Here at Florence Inferno we would like to make a particular mention to the special temple of knowledge that is the National Central Library of Florence.
Although not specifically mentioned in Dan Brown’s Inferno, we believe that Robert Langdon, the main character of that book, would have surely visited that library if he had more time at his disposal, perhaps to research something related to his studies on arts or maybe out of sheer curiosity.
The building and the location of the National Central Library of Florence
The word “library” traditionally refers to a collection of books used for reading or studying, or the building or room in which such a collection is kept. The word derives from the Latin word liber, meaning “book.”
The Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (National Central Library of Florence) is a national public library in Florence, the largest in Italy and one of most important in Europe. It is one of the central libraries in Italy, along with the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma and other libraries located in the larger Italian cities.
The library owns approximately 6,000,000 printed volumes, 2,689,672 pamphlets, 25,000 manuscripts, 4,000 incunabula, 29,000 editions from the sixteenth century, and over 1,000,000 autographs.
The BNCF is located in a building along the Arno River in the quarter of Santa Croce, precisely, in Piazza dei Cavalleggeri.
Like all public offices during the Renaissance times, the library was orignally located inside the complex of the Uffizi. In 1935 it was moved to its current location. Construction began in 1911, and the building was designed by the Italian architect Cesare Bazzani and was later expanded by the architect Vincenzo Mazzei. The monumental building has an eclectic style with hints of Liberty.
Many parts of the original project, such as the large square in front of the facade overlooking the Arno, were never built for economic reasons and due to the architecture of the building, which from the beginning did not lend itself to certain administrative functions.
The history of the National Central Library of Florence
The library was founded in 1714 when the Italian librarian, scholar, and bibliophile Antonio Magliabechi bequeathed his entire collection of books, encompassing approximately 30,000 volumes, to the City of Florence.
By 1743, the Grand Ducky of Tuscany required that a copy of every work published, first in Florence, and then in all Tuscany, be incorporated into the library.
Originally known as the Magliabechiana, the library was opened to the public in 1747 and in later years was enriched by several bequests and donations.
Its holdings were combined with those of the Biblioteca Palatina in 1861. The Biblioteca Palatina was the library of the “palace” created by Lorraine, who inherited the grand-ducal title and the city government after the extinction of the descendants of the Medici family. This book collection was started by Ferdinando III of Tuscany and continued by his successor Leopoldo II.
Following the merger, the library was renamed the National Library, and by 1885, became the National Central Library of Florence, or the BNCF.
Since 1870 the library has been the Italian library depository, receiving a copy of every book published in the country. It houses millions of autographs, manuscripts, letters, incunabula, and books, including many rare editions.
The damages from the 1966 Arno River Flood
Unfortunately, major flooding of the Arno River in 1966 damaged nearly one-third of the library’s holdings, most notably its periodicals as well as Palatine and Magliabechi collections.
As a result of its proximity to the river, it was completely flooded up to six feet in hight, in particular, flooding of the underground storage that contained the nuclei of the library’s most valuable unit.
The serious damages were partially dammed by the timely aid of the so-called Mud Angels, an army of volunteers of all nationalities who worked tirelessly in the cold of November and in precarious conditions, recovering the books and storing them safely for futurel restoration.
A few weeks after the flood a restoration center was established inside the library and can be credited with saving many of these priceless artifacts. However, much work remains to be done and some items are forever lost.
Picture by it.wikipedia.org