The 18th century and the foundation of the Library

Galleria E. A. Petitot

The Biblioteca Palatina (also known as Reale Biblioteca Parmense, Biblioteca Nazionale, Bibliothèque Imperiale, Bibliothèque de la Ville de Parme, Biblioteca Ducale, Biblioteca Nazionale.) was founded on 1st August 1761 when by decree Philip of Bourbon, Duke of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla appointed Paolo Maria Paciaudi "Antiquarian and   Librarian'. This decree expresses clearly Philip of Bourbon's desire to endow the duchy with a public library, thus following the ambitious and enlightened cultural project promoted by his learned prime minister Guillaume Du Tillot.      

The library was supposed to support education in every field of knowledge in a State where culture was in great decline. Furthermore there was not a pre-existing book collection to work from as  Charles, Philip's brother had transferred the library, archives and art treasures which the Farnese had owned in Parma  to Naples in 1736.   

Paciaudi had arrived in Parma in 1762, after travelling to France where he had met politicians, courtiers and intellectuals, visited libraries and studied their regulations; having failed to purchase two ready made collections , viz. the library of Cardinal Dominic Passionei in Rome and the less important one belonging to the Pertusati family in Milan, he acquired thousands of books perusing catalogues by editors and antiquarians together with the help of hundreds of correspondents all over Italy and Europe.

He ordered the Library's books according to content, dividing them into six main classes: Theology, Law, Philosophy, History, Philology, Liberal and Mechanical Arts. The books were placed on the wooden Neoclassical shelving designed by the French architect E.A.Petitot, in the Pilotta Palace, housed in the long corridor that is known today as the Galleria Petitot.

Whilst cataloguing the Library's book material he introduced the the card catalogue, a great novelty for the time (at least in Italy). Information on each book was not recorded in a bound register, but on single cards  which comprised more traditional data such as  author, title, typographical notes but also special bibliographical notes on the author, value of the contents and edition; shelf-mark and subject classification.

He gave special attention to the manuscript collection: he wrote introductions for each  item (often bound together with the codex); similarly he wrote introductions for the rare printed books and had them rebound lavishly (gold stamp on exquisite leather). These bindings all have a common feature: the super libros "Bibliotheca Regia Parmensis" on top of the three Bourbon lilies. In order to satisfy the needs of the Library and  the printing establishment of his friend Giambattista Bodoni he  sent for the French court binder Louis Antoine Laferté. The latter was famous also for his production of marbled paper and woodcuts.

The Library was appointed legal deposit  in 1768 and was inaugurated in May 1769 in the presence of Joseph II, Emperor of  Austria, brother in law of Ferdinand of Bourbon who succeeded  to his father in 1765 in the Duchy.

The fall of Du Tillot in 1771 involved Paciaudi as well and, consequently, in 1774 the latter asked to be freed of his charge. His successor was Father Andrea Mazza but only for a few years. The Duke in 1778 called Paciaudi back and offered him once again his old place as Director of the Library.  He held the post until his death in 1785.

Ireneo Affò succeeded Paciaudi as the Library's director. Under his directorship, in 1791, a new hall was opened, the Galleria dell'Incoronata, which communicates with the Galleria Petitot. The new Gallery was furnished by Drugmann in a more severe style.

When Affò died in 1797, he was substituted by the former Jesuit, Father Matteo Luigi Canonici. The latter was far more interested in his own collection of manuscripts and rare items than in the Library. His directorship finished in 1805 and left no trace in the Library's history.