Overviews of the Collections
The Italian Collections at the Library of Congress
Former French and Italian Area Specialist
Among the rich holdings of Italian materials in the Rare Book Division
are a number of collections that contain Italian materials. They
Accademia della Crusca Collection: 1,134 titles dispersed
throughout the Rare Book collection. These are Italian-language
publications representing the best usage of Italian in the humanities
and sciences, 1500-1887, which are cited as examples of good Italian
usage in the Vocabolario, the authoritative dictionary prepared
by the Academy.
Anarchism Collection: Anarchism publications prepared for
U.S. foreign-language communities. This collection is heavily
Italian, and includes books, pamphlets, serial issues, and ephemeral
items relating to the study of anarchy printed between the 1850s
and the 1970s. The collection focuses on the history and philosophy
of anarchism and the lives and writings of its major proponents.
Of particular interest are pamphlets documenting the beliefs
and activities of local organizations and short-lived movements. Katherine
Golden Bitting Collection: Fifteenth- through twentieth-century
publications and manuscripts on gastronomy. The treasure of this
collection is a mid-fifteenth-century Italian manuscript entitled Libro
de arte coquinaria of Maestro Martino, which was a source
for the earliest printed cookbook, Platina's De Honesta Voluptate (ca.
1475). The Rosenwald Collection: One of the Library's
more important collections (the crown jewel of rare book collections),
in which Italian materials are very strongly represented. Its
incunabula and sixteenth-century presses represent the most important
extant, illustrated works printed during this period in Italy.
Among other rare items, there are a number of noteworthy encyclopedias
in this collection, including the first Western encyclopedia, Pliny
the Elder's Naturalis Historia (first printed edition, that
of Johannes de Spira, issued in Venice in 1469); the earliest of
the vernacular encyclopedias, Brunetto Latini's Il Tesoro (Treviso: Gerardus de Lisa, de Flandria, (1474); Suidas' Lexicon graecum (Milan, 1492); Etymologicum magnum (Venice, 1499); and Tobias Cohen's Ma'aseh Toviyah (Venice, 1708).
The responsibilities of the Law Library to provide analyses to Congress
and government agencies require a comprehensive collection of current
legal resources from Italy. The historical collections reflect, as
do the general collections and some of the special collections, the
importance of European and specifically Italian sources for developments
in American and international law. Special items and collections
- Historical collections of Roman Law: the basis of judicial
theory and practice from the collections of laws compiled by
the Emperor Justinian in 528-34 and known as the Corpus juris
civilis. This forms the basis for law in most of Europe,
Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The collection allows the study
of Roman law's sequence of transformation, codification, and
growth, for example in the Codex Theodosianus, Codex
Gregorianus, Fragmenta Vaticana, and the Lex Romana
Wisigothorum and Corpus Juris Civilis of 1583. By
the time Justinian's collections were printed, the work of two
schools of commentators was available for inclusion. A school
of "glossators" founded at Bologna under Irnerius in the 12th
century had added interlinear and marginal notes or glosses clarifying
and interpreting the text. The glosses in the 1468 Mainz edition
of the Institutiones are attributed to Franciscus Accursius and
Accursius Gloassator, the last of the prominent glossators. The
collection is also rich in "post-glossators" of the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries, whose systematic compilation and analysis
of the Corpus juris civilis adapted it to the legal, social
and economic conditions of the time.
- Canon Law Collection: Derived and glossed ecclesiastical law
coordinated and synthesized by the twelfth Italian monk and educator
Gratian, the Decretum Gratiani. This collection includes
works of important church figures of the seventeenth and eighteenth
century and early editions of the ecclesiastical law of the Roman
Catholic Church. It includes a copy of Gratian's Concordantia
discordantium canonum [Concordance of Discordant Canons]
(ca. 1140) which helped to establish canon law as a distinct
juridical science rather than an aspect of theology. The first
systematic ecclesiastical legal treatise to be written in the
West, it is part of the twelfth century flowering of Italian
legal thought that occurred in Bologna.
- Consilia: Among the incunabular editions are the Consilia of Johannes and Gaspar Calderinus (Rome: Adam Rot, 1472), and
several fifteenth and many sixteenth century editions of the Consilia of
the civil law commentators Baldo degli Ubaldi and his teacher,
Bartolus of Saxoferrato.
- A collection of 500 volumes of statuta contains the laws prevailing
in Italian city-states until the eighteenth century. Early statuta
include those from Bologna (1475), Brescia (1490), Milan (1498),
Parma (1494), Venice (1477), and Verona (1475).
- A collection of maritime customs and ordinances, Capituli
et ordinatione di mare e di mercantie (Rome: Ant. de Bladi
de Asola, 1519). This body of law was followed in cities along
the Mediterranean coast and influenced the development of Anglo-American
- Treatises on the law and theory of war, for example Giovannni
da Legnano's work of 1360, De bello, repressaliis et duello (Pavia:
Christophorus de Caibus, 1487).
- Documents related to the legal recodification undertaken in
Italy in 1930 and 1940-42.
There are several interesting Italian-related collections in the
LC Manuscript Division. Most concern American history and/or U.S.
relations with Italy, especially World War II, or genealogy and Italian
immigration and emigration. Notable collections include:
- American Academy in Rome: Among the Charles Follen McKim papers,
documents covering the establishment of the American Academy
- Galeazzo Ciano Papers: Working papers relating to the publication
of the Ciano diaries, 1939-46.
- Papers of Filippo Mazzei, Italian physician and merchant and
colonial American agent in Europe: Chiefly correspondence with
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Marquis de Lafayette, James Monroe,
and Edmund Randolph. The largest group of letters is from Thomas
Jefferson and includes the "Mazzei letter," in which Jefferson
criticizes Federalist leaders.
- Tissandier Collection: Includes material on and by early aeronaut Vincenzo Lunardi.
- Italian captured documents collection, 1925-1945: Includes
documents from the Italian Supreme Command.
The collection represents the importance of Italian music in the
European traditions of American music. The collections are strongest
in nineteenth-century Italian music, but they also include most of
the major treatises of the pre-Bach era and holograph manuscripts
by nearly every prominent Italian composer. A number of noteworthy
Other noteworthy items in the Music Collections include a volume
of Giacomo Puccini correspondence, commissioned music by Dalla Piccola,
Malapierro, Respighi, and five Stradivari stringed instruments.
- Holograph scores by Paganini, Verdi, and Porpora.
- Copies of holographic music scores by Mucio Clementi (1752-1832),
- Francis Maria Scala Collection: Italian-American Scala (1819?-1903)
was the first musician to be designated Leader of the Marine
Band. Scala developed the band to over 30 musicians and made
it well known through its public outdoor concerts. The collection
consists primarily of music arranged or composed by Scala for
band concerts, military formations, and White House functions.
- Albert Schatz Collection: Early opera librettos and research
files. With over 12,000 printed libretti, this is one of the
larger -- if not the largest -- collections of libretti in the
world. It includes an outstanding selection of Italian (and German)
texts, particularly from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,
as well as notes, correspondence, playbills, manuscripts for
articles, and clippings pertaining to the history of opera in
Europe and the United States.
- Gisella Selden-Goth Collection: Collection of 22 holographs
by leading eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century European
composers, including Ferruccio Busoni, Nicolo Paganini, Nocola
Antonio Porpora, and Giuseppe Verdi.
- Gertrude Clarke Whittall Foundation Collection: Rare music
manuscripts and letters; papers and research materials relating
to Nicolo Paganini and Felix Mendelssohn. This collection includes
the Maia Bang Hohn collection of Paganini material, which is
comprised of correspondence, notebooks, music manuscripts, personal
documents as well as clippings, early posters, and prints relating
to Paganini. Many items were originally owned by Paganini's family.
Geography and Map
The collections of the Geography and Map Division are rich in atlases
printed in Rome, Bologna and Venice. A noteworthy work is Vincenzo
Coronelli's Libro de' globi (In Venetia: Gli Argonauti, 1693
[i.e., not before 1697]), a record of all the globes Coronelli had
made. In addition to the Coronelli globes, visually interesting Italian
materials include rare late 17th century Venetian globes, Battista
Agnese's Portolan Atlas (1544), and the Hauslab-Liechtenstein
Collection of maps collected by Austro-Hungarian military geographer
Franz Ritter von Hauslab (1798-1883), who was especially interested
in topographical maps.
Motion Pictures and Recorded Sound
This collection is strongest in early Italian features and includes
a number of 16mm classics acquired through copyright deposits by
American distributors and Janus Films. The Motion Picture and Recorded
Sound Division has begun to order some titles of Bellochio and Pasolini
on videocassette. Noteworthy collections include:
- George Kline Collection: The personal film library and business
papers of George Kline, one of the first American distributors
of European films. His company acquired exclusive control of
the distribution of major Italian motion pictures in the United
States and Canada.
- Italian Collection: Italian films from the 1930s and early
1940s. This collection includes 500 documentary, newsreel, feature,
educational, and propaganda films produced in Italy between 1930
and 1943. It also has a collection of reference prints for most
of the 275 Istituto Luce newsreels (1938-43), 100 Luce shorts
(1930-43), and several of the forty features (1934-40).
- Monitored Broadcast Collection: Includes 23 entries for Italy
between 1941-42, containing speeches by Mussolini and other items
from this period.
Prints and Photographs
The strength of Italian graphic arts is reflected in the holdings
of the Prints and Photographs Division. Items range from late fifteenth
century woodcuts by Ugo da Carpi and Andrea Andreani to current political
posters and fine arts. One noteworthy item is Vanoccio Biringuccio's De
la Pirotechnia (Venice, 1540) on vellum, which contains illustrations
of gunpowder and fireworks.
Archive of Folksong/American Folklife Center
Projects relating to Italy include the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project
Collection (1977), a survey of the ethnic art traditions of Chicago
that contains sound recordings, field notes and other written documentation
on Italian-Americans and that assesses the impact of the contemporary
urban American setting on traditional art forms; Old Ties, New Attachments:
Italian-American Folklife in the West (1991-92); and the Works Project
Administration Folklore Collection that contains material on Italian-Americans
in the 1930s.
Children's Book Collections
Both the Rare Book and Children's Literature collections have
collections of beautifully illustrated Italian children's books,
ranging from Pinocchio to Leo Leoni.
Additional Italian resources at the Library of Congress