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the most renowned librarian of his time, to survey the Vatican Library in its behalf. When Bishop had reported, the endowment submitted a formal proposal to Pope Pius XI, who, as a former prefect of the Ambrosian Library in Milan and of the Vatican Library (1914-19), accepted it readily.

    The first step was a fairly simple one. At the expense of the Carnegie Endowment four of the staff of the Vatican Library went to the United States in the fall of 1927, two to study library science at the University of Michigan and two to work in the cataloging department of the Library of Congress, where they would also help to refine the Library's classification of theology.

    The second was more momentous. Again at the expense of the Carnegie Endowment, a team of cataloging experts was sent to the Vatican Library in the spring of 1928 to catalog a sample portion of the printed books there and thus provide a headline for the Library's own staff to follow in the future. The name of each of that pioneering group deserves to be remembered, along with that of Milton E. Lord, the librarian of the American Academy in Rome, who assisted the group considerably: the Norwegian-born C. M. Hanson of the University of Chicago; William C. Randall, who had worked under Bishop at the University of Michigan Library; the young Norwegian but American-trained librarian John Ansteinsson of Trondheim (later the unsung author of the Vatican Library's influential "Norme per il Catalogo degli Stampati"); and the Swiss- born Charles Martel, director of the Catalog Division of the Library of Congress, under whom the two Vatican catalogers noted above had worked.

    On the return of Hanson, Randall, and Martel to the United States in June 1928 after some months of basic work, the Norges tekniske hogskole in Trondheim kindly agreed to release John Ansteinsson once more, at the expense of the foundation, from October 1928 to June 1929 and, further, from November 1929 to June 1930, to be director of cataloging in the Vatican Library.

    Ansteinsson, for whom Bishop and the staff of the library had the highest regard, thus became the father of modern cataloging in the Vatican Library and the most durable member of the cataloging mission. Over two years he directed the work of the four staff members who had had terms at the Library of Congress or in various library schools in the United States and broke in new arrivals on the cataloging staff, such as Alcide de Gasperi (1929-44). In his spare time he cataloged the sections of the library relative to Scandinavian countries and, notably, prepared the "Norme" or rules for cataloging which Igino Giordani, who had studied at the Ann Arbor and Columbia University library schools, turned into Italian from English. (28)

    On the foundations laid by Ansteinsson and the American mission, and under the general direction of Eugene Tisserant, then scriptor for Oriental languages and from late 1930 joint prefect with Giovanni Mercati, the face of the library changed. (29) The great reference collection established thirty years earlier by Franz Ehrle (from 1929 to 1934 actually the cardinal librarian, but in old age somewhat disinterested) was classified according to the Library of Congress scheme, as were all new books. The reading rooms were renovated and freshly lighted, a more convenient entrance to the library at the level of the Cortile del Belvedere was opened, fourteen miles of steel shelving from Snead of New Jersey were added on the ground floor of the east wing of the same courtyard, and, adjacent to the reading room, the new catalog cards together with sets of cards from the Library of Congress were housed in the present serried banks of catalog drawers (the latter a gift of the Carnegie Endowment, as was the ventilation system for the new stacks).

    Inevitably, changes brought problems. Very soon Tisserant was moved to remark that the services rendered by the library to readers increased daily while the size of the staff remained nearly the same as it had been twenty years earlier. In fact, the staff has never been a large one over the more than five-and-a-half centuries since Sixtus IV provided for administrative structures and personnel. The strength today of the library, from cleaners, book-fetchers, and custodians to photographers, restorers, catalogers, and scriptores, is just eighty. Between them they look after five departments: manuscripts and archival collections; printed books and drawings; accessions and cataloging; the coin collection and the musei; restoration and photography. They also have to attend to the needs of readers who have gone from the trickle of the 1880s, when Leo XIII first made the library really "public," to the steady stream of today. Access is, of course, limited; the library is after all a research library. Nevertheless, some 3,000 cards are issued or renewed to readers each year, and are almost evenly divided between Italian and non- Italian nationalities. On any given day during the autumn and winter, the number of readers runs on average just over 100. In spring and summer it rises to 170 or 180 and, nearing stretching point, on occasion to 200. (30)


    A complete account of the "American Mission" and of the untrumpeted generosity of the Carnegie Endowment will now be found in Nicoletta Mattioli Hary's "The Vatican Library and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace" (Vatican City, 1992), to which I am indebted for much of the above.

    Over the years 1926-39 the Carnegie Endowment expended some $200,000 on the modernization of the Vatican Library. The Library of Congress was in no position to match this in kind, but through Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress, it managed all the same to provide some striking material support for the project. Not only did Putnam release Martel and act as host to two Vatican catalogers, but more importantly he accepted at once Bishop's proposal in December 1927, some months before the "mission," that one of the best things the Library of Congress could do for the Vatican Library and its cataloging problems would be to install there a "depository catalog" or complete set of Library of Congress printed cards.

    Since these and many other things have been lost to memory over the years on both sides of the Atlantic, it is surely worth recording here that in return the Vatican Library made some gifts of books to the Library of Congress: the recently published photographic edition of extant papal diplomata on papyrus in December 1929, and a shipment of books in April 1930 "as a testimony of their gratitude for the permission given to Mr. Martel to come here for the organization of the cataloguing, and for many gifts of cards, schedules of classification, etc."

    The present exhibition at the Library of Congress is in the same vein. It is an attempt on the part of the Vatican Library at a distance of over sixty years to express its gratitude to all those from North America who contributed so forcefully to "the common convenience of the learned" which is at the heart of the Vatican Library--to the Carnegie Endowment and Nicholas Murray Butler, to the University of Michigan Library School at Ann Arbor and William Warner Bishop, and above all, given the location of the exhibition, to the Library of Congress and Herbert Putnam and Charles Martel.



    1. Jose Ruysschaert, "Sixte IV, fondateur de la Bibliotheque vaticane," Archivum Historiae Pontificiae 7 (1969): 513-24; "La fondation de la Bibliotheque vaticane en 1475 et les temoignages contemporains," in Studi offerti a Roberto Ridolfi, edited by B. Maracchi Bigiarelli and D. E. Rhodes, Biblioteca di bibliografia italiana 71 (Florence, 1973), 413-20; "Les trois bibliotheques vaticanes, 1475-1975" in Conservation et reproduction des manuscrits et imprimes anciens, Colloque international organise par la Bibliotheque vaticane, 21-24 octobre 1974, Studi e Testi 276 (Vatican City, 1976), 70-79; "Platina et les deux etapes de l'amenagement des locaux sous Sixte IV, 1471-1475-1481," in Bartolomeo Sacchi il Platina, Medioevo e Umanesimo 62 (Padua, 1986), 145-51; "Les trois etages de l'amenagement de la Bibliotheque vaticane de 1471 a 1481," in Un pontificato ed una citta: Sisto IV (1471-1484), edited by Massimo Miglio et al., Littera Antiqua 5 (Vatican City, 1986), 103-14; "La Bibliotheque vaticane dans les dix premieres annees du pontificat de Sixte IV," Archivum Historiae Pontificiae 24 (1986): 71-90. (Back)
    2. The books of Nicholas V and Sixtus IV are listed in Eugene Muntz and Paul Fabre, La Bibliotheque du Vatican au XVe siecle, Bibliotheque des ecoles francaises d'Athenes et de Rome 48 (Paris, 1887), 35-114 (Nicholas V); 135-250, 260-69 (Sixtus IV). In general, see L. E. Boyle, "The Future of Old Libraries: The Vatican Library," Liber 8 (1986), 42-45; "Sixtus IV and the Vatican Library," in Rome: Tradition, Innovation, and Renewal, a Canadian International Art History Conference, 8-13 June 1987, Rome (Victoria, B.C., 1991), 65-73. (Back)
    3. Aenae Sylvii Piccolomini, Opera omnia (Basel, 1571), 459: "Caeterum Nicolaus ex veteribus et novis codicibus ornatissimam bibliothecam instruxit, in qua circiter tria millia librorum volumina condidit." Historia B. Platinae de vitis pontificum romanorum, edited by 0. Panvinio (Cologne, 1568), 316: "Licet inspicere bibliothecam pontificiam sua industria et munificentia mirifice auctam." (Back)
    4. Eugene Muntz and Paul Fabre, La Bibliotheque du Vatican, 47-48. (Back)
    5. Ibid., 39. (Back)
    6. G. A. Bussi, "In primum volumen Nicolai de Lyra . . . ad Xystum IIII Pont. maximum Epistola," Rome, 13 November 1471. (Back)
    7. Eugene Muntz, Les arts a la cour des papes, vol. 3, Bibliotheque des ecoles francaises d'Athenes et de Rome 28 (Paris, 1882), 120. (Back)
    8. Ibid., 118. (Back)
    9. Ibid., 117-35. (Back)
    10. D. Redig de Campos, "Testimonianze del primo nucleo edilizio dei Palazzi Vaticani e restauro delle pitture delle stanze della 'Bibliotheca Latina' e della 'Bibliotheca Graeca,'" in Il restauro delle aule di Niccolo V e di Sisto IV nel Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano (Vatican City, 1967), no pagination; I Palazzi Vaticani (Bologna, 1967), 47. (Back)
    11. See Toby Yuen, "The Bibliotheca Graeca: Castagno, Alberti, and Ancient Sources" in the Burlington Magazine 112 (1970):725-36. (Back)
    12. See the edition and discussion of the bull in Ruysschaert, "Sixte IV, fondateur," 513-24. (Back)
    13. For the background, see Leonard E. Boyle, "The Hebrew Collections of the Vatican Library," in A Visual Testimony: Judaica from the Vatican Library (Miami and New York, 1987),11-19. (Back)
    14. On the "trilingual colleges" see P. S. Allen, "The Trilingual Colleges of the Early Sixteenth Century," in his Erasmus: Lectures and Wayfaring Sketches (Oxford, 1934), 138-63. (Back)
    15. The standard work on the Vatican Library and its collections is Jeanne Bignami Odier and Jose Ruysschaert, La Bibliotheque vaticane de Sixte IV a Pie XI (Vatican City: Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, 1973). A very general but well-illustrated volume is Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana (Florence: Nardini, 1985), also translated into German, Spanish, and English. (Back)
    16. The careers of all of these are covered by Bignami Odier and Ruysschaert, La Bibliotheque vaticane. (Back)
    17. A survey of these requests is being conducted by Dr. Christine Grafinger. A first volume covering the years 1475-1700 will be published shortly by the Vatican Library in the Studi e Testi series. (Back)
    18. See A. D'Ancona, L'Italia alla fine del secolo XVI: Giornale del viaggio di Michele de Montaigne in Italia nel 1580 e 1581 (Citta di Castello, 1875), 270, 273. (Back)
    19. The Diary of John Evelyn, edited by Evelyn S. De Beer (Oxford: Clarendon, 1955), vol. 2, 300-302. And see Ioannes Henricus a Pflaumern, Mercurius italicus Hospiti Fidus per Italiae Praecipuas Regiones & Urbes Dux (Lyons, 1627), 269-71. (Back)
    20. Carlos Andres, Cartas familiares del Abate D. Juan Andres a su hermano D. Carlos Andres dandole noticia del viage que hizo a varias ciudades de Italia en el ano 1785, publicadas por el mismo D. Carlos (Madrid, 1786), 163-70. At pp. 168-69 he contrasts the Vaticana very unfavorably with the Laurenziana in Florence. (Back)
    21. The Vatican Library: Two Papers by Monsignor Eugene Tisserant and Theodore Wesley Koch (New Jersey, 1929), 7. (Back)
    22. See See Franz Ehrle, "Bibliothektechnisches aus der Vatikana," Zentralblatt fur Bibliothekswesen 33 (1916):190-217. A complete list of Vatican Library Publications, including Studi e Testi, will be found in the annual Pubblicazioni della Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana: Catalogo di vendita. (Back)
    23. See Leonard E. Boyle, A Survey of the Vatican Archives and of Its Medieval Holdings (Toronto, 1972), and the splendidly illustrated Archivio Segreto Vaticano, edited by T. Natalini et al. (Florence: Nardini, 1991). (Back)
    24. See Ambrogio M. Piazzoni and Paolo Vian, Manoscritti Vaticani latini 14666-15203: Catalogo sommario, Studi e Testi 332 (Vatican City, 1989), and the preface by the present writer there; Paolo Vian, Le Raccolte Ferrajoli e Menozzi degli Autografi Ferrajoli, Studi e Testi 351 (Vatican City, 1992). (Back)
    25. The catalog, prepared by Fr. William Sheehan C.S.B., and financed by the American Friends of the Vatican Library, will be published in 1993. (Back)
    26. Bibliographies of all the manuscript holdings, volume by volume, from 1968 will be found in Marco Buonocore, Bibliografia dei fondi manoscritti della Biblioteca Vaticana (1968-1980), 2 vols., Studi e Testi 318, 319 (Vatican City, 1986); M. Ceresa, Bibliografia dei fondi manoscritti della Biblioteca Vaticana (1981-1985), Studi e Testi 342 (Vatican City, 1991). A further volume for the years 1986-90 is in preparation, as is a series of volumes of retrospective bibliography from the beginnings of periodical literature. (Back)
    27. William B. Parsons, Engineers and Engineering in the Renaissance (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1939), xv. (Back)
    28. The first edition of the Norme per il Catalogo degli Stampati (1931) says of John Ansteinsson, "Quindi il Signor Ansteinsson, bibliotecario della Norges tekniske hoiskole a Trondhjem, qui rimase qui fino al giugno 1930, rifece completamente di nuovo le regole, con esempi nuovi scelti per lo piu fra le schede del nuovo catalogo." The preface was dropped from the second edition of 1939, prepared under the direction of Igino Giordani, but it reappears in the third edition (1939) and in subsequent reprintings. John Ansteinsson died in 1961. (Back)
    29. Some intriguing sketches of the personnel and collaborators of the library in this period will be found in Nello Vian, "Figure della Vaticana," in L'Urbe (1986): 104-24. (Back)
    30. Useful reports, with statistics, on the Vatican Library (and the Vatican Archives) are published each year in the annual L'Attivita della Santa Sede, e.g., in L'Attivita della Santa Sede nel 1990 (Vatican City, 1991), 1355-64 (Archives), 1365-70 (Library). (Back)


    This book and the exhibition it commemorates are the work of many people, and it is a pleasure to finish off the project by thanking those who made it possible. In the first instance, and above all, thanks are owed to Declan Murphy of the Library of Congress, who directed the project. He negotiated the exhibition; he arranged our initial visit to Rome in winter 1989, when planning began; his siren songs induced librarians and scholars to collaborate and various benefactors, to provide financial support; and his erudition and intelligence were crucial at every stage. Other members of the Library staff made vital contributions. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, raised critical funds and offered generous moral and institutional support. Stephen Ostrow, Robert Dierker, Carolyn Brown, and Diantha Schull gave us the considerable benefit of their constructive criticism. Norma Baker helped in many ways, above all by serving, along with Richard Sherr, as the section curator for music. Irene Burnham and her staff provided expert technical support at all stages, from the first discussions of the exhibition's shape and scope to its actual mounting in a splendidly refinished exhibition room. Dana Pratt, Johanna Craig, and Evelyn Sinclair of the Publishing Office transformed texts and images into a finished book with meticulous care. Marlene Pamer coordinated the movements of an alarmingly varied and numerous cast of characters with patience and sang- froid. Jimmy Haritos coordinated events, budgets, and paperwork for the entire operation. And Elizabeth Wulkan, sine qua non, managed the entire enterprise with an equanimity, efficiency, and good humor that proved essential to all participants.

    John W. Kluge, in a touching gesture of spontaneous generosity, underwrote the entire cost of the exhibition. The Charles W. Engelhard Foundation generously subsidized the design and fabrication of the exhibition cases. Two firms collaborated to give the exhibit its splendid physical embodiment. John Crank and Bob Riggs of Franklin Street Communications, Richmond, Virginia, and Michael Graves, Keith McPeters, and Tom Rowe of Michael Graves, Architect, Princeton, New Jersey, created an environment that complemented both the Library of Congress's splendid exhibit space and the Vatican Library's matchless manuscripts and books.

    The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana supported our efforts with extraordinary generosity. Secretary of State Agostino Cardinal Casaroli gave permission for this unprecedented loan. The prefect of the Library, Father Leonard Boyle, gave us wonderful working conditions, sound advice, enthusiastic support, and the inspiration of his own love for the manuscripts. The beleaguered but ever-generous staff of the manuscript room, Guido Zanoni and Claudio Anzini, and Ernesto Brevetto greeted strenuous demands on their time and energy with patience and kindness. Amadeo Arditi and the staff of the photography department produced a vast number of splendid photographs with meticulous care. And many fellow devotees of the Vatican collections gave expert advice. Special thanks should go to John Monfasani, whose counsel ranged beyond the contents of the library to the restaurants of Rome; to Joseph Connors, who gave hospitality and encouragement to several of the section curators in his capacity as director of the American Academy in Rome; and to Michael Crawford, Arthur Field, Isabel Frank, Katherine Gill, Vivian Nutton, and Ingrid Rowland.

    Finally, I wish to thank the section curators, whose erudition and energy made it possible to mount this exhibition and to produce this catalog; and Helen St. John, who saved all of us from many errors of taste and substance in her capacity as research assistant to the editor.



    Norma Baker, Library of Congress, is a musicologist and is currently an administrator in the Office of the Librarian of Congress.

    Howard L. Goodman, Department of East Asian Studies, Harvard University, is an intellectual historian who specializes in the history of religion, magic, and science in ancient China and the cultural relations between China and the West in early modern times. He is managing editor of "Asia Major."

    Anthony Grafton, Department of History, Princeton University, studies the history of Renaissance humanism and of early modern science. His books include "Forgers and Critics" (Princeton University Press, 1990) and "Defenders of the Text" (Harvard University Press, 1991).

    Alastair Hamilton, Department of the History of Ideas, University of Leiden, works on the history of religion and the development of Near Eastern scholarship in early modern Europe. He has written, among other books, "William Bedwell, the Arabist" (E. J. Brill and Leiden University Press, 1985) and he regularly reviews books on early modern history for the "Times Literary Supplement."

    James Hankins, Department of History, Harvard University, has written the definitive two-volume historical study "Plato in the Italian Renaissance," Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition (E. J. Brill, 1990). He is currently studying both the Platonic Academy of Marsilio Ficino and the career and thought of Leonardo Bruni, the distinguished humanist who served for many years as chancellor of the Republic of Florence.

    Richard Sherr, Department of Music, Smith College, is an expert on the history of musical life and performance in Renaissance Rome.

    Nancy G. Siraisi, Department of History, Hunter College, and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, is a historian of medicine and of education in medieval and Renaissance Europe. She has written several books, including "The Canon of Avicenna in Sixteenth Century Italy" (Princeton University Press, 1986).

    N. M. Swerdlow, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago, studies the history of the exact sciences in the ancient world and during the Renaissance. He is the author, with the late O. Neugebauer, of the first detailed account, in two volumes, of "Mathematical Astronomy in Copernicus's De revolutionibus" (Springer-Verlag, 1984).

    List of Fondi with Abbreviations

    B.A.V.                   Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
    fondo, fondi             collection, collections
    Arch. Cap. S. Pietro     Archivio del Capitolo di San Pietro
                             (Archives of the Chapter
                              of Saint Peter)
    Barb. gr.                Barberiniani greci
    Barb. lat.               Barberiniani latini
    Barb. or.                Barberiniani orientali
    Bonc.                    Boncompagni
    Boncompagni              Boncompagni
    Borg. cin.               Borgiani cinesi
    Borg. pers.              Borgiani persiani
    Capp. Giul.              Cappella Giulia
    Capp. Sist.              Cappella Sistina
    Capponi                  Capponi
    Casimiri                 Casimiri
    Chig.                    Chigiani
    Cicognara                Cicognara
    Diarii Sistini           Diarii Sistini
    Ferr.                    Ferrajoli
    Inc.                     Incunaboli (incunabula, books
                             printed before 1500)
    Membr.                   Membranacei (incunabula printed
                             on parchment)
                             (see also Stamp. Membr.)
    Ottob. lat.              Ottoboniani latini
    Pal. lat.                Palatini latini
    Prima Racc.              Prima Raccolta (see also R.I.)
    R.G.                     Raccolta Generale (main
                             collection of printed books)
    R.G. Bibbia              Raccolta Generale Bibbia
    R.G. Med.                Raccolta Generale Medicina
    R.G. or.                 Raccolta Generale orientale
    R.G. Storia              Raccolta Generale Storia
    R.I.                     Raccolta Prima 
                             (see also Prima Racc.)
    Reg. lat.                Reginensi latini
    Riserva                  Riserva
    Ris. Strag.              Riserva Stragrande
    Ross.                    Rossiano (see also Stamp. Ross.)
    Rossiano                 Rossiano (see also Stamp. Ross.)
    S. Scrittura             Sacra Scrittura
    Stampe                   Prints
    Stamp. Barb.             Stampati Barberiniani
    Stamp. Chig.             Stampati Chigiani
    Stamp. geogr.            Stampati geografici (printed books
                             on geography)
    Stamp. Membr.            Stampati Membranacei
                             (see also Membr.)
    Stamp. Ross.             Stampati Rossiano
                             (see also Rossiano)
    Urb. gr.                 Urbinati greci
    Urb. lat.                Urbinati latini
    Vat. ar.                 Vaticani arabi
    Vat. arm.                Vaticani armeni
    Vat. copt.               Vaticani copti
    Vat. etiop.              Vaticani etiopici
    Vat. gr.                 Vaticani greci
    Vat. ind.                Vaticani indiani
    Vat. lat.                Vaticani latini
    Vat. pers.               Vaticani persiani
    Vat. slav.               Vaticani slavi
    Vat. turch.              Vaticani turchesi
    Note: This document has been edited for use on computer networks. It was taken from a document where diacritics, underlining, and fonts such as italics and bold had been removed. Restoration, if any, has been minimal.

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