Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

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Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
Venice, Libreria Marciana.jpg

Libreria, built by Jacopo Sansovino

founding 1468
Duration 900,000 volumes (2015)
Library type Regional library
place Venice
operator state
Website Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana ( National Library of St. Mark , Library of San Marco , Libreria Marciana , Biblioteca Marciana , Libreria Sansoviniana , Libreria di San Marco ) is one of the largest national libraries in Italy and one of the most important collections of Greek , Latin and Oriental manuscripts. It is located in Venice south of St. Mark's Square , between Campanile and Zecca . At the same time, the library is the only institution that still remains from the time of the Republic of Venice .

History of the library

An initial donation was made in 1362 by Francesco Petrarca , who bequeathed his collection of manuscripts to Venice, but six years later he left the city with his collection, which was scattered all over Europe. Only the foundation of Cardinal Bessarion is considered the starting point of the Marciana, even if it has not yet moved to its current location. On May 31, 1468, Bessarion donated his private library (746 volumes, including 482 Greek and 264 Latin manuscripts as well as approx. 300 prints) to the convent on San Giorgio Maggiore . The Senate, which hurried to forestall a possible promise by the Pope, claimed to be able to offer a "Bibliotheca Sancti Marci" which should be located in a completely new hall of the Doge's Palace. While Bessarion donated it for the general benefit of the people ( ad communem hominum utilitatem ), the Senate wanted to make the library accessible to the public, but above all "ac decoro et ornamento urbis huius celeberrime". The two foundations formed the basis of the library of the Cathedral of San Marco (Marciana). Marcantonio Coccio , called Sabellico, was initially responsible ; then in 1515 Andrea Navagero and in 1530 Pietro Bembo . They were not regular directors, but held the title of gubernator .

The library grew through the incorporation of library holdings in the area of ​​Venice by the republic and thanks to donations from other donors. Particularly noteworthy are the donation of 2200 printed books by Melchior von Marienburg from 1589, the donation from 1794 by Amedeo Svajer of 240 manuscripts, including the will of Marco Polo , or the donation of 1000 mainly Greek and Oriental manuscripts from Giacomo Nani from 1797 . Thanks to the unique collection of Greek manuscripts, the library became a center of humanistic studies in the 16th century.

In 1553 the library was given a new domicile as it was hardly used at its old location. Opposite the Procuratori di San Marco, the actual patrons of the institution, the new building, which was worked on until 1560, was built.

In 1603, Venice passed a law that a deposit copy of every book printed on Venetian territory had to be submitted to the Biblioteca Marciana, that is, it assumed the function of a national library of the republic. After the fall of the republic, many monasteries were secularized by Napoleon , and the library was expanded by monastery libraries .


Heron of Alexandria: sketch of an automaton, Gr. 516, fol. 202r.
Fra Mauros world map from 1459
Sala di lettura
  • 900,000 volumes
  • 2,884 incunabula
  • 13,000 manuscripts
  • 25,000 16th century prints (Cinquecentine)
  • 6,800 maps

The library specializes in classical philology and Venetian history. It also has a valuable collection of music as well as atlases and geographical maps such as the world map by Fra Mauro and Jacopo de Barbari's famous map of the city of Venice from 1500. The library's countless treasures include two Homer editions, the Homerus Venetus A from the 11th century and Homerus Venetus B from the 12th century, the Chronologia magna of Fra Paolino with the first map of Venice, the Pliny manuscript for Pico della Mirandola from 1481, as well as a copy of the first printed in Venice Buchs, the epistolae ad familiares by Cicero from 1481. The 56 volumes of the diaries of Marino Sanudo , one of the most important sources for Venetian history between 1496 and 1533, are also in her possession.

A special treasure of the library is the almost complete collection of Aldinen . In 1843 Marco Contarini's collection of valuable opera manuscripts from the 17th century was donated to the library.

The Libreria

The condition for the donation by Bessarion was that the library should be housed in a worthy place. However, the republic took its time to fulfill this duty. The republic's book collection was housed in a house on Riva degli Schiavoni in 1362, then in San Marco and later in the Doge's Palace .

Main facade of the Libreria

In 1534 the procurators planned a building for new offices. The library with reading and lecture halls was to be located on the upper floor. In 1537 the architect Sansovino was commissioned by the procurators of San Marco to design a library building in the piazzetta . Construction began on the campanile. In 1545 the vault of the reading room collapsed and Sansovino went to prison. Thanks to the intercession of influential friends ( Tizian and Aretino ), however, he was released and was able to continue working, but had to repair the damage at his own expense. After his death, Vincenzo Scamozzi completed the construction between 1582 and 1588.

The libreria, especially the staircase and reading room, were lavishly furnished with works by Venice's first artists, such as Veronese , Tizian , Alessandro Vittoria and Tintoretto .

The library was housed in Sansovino's Libreria building from 1553. In 1812 it was returned to the Doge's Palace as the building was to be used for other purposes. It stayed there until 1904. Today the collection is again in the Libreria and in the adjoining mint building, the Zecca, also built by Sansovino. With the library of the Museo Correr, which is housed in the new Prokuratien , there is another public library in Venice in the immediate vicinity.

Head of the library

  • Jacopo Morelli : 1797-1819
  • Pietro Bettio: 1819-1846
  • Giuseppe Valentinelli : 1846–1874
  • Giovanni Veludo: 1874-1884
  • Carlo Castellani: 1884-1897
  • Salomone Morpurgo: 1898-1905
  • Carlo Frati : 1906-1913
  • Ulisse Ortensi: 1913
  • Giulio Coggiola: 1913-1919
  • Ester Pastorello : 1919-1920
  • Luigi Ferrari: 1920-1946
  • Pietro Zorzanello: 1948–1951 (1947 "executive")
  • Tullia Gasparrini Leporace : 1951-1969
  • Giorgio Emanuele Ferrari: 1969–1973
  • Eugenia Govi: 1973-1976
  • Gian Albino Ravalli Modoni: 1976-1989
  • Marino Zorzi: 1990-2008
  • Marina Letizia Sebastiani: 2008–2012
  • Maurizio Messina: from 2012


  • Dorit Raines: Ritratto di una biblioteca , in: Maria Letizia Sebastiani, Paolo Crisostomi (ed.): Splendore Marciano. The restauro della legatura già codice LAT. III, 111 (= 2116) della Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana di Venezia , Editore: Nova Charta, 2012, pp. 27-43.

See also

Web links

Commons : Biblioteca Marciana  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Libreria Marciana  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Direttori della Biblioteca nazionale Marciana di Venezia dal 1797 a oggi , accessed on January 20, 2017.

Coordinates: 45 ° 26 ′ 0 ″  N , 12 ° 20 ′ 21 ″  E