Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense
Libraries are resources for meeting the challenges of the present, true “public granaries capable of amassing reserves against the winter of the spirit,” wrote Marguerite Yourcenar.
The goal of the Braidense Library in the future is to become “the ideal library,” Umberto Eco’s definition, a national and international reference point for initiatives, projects, and exhibitions that can defend, enhance, preserve and promote reading and the book as well as its priceless treasure that now contains more than 1,500,000 volumes. “The author may die, but not the book,” said Eco.
In a digitized world where with a click everything seems to be at our fingertips, the library should be seen as a place where the book lives on, becoming the heritage of all: a library that “serves to produce interpretation, interiority since the notion of the survival of the soul is based on memory.” A cultural proposal, that of the Braidense Library, which follows a different path from that taken by the Pinacoteca di Brera, in recent years returned to being a museum “in the heart of its city” and at the same time of international scope. Contiguous even from a physical point of view, Pinacoteca and Library, although they have a single origin, are in fact “different twins,” neighboring institutions that proceed on parallel tracks.
A place, the library meant to be not only the place to look for a book whose title is known, but, again using Umberto Eco’s words, where to find the book whose existence was not suspected. A book that we eventually discover to be vital, “of extreme importance to us.”
Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, which had 125,000 patrons and 35,000 readers last year, giving out 20,000 volumes for reading, plays a very important role on the Italian and international scene, the third library in the country after the other two national ones in Rome and Florence. With its historical and contemporary collections under public protection, it provides for their cataloguing, preservation and enhancement in the interest of the general and specialized public, through restoration, reproduction and protection of documents.
In 2019 it acquired and catalogued for the Italian National Library Service nearly 15,000 modern volumes (about 40 percent of new Italian editions) and 18,000 works from ancient collections. It owns about 2,000 manuscripts, 350 of them medieval, 2,306 incunabula and 25,000 cinquecentine.
Since 1994, the Braidense Library has cataloged its resources in electronic format, which currently exceed 1,148,523 records, but the number of material housed at its branches (Brera, Mediateca Santa Teresa, Cavallerizza, Morimondo) exceeds 2 million titles, as does the number of digitized pages, available in the Digital Emeroteca. Enriching the collection with new acquisitions, cataloging the collection and preserving the books and documents, making the library’s collections available (physically and online), consolidating fruition, research and ensuring the promotion of reading and study through intensive educational activities, its main missions. With its exhibitions, on the other hand, it presents works from the library’s collections, promotes books and their importance, along with reading, writing and collecting.
Open to the public since 1786, the uniqueness of the Library has been to be, since its origins, an exceptional place of cultural exchange.
Imposing and evocative, the Braidense Library has its heart in the Maria Theresa Room, dedicated to the empress who donated it to the citizens of Milan, created by Giuseppe Piermarini in 1785. In the room you can admire a large terrestrial globe, a work handmade between 1819 and 1829 by the astronomer Francesco Carlini; it is the first globe to reproduce the flattening of the poles.
Also monumental are the Catalogs Room and the former Jesuitical Room, also known as the Theological Room, because its wood and briarwood shelves hold religious volumes, and today it has become the Reading Room.
Finally, inaugurated in 2014, there is the room dedicated to Lalla Romano with manuscripts and objects belonging to the writer.
Every visitor to the Biblioteca Braidense and the Pinacoteca di Brera deserves an extraordinary experience, which we can also achieve thanks to the support of all of you.