Overviews of the Collections
Maltese Collections at the Library of Congress
Chief, European Division
Former Reference Librarian
Overview The Library of Congress has approximately
1,000 monographs published in Malta and approximately 1,100 monographs
about Malta published outside that country. The collections also
include limited runs of several dozens of periodicals, bulletins,
and annuals from or about Malta. Because serials are multi-volume,
as are some monographs, the monographic and serial collections
from or about Malta exceed 3,000 volumes. The Library also has
special collections pertaining to Malta, such as rare books, maps,
music, and manuscripts.
Monographs from Malta Approximately 75
percent of the Library's 1,000 monographs from Malta were published
in the capital, Valletta, with others published (in descending
order) in Msida, Sliema, Pieta, Floriana, Rabat, Hamrun, and a
dozen other towns. Some 70 percent are in English and 20 percent
in Maltese, the two official languages. About 3 percent are in
Arabic, 2 percent in Italian, and 5 percent in other languages.
The Library's monographs in Maltese were published primarily from
1971 to the present.
Monographs published outside Malta Of
the 1,100 monographs about Malta published outside that country,
approximately 60 percent are in English, nearly 15 percent in Italian,
more than 10 percent in French, nearly 10 percent in German, and
about 5 percent in other languages. Nearly 100 of these books were
published in the United States. Approximately 350 of these 1,100
monographs concern the Knights of Malta.
The European Reading Room The European
Reading Room provides direct access to several reference works
on Malta, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, histories,
biographical directories, bibliographies, and other reference sources.
The reading room makes available for onsite use numerous bibliographic
databases and full-text resources, many of which contain citations
or texts pertaining to Malta.
Rare Books The Library's Rare
Book and Special Collections Reading Room has custody of
about fifty volumes from or about Malta, most of which were published
before 1800. (As a general rule, works published before 1801
are found in the Rare Book Reading Room; later publications are
usually in the general collections.) A few examples are given
Malta stood siege against Ottoman forces and won a decisive but bloody
victory in 1565. The Library has copies of the first two works cited
below; both appeared the following year to describe the events.
- [Conti, Natale]. Commentarii Hieronymi Comitis Alexandrini
de acerrimo, ac omnium difficillimo Turcarum bello, in insulam
Melitam gesto, anno MDLXV. Addita sunt singulorum locorum interualla,
necnon mensurę & obiter obscuriorum locorum explicationes.
Venice, 1566. [Dedication signed: Natalis Comes]
- Ulloa, Alfonso de. La historia dell' impresa di Tripoli
di Barbaria, fatta per ordine del sereniss. re catolico, l'anno.
M.D.LX., con le cose auenute a christiani nell isola delle
Zerbe. Venice, 1566.
- Marulli, Geronimo. I natali delle religiose militie :
de'Caualieri spedalieri, e templari, e della religione del
Tempio l'vltima roina. Malta, 1643. American scholar Douglas
C. McMurtrie wrote in his 1936 pamphlet, A Memorandum on Early Printing on the Island of Malta, that the earliest
example of printing on the island was Della descrittione
di Malta by Giovanfrancesco Abela, published in 1647.
However, McMurtrie was subsequently informed by Charles Martel,
a bibliographer at the Library of Congress, that this library
had a still earlier Maltese imprint, the book cited above on
the Knights of Malta: I natali delle religiose militie,
written by Geronimo Marulli and printed in 1643. The Library's
copy is the only one known in North America (two copies are
known in Malta, at the National Library and the Cathedral Museum,
Mdina). In 1939 McMurtrie wrote of this earlier publication
in his pamphlet, A Malta Imprint of 1643. As regards
the above-mentioned Della descrittione di Malta, now
considered the second oldest Maltese imprint, the Library does
not have the original but does have a recent facsimile edition.
The Library also has the two-volume, revised and illustrated
edition of this work, entitled Malta illustrata; ovvero
Descrizione di Malta isola del mare Siciliano e Adriatico.
- Carvalho e Sampaio, Diogo de. Tratado das cores que consta
de tres partes, analytica, synthetica, hermeneutica ... Malta,
1787. The author was a Knight of Malta from Portugal, where
he was a diplomat and member of the Academy of Science of Lisbon.
The work is a treatise on colors (a similar work was later
published by Carvalho in Lisbon). Several hand-painted diagrams
showing a wide range of colors follow the text.
Language and Literature The Maltese language
has Arabic origins but with many Sicilian and Italian words added
during the 11th-18th centuries. Maltese was primarily an oral language
through the end of the 19th century, with little printed in it
before the 20th century. It was only in 1924 that the Maltese alphabet
was standardized, and another ten years passed before Maltese became
an official language, joining English in that status. Not until
after independence from Great Britain in 1964 did Malta begin publishing
much in Maltese.
The earliest work giving evidence of the Maltese language is Jean
Quintin's Insvlae Melitae descriptio (Lyons, 1536). The
Library has a recently published facsimile edition of the original,
as well as an English translation, entitled The Earliest Description
of Malta (Lyons 1536). Sliema, Malta, 1980.
Michele Antonio (Mikiel Anton) Vassalli is recognized as the father
of the Maltese language for his efforts at creating a literary
language from the spoken form. The Library has a copy of his grammar
of the Maltese language, entitled Mylsen phoenico-punicum,
sive Grammatica melitensis (Rome, 1791). The work itself is
written in Latin. Vassalli later published a revised edition in
Italian, entitled Grammatica della lingua maltese... (Malta,
1827). The Library has a recent reprint of Vassalli's Ktyb
yl klym Malti, a Maltese-Latin-Italian dictionary originally
published in Rome in 1796; it is of great linguistic value but
is also important historically for its "Discorso preliminare," an
appeal in its opening pages to promote the Maltese language and
Another trilingual dictionary of interest was compiled by F[rancesco]
Vella, entitled Dizionario portatile delle lingue maltese,
italiana, inglese (Livorno, 1843). Vella's contributions to
the development of the Maltese language and literature have been
researched only recently.
The important Maltese literary journal Malti (or Il-Malti)
began in the 1920s under the direction of Ghaqda tal-Kittieba tal-Malti
(the Union of Maltese Writers) and was edited from the late 1920s
until 1942 by Dun Karm, Malta's national poet. The Library has
an extensive run of Malti from 1947 through 1980, and
three earlier issues from 1935, 1938, and 1939.
Serials The Library's collections include
runs of more than fifty retrospective or current newspapers, magazines,
journals, bulletins, annuals, and other serials from or about Malta.
Most of these are in the general collections. Current issues of
periodicals relating to Malta are available in the Newspaper
and Current Periodical Reading Room. In addition, that reading
room provides retrospective holdings of the following Maltese newspapers:
- Times of Malta (Valletta), nearly complete holdings
for 1962-94, on microfilm (in 1978, the title was shortened to The
- Malta News (Valletta) 1974-Oct 31,1978, on microfilm.
The title changed to Daily News (Valletta) Nov 1,1978-81,
on microfilm. This title also changed, to Weekend Chronicle (Valletta)
1982-88, on microfilm.
Manuscripts The Manuscript Division collects
Americana, including materials pertaining to U.S. relations (of
any nature) with other countries. The papers of several American
diplomats and others from the United States who worked in or had
correspondence with individuals from Malta are available in the Manuscript
Reading Room, such as Hugh Smythe's papers when he was U.S.
Ambassador to Malta from December 29, 1967 to August 16, 1969,
and the journal kept by Obadiah Stevens, an American prisoner of
war in a British prison in Malta during the War of 1812.
Maps The Geography
and Map Reading Room provides access to millions of maps,
atlases and other cartographic materials, including hundreds
of maps pertaining to Malta. These comprise general, historical,
specialized, city, and other maps. To view maps that have been
digitized by the Library of Congress, see [Map
The following citations to maps and atlases in the collections
illustrate the variety of cartographic materials relating to Malta.
Music and Recorded Sound The Music
Division has a number of resources related to Maltese music,
including general monographs on the subject and additional monographs
relating to particular Maltese composers and musicians. One early
work of note is by the 18th-century Maltese composer and theorist,
Francesco Azopardi, entitled Le musicien pratique (Paris,
1786). This French version became well known, more so than the
original Italian text. The division also has a collection of
printed music, such as scores and sheet music, as well as sound
recordings of Maltese composers. Examples include the dozens
of recordings and printed scores of compositions by Charles Camilleri,
considered by many Malta's national composer. Not all Music Division
materials are listed in the online catalog, so interested researchers
should check the various card catalogs in the division for access
to the full collections.
In addition to the Library's Online Catalog, the Recorded
Sound Reference Center maintains a database of many more
sound recordings, both musical and non-musical, called the Sound
Online Inventory and Catalog (SONIC). It includes several recordings
of radio broadcasts from 1942 concerning World War II developments
in Malta, e.g., interviews with Sir Hugh Lloyd, Air Marshal of
Malta. Many of these World War II radio broadcasts emanated from
the U.S. Office of War Information.
Law The Law
Library Reading Room makes available more than a hundred
monographic titles pertaining to law in Malta, such as Collezione di decisioni dei tribunali di Malta (Malta, 1840- , 3 v.) and J.J. Cremona's The Maltese Constitution and Constitutional
History since 1813 (San Gwann, Malta, 1994). Among the reading
room's several Maltese serials are runs of the following three
Other Special Collections Special collections
pertaining to Malta include prints and photographs, motion pictures,
microfilm, and digitized materials. Because not all items in special
collections are listed separately in the Library's online catalog,
researchers should contact the appropriate reading rooms for advice
from specialists and for access to additional finding aids. Many
Library of Congress collections have been digitized and are available
online. For photographs and other images, see the Prints & Photographs
Online Catalog. To search simultaneously for all digitized
materials that relate to Malta, whether maps, music, photographs,
early motion pictures, or materials in other formats, use the American
Memory search engine.