Discover the Library
Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense – merged in 2015 into the Pinacoteca di Brera museum system under the general direction of James M. Bradburne and, as of March 2022, Marzia Dina Pontone as scientific director – is one of 46 state libraries managed directly by the Ministry of Culture.
Its holdings, which span all fields of knowledge, now consist of more than 1.5 million modern books and many ancient volumes and other materials. This number of volumes is constantly increasing thanks to donations, purchases and, above all, the Printing Law.
The Braidense-which has always played the role of a library of collection, preservation and public reading-is first and foremost a great institution at the free service of the citizens of Milan and anyone interested in its activities. In addition to the best-known services of lending and consulting volumes, the Library also offers a bibliographic information service for studies and research and organizes events, temporary exhibitions and guided tours to promote and publicize its history and heritage.
The history of the Braidense National Library begins, in 1763, when the Congregation of State for Lombardy, a body representing the interests of local communities, purchased the library of Count Carlo Pertusati to donate it to Archduke Ferdinand, son of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and future governor of Lombardy. Later, with the imperial rescript of October 8, 1770, Maria Theresa decided to allocate the Pertusati’s library for public use, considering the lack in Milan “of an open library for the common use of those who wish to cultivate their wits more, and acquire new knowledge,” as the Ambrosiana “rich but in manuscripts,” but not in “printed books,” was not deemed sufficient. To meet the recommendation of the imperial rescript-in which Maria Theresa requested that the Library be placed “in a suitable site and as far as possible near the center of the city, of easy and convenient access to each one who will want to attend it.” – Pertusati’s books remained in the family palace for another three years, until in 1773 with the dissolution of the Society of Jesus, decreed by Clement XIV, the State acquired the Brera Palace, built on the site of the thirteenth-century convent of the Humiliati, and allocated it as the site of the Library and other important cultural institutions.
The dissolution of the Society of Jesus also made available to the State the library collections of the Jesuit College and the Jesuit houses of San Fedele and San Girolamo.
The Pertusati Fund, which, with the Pertusati Fund and the Albrecht von Haller Fund, which came to Braidense in 1778 , constitutes the initial nucleus of the Library.
Once the renovation work was finished, the catalog prepared and the books placed on the shelves, the Braidense National Library, under the name Imperialis Regia Bibliotheca Mediolanensis, was opened to the public on November 2, 1786, with a holdings of about 80,000 volumes.
Later, the collections of Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini and Colonel Baschiera and a small part of Count Firmian’s library were added, while the suppression of religious congregations, decreed by Emperor Joseph II, led to the forfeiture of part of the holdings of ancient cloistered libraries; and also duplicates of the Imperial Library of Vienna. In the Napoleonic era, the acquisitions of the library of the Collegio dei Giureconsulti and the Scaccerni collection, donated by Francesco Melzi, are worth mentioning.
Contributing to the increase of the collections was the April 1788 Avviso della Regia Intendenza politica di Milano (Notice of the Royal Political Intendancy of Milan), concerning the compulsory deposit in the library of works published in the State of Milan. Dal 1793 vennero inclusi anche gli editti e gli avvisi pubblicati dalle autorità di Governo. Nel 1848 questa disposizione fu trasformata nella legge sul diritto di stampa.
La Braidense, cui fu conferita già nel 1880 la qualifica di “Nazionale”, si configurava come una grande biblioteca di carattere generale.
Nel corso del XIX secolo altri fondi arricchirono ulteriormente il patrimonio della Braidense: i volumi donati da Hermes Visconti, la raccolta del Gabinetto Numismatico, la collezione bodoniana Mortara, la raccolta Lattes di opere di cultura ebraica, la raccolta Carlo Morbio, la miscellanea Viesseux e la libreria di Cesare Correnti.
In 1885 the Manzonian collection was donated, while in 1889 the Corniani Algarotti dramatic collection was acquired, to which the De Capitani D’Arzago bequest was added.
Among the collections received in the twentieth century are the Novati library, the liturgical library of the Dukes of Parma, the chess collection, the Castiglioni fund, and the Emilio Sommariva photographic fund.
Important recent acquisitions are the collection of 257 valuable children’s books published in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s from the Adler Fund and the section of old and rare books from Umberto Eco’s personal library, which he called the Bibliotheca semiologica curiosa, lunatica, magica et pneumatica, consisting of about 1,300 volumes.
Of particular importance, especially in recent years, has been and continues to be the digitization service of both ancient and modern volumes. In fact, the spread and use of the Internet has led each library to adapt and expand its services to meet the new needs and types of reading and information. Part of the Braidense’s library holdings are already available online.
Therefore, anyone who frequents its halls today, in addition to finding himself surrounded by ancient shelves full of history, is also welcomed by the services of a library of the present.
From the end of the 18th century to the present, the Library has continued to enrich its holdings with new funds purchased or donated, aimed at maintaining the existing holdings and the subjects in which the Library wants to specialize.
250 manoscritti, 550 volumi della biblioteca del Manzoni di cui 200 postillati, circa 5.000 pezzi di carteggio, 1.000 volumi di opere del Manzoni, 1.000 volumi di critica e 1.800 pezzi collocati in miscellanea.
Library of Haller
La Biblioteca di Albrecht von Haller, Berna 1708-1777, professore di anatomia, chirurgia e botanica all'Università di Gottinga, è una pregevole raccolta di testi, in massima parte scientifici.
Photografical collection Emilio Sommariva
The Emilio Sommariva Archive collects the entire archives of the photography studio and related paper records from 1904 to 1973.