The Collections


The Parmense collection is certainly the largest amongst those of the Library. It records the growth of the institution and comprises all the manuscripts and printed items as well as the documents and art objects which have entered the Library since its first opening. All the items which have entered the Library by wish of its librarians, notwithstanding the various shelf-marks that had been assigned to them, are part of the Parmense collection. The collection started with Paolo Maria Paciaudi and amongst his first acquisitions the Spanish 'Siglo de oro' collection is specially noteworthy: viz. the collection of the works by Lope de Vega and 'Comedias de diferentes autores'. The first consists of 47 volumes containing 124 handwritten and 267 printed works; the second 87 volumes with 800 works some of which are still to be ascribed. Ireneo Affò, although having lesser means than his predecessor Paciaudi, managed to purchase the library of the surgeon Antonio Galli, the so-called Gridario  of the Parma States and other items interesting for local history (e.g. those belonging to Captain Giuseppe Ferrari).    

During the years of Angelo Pezzana's directorship (1804-1862) many new and complete collections were acquired by the Library: a first corpus of 200 books printed by Bodoni were enriched, starting from 1843, with Bodoni's legacy (letters, molds, punch-stamped matrices); the libraries of the recently suppressed monasteries and the library once belonging to Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi, professor of Oriental languages at the Faculty of Theology at Parma University between 1769 and 1821. Also noteworthy are the collections of manuscripts and printed books belonging to Michele Colombo and his pupil Giovanni Bonaventura Porta as well as those belonging to Bartolomeo Gamba.

Furthermore from 1814 the Library received by right two copies of all that was printed in Parma and Guastalla.

Other two great collections entered the Library in the 19th century. In 1828 Maria Luigia purchased from the engraver and painter Paolo Toschi the Ortalli collection of around 40.000 prints and drawings in order to donate it to the Library. The collection bears witness to the development of German, Italian, Flemish and French art in the 15th-19th centuries. This corpus was successively enlarged with nine volumes of French portraits collected by Pietro Antonio Martini and 1067 items belonging to the Balestra Collection.

The largest acquisition was certainly that of the Palatine Collection, bought for the Library in 1865 by the Italian State. It was the private library of the Dukes of Bourbon – Parma comprising 1034 manuscripts, many of which illuminated and of Italian, French and Flemish origin, 349 incunabula and 30.000 volumes dating back to the 16th and 19th centuries.

Other interesting items are the miscellany of booklets (in folio, in 4° and in 8°) printed mostly in Parma beteen the 16th and 19th centuries, the Ferrarini collection bequeathed by the scholar and musicologist Mario Ferrarini, the Mansueto Tarchioni collection as well as the Micheli-Mariotti archives and library. The latter derives from the fusion of the personal libraries and archives of the Deputy, Senator and Minister Giuseppe Micheli and his uncle Giovanni Mariotti, Major of Parma and also Deputy and Senator

As well as the Micheli - Mariotti collection with its minor archives (Mistrali, Strobel, Mazza, Dal Prato) the Library contains other important archives such as the documents belonging to Paciaudi, Pezzana, Affò as well as the Moreau de Saint-Méry.

Together with the manuscripts of the Parmense and Palatine collection the Library holds a third collection of 400 items: the so-called mixed collection, less known and smaller than the other two. It was organized by Angelo Ciavarella, who directed the Library between 1957 and 1973 and united all manuscripts not belonging to the other main collections.

The so-called Cantari moderni collection holds a series of leaves with stories in verse in print by Alfredo Zerbini, a poet who composed in the dialect of Parma.

Last but not least the donation by the industrial tycoon Pietro Barilla who bought for the Palatina the personal library of Maria Luigia consisting of 512 volumes and 184 letters.