in Turin Libraries: Sources and Documents for a New Inquiry of the Classical Background of the Piedmontese Elites (XV-XIX century)




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This project is entirely funded by the Regione Piemonte and will allow an ?quipe of scholars from the Department of Classical Philology of the University of Turin to study the collections of Greek books preserved in the town's main libraries.

The main aim of the project is to unearth an unknown aspect of Piedmont's cultural history so far ignored by historians and philologists, i.e. the study of the Greek letters and the reception of the classical heritage as a fundamental step in the education of the ruling ?lites, from the XV to the late XIX century. Our research aims at drawing a picture of Renaissance readers of Greek Classics in Piedmont to outline the peculiarities of a Piedmontese way to Humanism.

To pursue such an ambitius goal, we will carry out a careful analysis of the collections of Greek books preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria and in the Biblioteca Reale of Turin.
The Biblioteca Nazionale used to preserve 405 Greek manuscripts before the fire in 1904, when many were destroyed or seriously damaged. Nevertheless, its holdings are still conspicuous, and their richness may surprise even experienced bibliophiles and scholars. The surviving items are more than three hundreds, plus dozens of fragments, out of which 90 are richly decorated and illuminated. In addition to the manuscripts, the Biblioteca Nazionale prides an excellent collection of ancient Greek prints (1600 'incunaboli', 6000 'Cinquecentine', and many prints dating back to the XVIIth and XVIIIth century).
The Biblioteca Reale preserves only 3 Greek manuscripts of inextimable interest, as well as hundreds of old prints.

However, in spite of their inestimable value and importance, those Greek collections still lack a systematic study. They are mostly unknown even to specialists, as we still lack a modern catalogue of the Greek manuscripts, describing with a modern scientific approach
their contents and their codicological and material features (writing, binding ecc.). In addition, these books need to be studied under a cultural and historical perspective.
Many of these, in fact, show evidence of scholarly activity and they are likely to have been used not only by humanists studying and teaching in Turin during the late Medieval and Modern age, but also by officials, high-level civil servants, governors and members of the royal family.

In synthesis these are the main expected project outcomes and results:

1) Innovative studies and publications regarding Turin?s Greek Books collections and new evidence for a better understanding of Turin Renaissance?s culture.

2) Training of young researchers (PhD students) working within the project under the guidance of senior researchers. They will specialize in the study, description and preservation of Greek manuscripts and ancient prints.

3) Exploitation of the contents of the Piedmontese Greek books collections through an exibition of the most significant material.

4) Setting up of a website to promote and disseminate the project results.

5) establishment of a permanent research group for the codicological, paleographical, philological and historical study of the Greek manuscripts and ancient prints of Turin?s libraries.


A thorough study of the Greek books of the Biblioteca Nazionale and of the Biblioteca Reale will enable us to investigate some unknown aspects of Turin?s cultural history, starting from the learned interests of some members of the Savoy family.
The most ancient acquisitions date back to the XIVth century, at the times of Eduard, Count of Savoy. The collection was increased by his successors, in particular by Amedeo VIII, the first Duke of Savoy. The interest of the Savoy family for the classical culture grew up in the
following centuries, when many codices and incunables were acquired, both as a status symbol and as instruments for the education of future governors, as well as for the lectures of the civil and religious entourage of the Dukes.
When Emanuele Filiberto moved the Dukedom capital to Turin in 1563, he gathered there artists and literates from all Europe. His son Carlo Emanuele I acquired Greek, Latin, Hebraic and Persian books for the community of scholars living in the city. In 1667 a fire seriously damaged the library of the Dukes; the remainings of it were at first joint to the Royal Archives and then, together with the later acquisitions, passed to the University Library (Greek, Latin, Hebraic, Persian manuscripts), in the Library of the Congregazione dei Sacerdoti di Superga (juridical manuscripts) and in the so-called Library of court (Biblioteca di Corte: other manuscripts).

The manuscript collections assembled by the Dukes of Savoy were merged in the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria, founded by King Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy in 1723.
The books of the Court Library became part of the collections of the Royal library, established in 1831 by Carlo Alberto as an institution devoted to the diffusion of culture and expecially to the education of the Piedmontese army?s officers.

The history of the Greek books collections of the two major Turin libraries appears strictly bound to the history of Savoy Piedmont: the Biblioteca Nazionale?s collections are the inheritance of the XVIth century Turin?s cultural revival, and therefore they comprehend the
most consistent core of ancient books (partially destroyed by the tragic fire of 1904.
Among the Greek books there were both ancient and medieval (i.e. Byzantine) texts (VI-XV c.), either in Greek or in Latin translation: devotional and hagiographical texts, rhetorical and gramatical treatises, books concerning history, geography, arithmetic etc.

The Royal Library was aimed to more practical issues, i.e. the training of officers and soldiers. This nature is reflected in the nature of the collected prints: treatises of military strategy, as well as didactical and uplifting literature. At present it contains three Greek manuscripts of great value.

Tuesday 30 August 16 - 06:50

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