The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (English: National Library of St Mark's) is a library and Renaissance building in Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...
, northern Italy; it is one of the earliest surviving public manuscript depositories in the country, holding one of the greatest classical texts collections in the world. The library is named after St. Mark, the patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...
of Venice. It is not to be confused with the State Archive of the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...
, which is housed in a different part of the city.
HistoryThe library was provided with a building designed by Jacopo Sansovino
Jacopo d'Antonio Sansovino was an Italian sculptor and architect, known best for his works around the Piazza San Marco in Venice. Andrea Palladio, in the Preface to his Quattro Libri was of the opinion that Sansovino's Biblioteca Marciana was the best building erected since Antiquity...
. The first sixteen arcaded bays of his design were constructed during 1537 to 1553, with work on fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...
es and other decorations continuing until 1560. Sansovino died in 1570, but in 1588, Vincenzo Scamozzi
thumb|250px|Portrait of Vincenzo Scamozzi by [[Paolo Veronese]]Vincenzo Scamozzi was a Venetian architect and a writer on architecture, active mainly in Vicenza and Republic of Venice area in the second half of the 16th century...
undertook the construction of the additional five bays, still to Sansovino's design, which brought the building down to the molo or embankment, next to Sansovino's building for the Venetian mint, the Zecca
Zecca, Italian for "mint" , may refer to:* The historical Papal mint located in Vatican City.* The mint of the Italian Republic, Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, which is still active....
. One of the early librarians, from 1530, was Pietro Bembo
Pietro Bembo was an Italian scholar, poet, literary theorist, and cardinal. He was an influential figure in the development of the Italian language, specifically Tuscan, as a literary medium, and his writings assisted in the 16th-century revival of interest in the works of Petrarch...
. However, the library stock began to be collected before the construction of the building. For example, the germ of the collections in the library was the gift to the Serenissima of the manuscript collection assembled by Byzantine
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...
, scholar, patron and collector, Cardinal Bessarion; he made a gift of his collection on 31 May 1468: some 750 codices
A codex is a book in the format used for modern books, with multiple quires or gatherings typically bound together and given a cover.Developed by the Romans from wooden writing tablets, its gradual replacement...
in Latin and Greek, to which he added another 250 manuscripts and some printed books (incunabula), constituting the first "public" library open to scholars in Venice. (In 1362 Petrarch's library
The poet Petrarch arranged to leave his personal library to the city of Venice; but it never arrived. The Venetian tradition that this was the founding of the Biblotheca Marciana is an anachronism; it was founded a century later.-Petrarch's books:...
was donated to Venice but this collection of manuscripts, ancient books, and personal letters was lost or dispersed).
Like the British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...
or the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...
at later times, the Biblioteca Marciana profited from a law of 1603 that required that a copy be deposited in the Marciana of all books printed at Venice, the first such law. The Marciana was enriched by the transfer in the late eighteenth century of the collections accumulated in several monasteries, such as SS. Giovanni e Paolo in Venice and S. Giovanni di Verdara in Padua
Padua is a city and comune in the Veneto, northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua's population is 212,500 . The city is sometimes included, with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, having...
Great additions have been made to the collection from time to time:
- 1589: Melchiorre Guilandino of Marienburg (2.200 printed books);
- 1595: Jacopo Contarini da S. Samuele, delayed until the extinction of the ContariniContariniContarini is an illustrious Venetian family, which furnished eight Doges to the Republic of Venice, as well as an array of eminent figures of the Church, statecraft, generalship, art, and letters.- Notable members :* Domenico I Contarini Contarini is an illustrious Venetian family, which furnished...
in the male line, in 1713 (175 mss and 1500 printed books);
- 1619: Girolamo Fabrici d'Acquapendente (13 volume with hand-colored anatomical illustrations);
- 1624: Giacomo Gallicio (20 Greek mss);
- 1734: Gian Battista Recanati (216 mss, among them the codices of the house of GonzagaHouse of GonzagaThe Gonzaga family ruled Mantua in Northern Italy from 1328 to 1708.-History:In 1433, Gianfrancesco I assumed the title of Marquis of Mantua, and in 1530 Federico II received the title of Duke of Mantua. In 1531, the family acquired the Duchy of Monferrato through marriage...
- 1792: Tommaso Giuseppe Farsetti (350 mss and printed books);
- 1794: Amedeo Svajer (more than 340 mss among which is the last will of Marco PoloMarco PoloMarco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...
- 1797: Jacopo Nani (over 1000 mss, largely Greek and Eastern)
With the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the Marciana was enriched by the transfer of manuscripts and books from religious houses that were suppressed under the Napoleonic regime. In 1811 the library was moved to more spacious quarters in the Doge's Palace, where further collections entered:
- 1814: Girolamo Ascanio Molin (2209 fine printed books, 3835 prints and 408 drawings, housed in the Museo CorrerMuseo CorrerThe Museo Correr is the civic museum of Venice, located in the Piazza San Marco, and is entered by the ceremonial stairway in the Ala Napoleonica at the western end of the Piazza opposite the church of San Marco at the other end...
for the most part;
- 1843: Girolamo Contarini (906 mss and 4000 printed books);
- 1852: Giovanni Rossi (470 mss and a collection of Venetian operaOperaOpera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...
In 1904 the collection was moved to Sansovino's Zecca (built 1537-47 as a mint). The Library has since expanded back into its adjacent original quarters and even into sections of the Procuratie
The Procuratie are three connected buildings on St Mark's Square in Venice. They are also connected to St Mark's Clocktower...
Nuove facing Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco , is the principal public square of Venice, Italy, where it is generally known just as "the Piazza". All other urban spaces in the city are called "campi"...
Today, besides about a million printed books, the Biblioteca Marciana contains about 13,000 manuscripts and 2883 incunabula and 24,055 works printed between 1500 and 1600. There are many illuminated manuscripts. Among the irreplaceable treasures are unique scores of operas by Francesco Cavalli
Francesco Cavalli was an Italian composer of the early Baroque period. His real name was Pietro Francesco Caletti-Bruni, but he is better known by that of Cavalli, the name of his patron Federico Cavalli, a Venetian nobleman.-Life:Cavalli was born at Crema, Lombardy...
and sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti
Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti was an Italian composer who spent much of his life in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families. He is classified as a Baroque composer chronologically, although his music was influential in the development of the Classical style...