Tag Archives: Library

Dove Vai? – The Umberto I Library at the Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute, Library #7

The Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute is a modern orthopedic hospital, founded in 1896 in the monastic complex of San Michele in Bosco on the hill close to the Bologna center. The Umberto I Central Library, named after King Umberto I, is located in the sixteenth-century rooms where once the books of the Olivetani monks were kept.

Ornate Umberto I Library at Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute
Ornate Umberto I Library at Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute

As with many historic locations in Italy, there is controversy as to the exact date of the construction of the first library of the monastery of Saint Michele in Bosco: to some it was raised towards the end of the 15th century, while others argue that the Priorate of Barnaba Cevenini ordered the construction in 1517. It is certain that in 1677, Taddeo Pepoli, prior of the monastery, refurbished the library, entrusting the task of architecture to Gian Giacomo Monti, and the contract of the ceiling paintings to Domenico Maria Canuti.

Painted by Domenico Maria Canuti (1677)
Painted by Domenico Maria Canuti (1677)

With Napoleon’s suppression of the monasteries in 1797, the library suffered great damage: the antique 16th century shelves were destroyed and the precious miniature books and manuscripts were dispersed. The former monastery of San Michele in Bosco went through a dark 50-year period until 1841, when the complex became the residential palace of the Legato Pontificio Spinola. In the library, the Canuti paintings were restored. The rooms of the library were used as a hall of princes, cardinals, knights and famous politicians until 1880, when Professor Rizzoli acquired the convent to construct an Orthopedic Hospital.

But the library only regained its greatness in 1922, when the director of the Institute, Vittorio Putti, restored the rooms as the Umberto I Library, thanks also to the donations of the Bologna Province to honor the memory of King Umberto I. Now the rooms hold one of the most complete and rare collections of books in the entire field of orthopedics.

Globe of the 18th century world by Father Rosini da Lendinara (1762)
Globe of the 18th century world by Father Rosini da Lendinara (1762)

The first item that catches your eye as you enter is a giant world globe. It is the 1762 work of Father Rosini da Lendinara, who used maps and descriptions of global explorers to create the masterwork. The Canuti paintings shine over the shelves of both ancient and modern books. A giant (about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide) complete three volume 19th century copy of the Divine Comedy by Dante is housed on its own wooden shelf.

19th century copy of the Paradiso from Dante's Divine Comedy
19th century copy of the Paradiso from Dante's Divine Comedy

Positioned in what once were the apartments of the Priors of the Monastery of Saint Michele in Bosco, in front of the Umberto I Library, there is the study and private library of Professor Vittorio Putti, which he donated to the institute upon his death. Born in Bologna in 1880, Professor Putti succeeded famed orthopedist Professor Alessandro Codivilla, as director of the Institute. He held the post from 1912 to 1940, the year of his death.

Professor Putti's office is now one of the most famous collections of historic orthopedic texts
Professor Putti's office -- one of the most famous collections of historic medical texts

An excellent surgeon with great managerial skills, Professor Putti was interested in all issues of orthopedics, introducing new methods and innovative instruments. He gained great international prestige and became an honorary member of the most important foreign societies, as well as being the correspondent for the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, the largest medical journal in the orthopedic specialization.

Fireplace in Professor Putti's office
Fireplace in Professor Putti's office

A renown book collector, the professor created in his own study/library a small private museum of the history of medicine. In his study, wall-to-wall with dark briarwood shelves, he gathered more than 1.000 antique books of medicine, including more than two hundred 16th Century works, into a collection, which is considered by experts to be one of the richest and most carefully selected in the world, not only for the quantity, but also for the quality of the texts they contain.

Umberto I Library at Rizzoli Institute displays historic orthopedic text
Umberto I Library at Rizzoli Institute displays historic orthopedic text

Among the rare collection of texts are editions of Ippocrate, Galeno, Avicenna and other fathers of medicine, you’ll find the Fasciculus Ketham (the first medical book with illustrations published in Italy in 1493); one of the four volumes of anatomical woodcut prints (1528) by Albrecht Dürer (some inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci); the famous first edition of Vesalio (De Humani Corporis Fabrica) 1543; and the first book of orthopedics written by Nicholas Andry published in Paris in 1741.

Book of anatomical woodcut prints by Albrecht Dürer (1528)
Book of anatomical woodcut prints by Albrecht Dürer (1528)

In the Donation Room off of the office hang the portraits of famous doctors, a collection of surgical instruments that were used from Roman times until 1800, as well as other valuable objects bought by Putti from the most famous antique dealers from all over the world, including two splendid manikins from 1500 that can be dismantled and were used in Europe for teaching and in China for diagnosing.

Visitors can admire the architecture, the frescos and other works of art from the XVI and XVII centuries in the church and halls of the former monastery by taking City Bus # 30 from the train station to it’s very last stop. Tours of the library are limited by reservation, as are those to the Putti Collection.

View of Bologna from Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute
View of Bologna from Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute

The Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute is organized in two departments that group wards and healthcare services and research laboratories. The units are specialized in: treatment of degenerative pathologies of the hip and knee; spine pathologies, pathologies of the foot and upper limbs; sports pathologies; tumors of the musculoskeletal system; pediatric orthopedic pathologies; and diagnosis and treatment of rare skeletal diseases. High expertise; organization aimed at integration between research and treatment and the offer of high quality healthcare; innovative technologies in continuous evolution – are the ingredients for Rizzoli’s success in Italy and worldwide. Website: http://www.ior.it/en.

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Artusi at 100, Italy Honors its Culinary Father

Pellegrino Artusi, author of the famous Italian cookbook La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiare Bene (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well), is the father of Italian cuisine. This year – the 100th anniversary of his death – will be remembered with special events and celebrations, especially in Forlimpopoli, Artusi’s birth place, and Florence, the city where Artusi spent his life.

Pellegrino Artusi was 71 when he wrote his iconic book on the art of eating
Pellegrino Artusi was 71 when he wrote and published his iconic book

Artusi made his fortune as a silk merchant, but after retiring he devoted himself to fine dining. In 1891, at the age of 71, he completed the 600+ page tome in which he included amusing anecdotes and menus, as well as recipes. He couldn’t find a publisher and so self-published the large volume. It took him four years to sell a thousand copies. The self-published second edition sold faster, so he increased the print-run of the third. Then, all the hard work paid off – the book was discovered by the middle class.

Pellegrino Artusi self-published the 1st Edition in 1891
Self-published First Edition 1891

One of the reasons for its popularity is that Artusi wrote his book entirely in Italian – this at a time when most professional chefs were French-trained, and their books were so sprinkled with French terminology that they were hard for the uninitiated to follow. Also, Artusi was a bon-vivant, a noted raconteur, and a celebrated host; he knew many of the leading figures of his day and read widely in the arts and sciences. Almost half his recipes contain anecdotes or snippets of advice on subjects as varied as regional dialects and public health: while you may open the book to find out how to make Minestrone or a German cake, you will probably read on to find out how Artusi escaped cholera, or what the Austrian troops who occupied Northern Italy in the 1840’s were like.

He also created an appendix of menus: “As it frequently occurs that one finds himself unsure of what dishes to select when one has to offer a dinner” Artusi wrote, “I thought it well to provide this appendix, which gives the menus for an elegant dinner for each month of the year, as well as several menus tailored for specific holidays. I’ve omitted desserts because the seasons, with their various fruits, will council you better than I could. Even if you can’t follow these menus to the letter, they’ll at least give you some ideas that will make your selections easier.”

Artusi's photo superimosed on the XIII edition (1909)
Artusi's photo superimposed on the XIII edition (1909)

Artusi’s book stands with Manzoni’s great novel, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), and the music of Verdi as works that not only are great unto themselves but represented a sense of identity and self-worth to a nascent country with no nationalistic feeling … Artusi chose to give Italians their definition by telling them how they ate … Anyone who seeks to know Italian food avoids Artusi at his or her peril. He is the fountainhead of modern Italian cookery,” wrote Fred Plotkin in Gastronomica.

Before Artusi died in Florence in 1911, more than 200,000 copies had been already sold. Today, the book is a perennial best seller in Italy and the recipes are still used. It has been translated in Spanish, Dutch, German and English. In 2003, the University of Toronto Press, published a new English translation that is still  in print.

The most recent English translation
The most recent English translation

L’Artusi, as the book is called in Italy, went on to become one of the most read books of the time, a household icon, and a source of inspiration for generations of cooks. There is even an Italian language iPhone app that contains all of Artusi’s 790 recipes.

Although he became famous for his first book, Artusi wrote another – a practical manual for the kitchen – in 1904, with over 3,000 recipes, simply entitled Ecco il Tuo Libro di Cucina (Here is Your Cookbook). Last month, Artusi became a fictional amateur detective in a popular murder mystery written by Pisan Marco Malvaldi – Odore di Chiuso (Smells Stuffy).

Cartton by Sergio Staino for Casa Artusi
Sergio Staino for Casa Artusi - Impossible to eat 'lite' with Artusi

The 100th anniversary events and initiatives to celebrate Artusi include conferences in Florence and Folimpopoli about Artusi and his work, Artusi-themed dinners held in different Italian cities on the 17th of March, Italy’s new national holiday to celebrate Italy’s unification, theatrical performances, various demonstrations and videos, and a national competition.

In Florence, on 31 March, an exhibition, entitled Pellegrino Artusi: il tempo e le opere, will open at the National Central Library. The exhibition will show original work and documents in the life of Artusi and his relationship with the world of publishing. The ‘Artusian’ celebrations will continue in June with a week of culinary stands in Piazza d’Azeglio; in November there will be an Artusi Week, involving catering schools in Florence, as well as restaurant and hotel owners.

Dove Vai? – The Laurentian Library by Michelangelo, Library # 6

The Laurentian Library (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana) in the cloister of the Church of San Lorenzo is not a library where the visitor to Florence can hang out in comfy chairs, but it is one of the most important libraries in Florence –  well worth a visit. The Laurentian was designed by Michelangelo and houses one of the largest neo-classical collections in the world. It is used today by scholars.

Stairway in the Vestibule of the Laurentian Library
Stairway in the Vestibule of the Laurentian Library

Designed by Michelangelo

The Laurentian Library was commissioned in 1523 by Giulio d’Medici, who became Pope Clement VII. Michelangelo came under intense pressure to work quickly; the correspondence between him and Pope Clement is said to be one of the most fascinating records of a creative dialogue between a 16th century patron and an architect.Construction began in 1525, but when Michelangelo left Florence in 1534, only the walls of the reading room were complete. Architects Tribolo and Ammannati continued the project, based on plans and verbal instructions from Michelangelo. The library opened in 1571 and is one of Michelangelo’s most important architectural achievements.

Reading Room
Reading Room

The vestibule, a large box-shaped entry (19.50 meters long, 20.30 meters wide, and 14.6 meters high), was built above existing monastic quarters with its entrance on the upper level of the cloisters. Originally, Michelangelo had planned for a skylight to allow more light into the Library’s entrance hall, but the Pope believed that it would cause the roof to leak, so a high band of windows was incorporated into the west wall. Solely for decorative purposes, blank tapering windows, framed in gray pietra serena, circumscribe the white interior of the vestibule, separated by paired columns set into the wall.

There may have been a carved wooden ceiling (matching that in the Reading Room) planned for the entry hall, but today the area is covered in a canvass painted to look like intricately carved wood.

Stairway designed by Michelangelo
Stairway designed by Michelangelo

The Stairway

The lower half of the vestibule is virtually filled with an out-sized staircase that announces the importance of the Library. This is the singular most popular part of the Library for most visitors – one of the most famous stairways in the world.

The planned design of the stairs changed dramatically over time. Originally in the first design (1524), two flights of stairs were placed against the side walls and formed a bridge in front of the reading room door. A year later the stairway was moved to the middle of the vestibule. Tribolo attempted to carry out this plan in 1550, but nothing was built. Ammannati then took on the challenge of interpreting Michelangelo’s ideas to the best of his ability using a small clay model, scanty material, and Michelangelo’s instructions. Reportedly, Michelangelo envisioned the stairs to be made of a dark wood, but the final construction incorporated fine-grained sandstone, pietra serena, quarried in Fiesole, near where Michelangelo lived as a small child.

Detail on Michelangelo's Stairway
Detail on Michelangelo's Stairway

The staircase leads up to the Reading Room and takes up half of the floor of the vestibule. The treads of the center flights are convex and vary in width, while the outer flights are straight. The three lowest steps of the central flight are wider and higher than the others, almost like concentric oval slabs. As the stairway descends, it divides into three flights. “The dynamic sculpture of the staircase appears to pour forth from the upper level like lava and compress the floor space of the vestibule.” (Fazio, et al. in Buildings Across Time)

Design for the Entry Door

Michelangelo created this sketch for the door between the vestibule and the Reading Room. One side of the original sketch shows the side of the door visible from inside the library, while the vestibule side is shown on the back of the page.

Sketch of Doorway into Library
Sketch of Doorway into Library

The door needed a blank panel above the opening for a dedicatory inscription on the vestibule side and this is shown in all the sketches. In the finished design, more space had to be found as Clement wanted a Latin inscription of between 100 and 140 letters (Twitter – inspired by Michelangelo and the Pope?).

The Reading Room

The long narrow Reading Room runs the full length of one side of San Lorenzo’s square cloister. There are two blocks of bench seats separated by a center aisle with the backs of each serving as desks for the benches behind them. At one time, large illuminated manuscripts were chained to the desks to discourage theft. The Reading Room is well lit by the stained-glass windows that run along the both walls. The newly restored windows display the crest of the Medici. The wide central aisle between the desks is made of large creamy white and burnished red terra cotta tiles in geometric designs.

Desk and Bench Combination
Desk and Bench Combination

Mid-way down the Reading Room, the desks on the right side are separated by a short walkway that ends at the entrance of a square, vaulted domed room, now used for conferences and meetings.

The Collection

The Laurentian Library houses one of the most important and prestigious collection of antique books in Italy. The humanistic interests of Cosimo de’ Medici (Cosimo the Elder) in the early 15th century led him to collect manuscripts from all over Europe, as well from Greece and the Middle East. His friendship with Niccolò Niccoli, with whom he shared a passion for collecting ancient manuscripts of the works of classical authors, resulted, in 1437, in the inheritance of most of Niccoli’s library.

Cosimo’s son Piero added more volumes and his grandson Lorenzo (the Magnificent) completed the collection with the acquisition of hundreds of Greek texts.

The library, although kept largely intact, weathered the trials and tribulations of the Medici family. In 1494, following the sentence of exile imposed on Lorenzo’s son Piero (the Unfortunate), and thus, the banishment from Florence of the whole of the Medici family; the library was confiscated by the city government and absorbed into the library of the San Marco monastery. In 1508, the collection was recovered by Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici (the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who later became Pope Leo X) who transferred it to Rome. His successor Clement VII (Giulio de’ Medici, son of Lorenzo’s brother Giuliano) brought the collection back to Florence in 1523 and immediately commissioned Michelangelo to design a library to house it.

Exhibit of health/diet books
Exhibit of health/diet books

Exhibits

Usually, there is a curated exhibit of historic books from the Laurentian Library on display in space adjacent to the Reading Room. The current show is Díaita. Le regole della salute nei manoscritti della Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (historical books about diet and the rules of health). Past exhibits have included monsters and fantastical creatures found in illuminated manuscripts and the historical “shapes” of  books, including papyrus and scrolls.

Laurentian Library

Address: Piazza S. Lorenzo, 9

Telephone: +39 055210760

Hours:  Monday through Saturday: 9.30am – 1.30pm

Closed: Sunday

Entrance: 3 euro

Current Exhibit:  February 13 to June 26, 2010

Web Site: www.bml.firenze.sbn.it