The XVIII Century. Paolo Maria Paciaudi and the establishment of the library

Paolo Maria Paciaudi arrived in Parma in 1762 after lengthy journeys in France where he met politicians, courtiers and intellectuals, and where he visited libraries and examined how they were organized. An attempt to purchase the already established collection belonging to Cardinal Domenico Passionei in Rome and the less substantial one of the Pertusati family in Milan did not succeed but Paciaudi obtained thousands of books through editorial and antiquarian catalogues and his erudite bibliographical knowledge was enhanced by the exchange of news with his vast circle of friends, over 1000 correspondents throughout Italy and Europe.

He organized the series of books acquired according to subject, dividing them into 6 principal categories: “Theology, Nomology, Philosophy, History, Philology and the liberal and mechanical Arts”. The volumes were placed on neo-classical wooden shelving designed by the French architect E. A. Petitot in the ‘Petitot Gallery’, the long gallery within the Pilotta Palace complex. Paciaudi drew up the Catalogue of Possessions, introducing for the first time in Italy an exciting innovation for the time, as the catalogue was no longer written up in ledgers but on moveable file cards which contained, as well as the name of the author, the title and typographical information, also bibliographical information about the author and the value of the content of the edition. He also added indications as to the physical location of the volume and its logical position within the scheme of knowledge.

Particular care was reserved for manuscripts for which he prepared learned prefaces, often bound with the codex itself, particularly the prized printed editions for which, with the true bibliophile’s taste, he demanded rich, gilded decoration on carefully selected hides. For the special libros “Bibliotheca Regia Parmensis” he required the three Bourbon lilies to be gilded on the cover. For the binding needs of the Library and the printing works run by his friend Giambattista Bodoni, Paciaudi invited the Frenchman Louis Antoine Laferté to court. This craftsman was a master book binder, who also produced xylographic and marbled paper.

The Parma Library, which enjoyed printing rights from 1768, was officially inaugurated in May 1769 in the presence of Joseph II, Emperor of Austria, brother-in-law of Don Ferdinando Borbone who had succeeded his father to the Ducal throne in 1765. The fall of Du Tillot in 1771 involved Paciaudi as well in so far as the atmosphere at court had become extremely hostile to the monk and he asked to be relieved of his duties. His successor for a few years was the Benedictine monk Father Andrea Mazza, until in 1778 Paciaudi was recalled and re-instated in his former role where he remained until his death in 1785. The next director of the Library was the Parma local, Ireneo Affò. Under his guidance, in 1791 the Library expanded into the Gallery of the Incoronata communicating with the Petitot gallery and decorated by Drugman in a more severe style.

Affò died in 1797 and was succeeded by the former Jesuit, Matteo Luigi Canonici who had little impact on the development of the Library as he was more involved with his own collections of manuscripts and rarities.

The XIX century. Angelo Pezzana and development

In 1804 the French administrator of the Duchy, Moreau de Saint-Méry, appointed Angelo Pezzana as secretary in the Library; he became director and remained in charge until 1862. This lengthy period saw the destiny of the Library develop in step with the political destiny of the city of Parma which from French domination passed into the hands of Maria Luigia Habsbourg of Austria in 1816. This liberal minded sovereign held dear this oasis of culture and favoured the growth of its patrimony, enlarging the rooms and taking charge of their adornment and decoration.

From 1st January 1818 the Library became the Ducal Library and went back to being maintained with funds from the Duchy Treasury. Pezzana was able to acquire on the open market the best ancient and modern works which were missing but he also managed to ensure that important manuscript and print collections entered the Library. The entire Library of the Orientalist Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi, the Albergati-Capacelli manuscripts, the Casapini Papers, the Collection of drawings and incisions of Massimiliano Ortalli and Raffaele Balestra, the personal libraries of Bartolomeo Gamba, Michele Colombo and Giovanni Bonaventura Porta, the typographic and fusion material of Bodoni and the Stern-Bisliches Hebrew Collection.
Pezzana divided the collection into 5 main classes: Theology, Law, Science and the Arts, Fine Arts, History. He continued using Paciaudi’s file card catalogue until the 1840s, establishing also a stable alphabetical catalogue by volume and also compiled a catalogue for subject matter.

A new room was created in 1820 to allow for a dignified organization of the De Rossi collection with new shelving and decoration and between 1830 and 1834 a further ample and luminous ambience was created; today this is the reading room dedicated to Maria Luigia and can contain 26,000 volumes. The sovereign also wanted to encourage the visual arts and between 1841 and 1857, Francesco Scaramuzza was commissioned to paint frescoes on themes of Dante in the librarian’s room, today’s Sala Dante.

Pezzana’s successor, Federico Odorici between 1862 and 1876 operated under the newly united Italy and had to cope with continual Government requests for information, concerning, above all, the patrimonial consistency of the Library which was downgraded from “National” to a peripheral bibliographic institute. Under his direction however, in 1865 the Fondo Palatina, the private collection of the Bourbon- Parma Dukes consisting of precious manuscripts and rare printed volumes, was acquired. Odorici was the first Director to write a history of the Library and he oversaw the re-organisation of the Parma manuscript collection and drawing up of the relative Catalogue together with his collaborator, Luigi Barbieri.

Pietro Perrea directed between 1876- 1888 and drew up the Catologue of Hebrew manuscripts in the Library as well as the De Rossi collection. He left a copious collection of manuscripts and printed books.

Under the director Luigi Rossi (1888-1893) all manuscripts and printed work treating music and musical themes were transferred to the newly established Musical Section of the Library.

The XX Century. The bombing and reconstruction

Edoardo Alvisi guided the Library into the new century directing it until the first World War (1893-1915); he oversaw the transcription into large volumes of the Paciaudi Catalogue bringing them up to date with the latest acquisitions and donations. Large “Subject Catalogues” of the bibliographical heritage were drawn up.

The Mayor at the time, Giovanni Mariotti, decided to liberate Piazzale della Pace from “amorphous constructions” and oversaw destruction of the addition next to the Gallery of the Incoronata which had housed the De Rossi room. This was rebuilt in another part of the Pilotta adjacent to the Maria Luigia Salon in a new structure of the same dimensions where the previous furniture and precious content of Codices and illustrated manuscripts were placed.

The successive Directors had to face up to the reality of economic difficulties following the first World War; Carlo Frati (1915-1918), Girolamo Dell’Acqua (1918-1922) and Antonio Maria Boselli (1922-1927) were forced to suspend subscriptions to many prestigious Italian and foreign magazines and newspapers. These Directors were responsible for the partial re-organisation of the Parma Epistolary collection.

The XX century saw despoliation of the Library: in the 1920’s a large number of parchments were handed over to the State Archives and then in 1934 Pietro Zorzanello, Director from 1927, was forced to “give back” to the State Library of Lucca more than 100 manuscripts from the Fondo Palatine pertinent to the history of that territory. This was in part compensated for the following year with the donation of the Library of Mansueto Tarchioni, consisting of around 18,000 volumes and about 1,000 pamphlets. Zorzanello was demoted as a result of his attitude to the Fascist hierarchy but he managed to leave an extremely precise Catalogue of illustrated manuscripts on handwritten mobile files.

His successor was Giovanni Masi (1935-1952) who with courage and determination faced up to the re-construction of the Library damaged in April and May 1944 by allied bombing raids which damaged part of the Pilotta, destroying over 21,000 volumes from the historical Petitot Gallery, the reading room and the Convent collections. In 1950 the patrimony of the Library was increased with the entire Library of Mario Ferrarini.

Maria Teresa Danieli Polidori (1952-1957) inaugurated the restored and rebuilt Petitot Gallery.

The bibliophile Angelo Ciaverella directed the Palatine until 1973. He must take merit for carrying through his museum project of enhancing the value of the activities and production of Bodoni. By involving the local authorities and institutions as well as significant individuals, the project of creating the Bodoni Museum was brought to fruition in 1960. In 1964 Ciaverella oversaw the important acquisition of the Micheli-Mariotti papers.

After the brief period of direction by Diego Maltese (1973), Serenella Baldelli Cherubini (1973-1978), Carla Guiducci Bonanni (1979) and a number of temporary appointments, the Palatine Library was directed by Leonardo Farinelli (1991-2007). The Library remained closed between 1983 and 1991 because of necessary work undertaken to bring the infrastructure up to modern standards. Farinelli undertook various initiatives including computerization of services and didactic activities for all types of schools and was successful in bringing the Library back to a significant role in the cultural context of Parma’s institutions. He was able to acquire the Libraries of Professor Bertani, Ciaverella, the Salvadori-Bovi family and the archives of the Parliamentarians Carlo Buzzi and Andrea Borri as well as that of the journalist Baldassare Molossi. In 1994 the Oriental papers were increased with the acquisition on the free market of the Antonio Mordini Ethiopian codices and a further 19 acquisitions.





The Palatine Library welcomes publications donated by publishers and authors, but reserves the right to evaluate their uniformity with its heritage and institutional tasks. Therefore, it is not ensured that all volumes shipped are taken over, catalogued and made available to users.

Legal Storage

(L. 106/2004 and rules activated by DPR 252/2006)

The law concerning the legal deposit aims to create two archives of Italian publishing production, one national, that collects two copies of each document of cultural interest published in Italy (physically located in the central national libraries of Rome and Florence) and one regional, that preserves two copies of each document of cultural interest published in the region.
Publishers, according to the legislation, must therefore send four copies of each of their publications:

  • 1 copy at the National Central Library of Florence (via Tripoli, 36 – 50122 Florence)
  • 1 copy at the National Central Library of Rome (Legal Deposit Office of the Library, Viale Castro Pretorio, 105 – 00185 Rome)
  • 2 copies to the regional archives of the competent region

For the publishers of the province of Parma, please note that these last two copies must be sent respectively to the Palatine Library of Parma (Strada alla Pilotta, 3 – 43121 Parma) and one at the Municipal Library of the Archiginnasio of Bologna (Piazza Galvani, 1 – 40124 Bologna)

Documents subject to legal deposit (see art.1 – Law 106/2004):
Documents or publications of cultural interest for public use, offered for sale or otherwise distributed, contained  any analogical or digital support.
Documents non subjected to legal deposit (see art. 8 – DPR 252/2006): abstracts, printing drafts, registers and forms, cadastral maps, advertising material for business, unaltered prints, documents for internal or private use.
Obligated parties(see art.3 – Law 106/2004): the publisher or, in any case, the person responsible for the publication as natural or legal person; the printer, where the publisher is not mentioned.
Partial discharge (see Article 9 – Presidential Decree 252/2006): if the works subjected to the law have a circulation of up to 200 copies or a value of not less than Euro 15,000.00 for each copy, with the exception of printed music, the publisher, or in any case the person responsible for the publication, is required to deliver a single copy to the archive of the regional publishing production.
However, if the works have a circulation of up to 500 copies and a value for each copy of not less than Euro 10,000.00, the publisher may ask for partial discharge  to the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities or to the competent region.

Short guide to sending Documents to the Palatine Library of Parma

Documents must be delivered to the library directly or sent by any other means within 60 days from their publication (see art. 7 – DPR 252/2006 with the office manager, Viviana Palazzo

On each document must be written “copy out of commerce for legal deposit according to the law no. 106 of 15th April 2004” (see art. 10, DPR 252/2006).
The documents must be enclosed in envelopes with the indication: “Copies out of commerce according to the law n0. 106 of 15th April 2004” and the name or company name of the subject obliged to deposit and his domicile or registered office (see art.10 – DPR 252/2006).
 The list of the material sent must be included in each package (see forms).

The Library, after having controlled the contents of the envelope, if it has not found any irregularities, returns, duly endorsed, one of the copies of the list sent. This copy constitutes a receipt and must be kept by the interested party.

For further clarification and information please contact Dr.ssa Viviana Palazzo

Useful links:



Cultural heritage Emilia-Romagna


La Sala Dante della Biblioteca Palatina

Venue Hire

The Pilotta Monumental Complex provides its own spaces for hire. Open for public-private initiatives and projects in order to promote its cultural heritage by granting temporary use of them for the most varied initiatives, always guaranteeing respect for the safety of the property and its cultural purpose.

Located in a strategic position in the heart of the city, it is particularly accessible thanks to a municipal parking area in the area below.

The spaces that can be granted/hire/ rented are the Farnese Theater, the Marie Louise Hall of the National Gallery, the halls of the north wing of the Gallery, the Sala di Veleia of the Archaeological Museum, the Salone Maria Luigia of the Palatine Library, the Dante Room, the rooms and the attached auditorium of the Voltoni del Guazzatoio, the monumental staircase, as well as the open spaces such as the Cortile della Pillotta, the Cortile del Guazzatoio and the Cortile della Cavallerizza.

On the occasion of the various initiatives, an exclusive tour can be organized – even beyond the ordinary opening hours – within the Complex to allow the promotion of the inestimable cultural heritage preserved within it.