Italian History and Literature

Galileo Galilei, Dialogo ..., 1632. Case 4A 876.
Galileo Galilei, Dialogo ..., 1632. Case 4A 876.

Since its founding, the Newberry has collected extensively in Italian history and literature from the Renaissance to the Napoleonic period. Acquisitions since 1978, many of them antiquarian, are included in the online catalog and in WorldCat. Older holdings are well represented in the National Union Catalog, and there are several published guides to specific collections (see Bibliographical Guide, below).

Newberry manuscript holdings include some forty pre-1500 and over 350 post-1500 manuscripts of Italian production. Pre-1500 manuscripts acquired before 1986 are fully described by Saenger. They include humanist manuscripts, music theory texts, and books of hours. More recent acquisitions, including an important manuscript of Domenico Cavalca’s Specchio di Croce, are described in the online catalog. A manuscript in roll form of a poem by Battista da Montefeltro-Malatesta was the subject of the doctoral dissertation by Triggiano.

The post-1500 Italian manuscripts include emblem books, music and liturgy, calligraphica, family papers, travel narratives, religious texts (including Hebraica), and political commentary. Most notable in literary terms are 32 volumes from the library of G. B. Strozzi the Elder (1504-1571), a poetic miscellany by G. B. Strozzi the Younger (1551-1634), letters and notes by Ludovico Castelvetro (1505-1571) and his son and amanuensis Jacopo Castelvetro (b. 1546), and a collection of Sicilian dialect poems by Antonio Veneziano (1543-1593). An important collection of family papers is that of the Parravicini of Ardenno (Valtellina) including nearly 2000 documents dating from 1504 to 1883. Also of family history interest are several Florentine priorista (heraldic manuscripts), and account books of the Matiga (Mantica) family of Pordenone (16th century) and the Albizzi family of Florence (14th century).

The Newberry’s John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing, established in 1917, includes specimens of Italian printing at every period. Among the notable Italian materials are hundreds of incunables representing most printers active in Italy in the 15th century, extensive holdings of the work of G. B. Bodoni (1714-1813) including many ephemeral pieces, numerous type specimens, and a nearly complete run of the works of Hans Mardersteig’s Officina Bodoni (active 1926-1977).

Other printed resources for Italian literature and history at the Newberry include several important collections acquired en bloc:

The Angelio da Barga family library includes 75 volumes, many from the library of Pietro Angelio da Barga (1517-1596).

The linguistics library of Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte is strong in Italian dialect literature, especially dictionaries, Sardinian books (described by Bua), and rare periodicals published in the Albanian dialect of Southern Italy.

A 1973 bequest by Bernard Weinberg includes many books on Renaissance rhetoric and poetics.

The Pio Resse collection of early music, purchased in 1889, is strong in music theory and in early editions of musical settings of poetry. The Howard Mayer Brown bequest of 1993 includes many hundreds of opera librettos, liturgical works from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, and numerous volumes of motets and madrigals.

The Newberry has also collected systematically in the fields of printed Italian poetry, courtesy books, emblem books, and bookseller’s catalogs from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

The collections of travel literature (both for Italians abroad and for foreigners visiting Italy), of church history materials, of heraldry and genealogy, and of local history sources are extensive.

The Franco Novacco collection of over 800 maps printed in Italy during the 16th century is one of the strongest such collections in the world and has been supplemented by recent gifts and purchases.