Biblioteche riscoperte. Ab artis inventae origine
04.02 2020 - 25.03 2020
On line Exhibition

Biblioteche riscoperte. Ab artis inventae origine

Stories of Milanese books, people and libraries among the fifteenth-century editions of the Braidense.


Who knows whether Johann Gutenberg, when he invented movable type printing in the mid-15th century, was aware that he was changing the world. From that time on, the typographic product entered people’s lives in a powerful way, and the new technique-the “sancta ars” as the cardinal philosopher Niccolo da Cusa called it-was employed for more than three centuries without any particular upheaval.

The incunabulum, or conventionally the printed book produced during the first fifty years of the art of typography, was the subject of the exhibition Biblioteche riscoperate. Ab artis inventae origine: stories of Milanese books, people and libraries among the fifteenth-century editions of the Braidense.
More than one hundred extremely valuable and rare volumes printed by the end of the year 1500 were on display.




The Braidense Library has one of the largest Italian collections of incunabula, editions published in the 15th century. In order to enhance this priceless cultural heritage, the Region of Lombardy, with the operational and scientific collaboration of the European Research Center Book Publishing Library (CRELEB) of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, has supported an extensive work of census and cataloging of the entire fund, which took more than three years of effort and came to fruition only a few months ago.

Now a meticulous description of the Braidense collection freely available online for the public of scholars (but not only) from all over the world, in the large international database: “Material Evidence in Incunabula” managed by the prestigious “Consortium of European Research Libraries” (CERL) in London. As for the Braidense, this is extremely valuable data for reconstructing figures of ancient readers and collectors, lost book collections and ancient libraries in Milan and Lombardy. Above all, these news represent an indispensable source for reconstructing the formation of a great library, which also grew through acquisitions derived from the suppressions of religious institutes between the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Region of Lombardy is at the forefront in this field in Italy and in the world, having already poured into the MEI database data on more than two-thirds of the entire heritage of incunabula preserved in the libraries of the territory (for a total of almost 9,000 specimens). For Milan, consider the large collection of the Civic Historical Archives and Biblioteca Trivulziana, to which are added the holdings of the Biblioteca civica “Angelo Mai” in Bergamo and the Biblioteca civica Queriniana in Brescia, as well as numerous “minor” libraries.

The exhibition itinerary of the exhibition Rediscovered Libraries. “Ab artis inventae origine” has been divided into three sections: the first introduces the visitor to the knowledge of the typical aspects of the 15th-century printed book, highlighting its new elements and inviting him or her to reflect on the relationship between tradition and innovation; in the second, on the other hand, some specimens that are particularly precious for their rarity or historical value are admired; finally, the last section reconstructs the history, that is, the centuries-long path of individual volumes. Through the study of the marks left on the books by ancient readers over the centuries, in fact, it is shown how they traveled through time and space before flowing into the Braidense collection.

Descriptive panels facilitated the visitor’s experience of the tour, which was enriched by the display of a selection of printing equipment, kindly made available by the “Andrea Schiavi” Museum of Printing and Art Printing in Lodi. A unique opportunity to enter live into the world of Gutenberg and his successors.

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