The Angelica Library


The Angelica Library, near Piazza Navona, in Piazza Sant’Agostino, next to the Basilica of Sant’Agostino in Campo Marzio was the first public library in Italy and the second in Europe after Oxford. In the scenic library are preserved engravings, hundreds and hundreds of manuscripts, Greek and Latin books.

The Angelica Library is the most beautiful library in Rome and the first public library open in Italy. At Angelica, thousands of engravings, Latin, Greek and Oriental books and manuscripts of all sorts are preserved. The patrimony of the library is quite complex: the manuscripts are about 2,700 between Latin, Greek and Oriental, and 24,000 loose documents. The library also has more than 1,100 incunabula and about 20,000 cinquecentine; About 10,000 are the engravings and geographical maps kept by the institution. The possession of contemporary books is also imposing, for which the loan service is provided. The library represents, by virtue of the nature of its book heritage, an indispensable reference point for those who want to study the thought of St. Augustine and the history of the Augustinian order as well as that of the Protestant Reformation and of the Catholic counter-reformation.

Founding it was the bishop Angelo Rocca (1546-1620), from which it took its name, which allowed its rich collection of books to be freely open to all. Over the centuries the library collection increased and during the eighteenth century new accommodation was required. The vaults and the wooden bookcases, the panels and the general architecture are the work of the architect Luigi Vanvitelli.

Opened in 1604, the Angelica is considered in the European context together with the Ambrosiana library of Milan and the Bodleian Library of Oxford as one of the first and clear examples of “public” library, ie an institution created with the clear intent of providing access to books to a community of readers as wide as possible.



The Angelica library was founded thanks to the legacy of the Marches bishop Angelo Rocca (1546-1620), from which it took its name. This, Augustinian, entrusted his own rich book collection to the friars of his order present in Rome, endowing it with its own income and prescribing its openness to all, without any limitation.

In line with this vision of the “popularizing” role of the library, in 1608 Rocca published a short text entitled Bibliotheca Angelica whose purpose was to provide the user with a first introduction to the material contained in the Angelica.

After Rocca’s death, the library’s patrimony soon began to grow thanks to new donations: in 1661 Lucas Holste, guardian of the Vatican Apostolic Library, left his wide collection of printed books to the Angelica Agostini; in 1762, thanks to the revenues mentioned, the library of Cardinal Domenico Passionei, who died the previous year, was purchased. This acquisition in practice doubled the library’s patrimony, and largely determined its scientific orientation: in fact, Cardinal Passionei had been a papal legate in various countries of Protestant Europe, and he had acquired a very large number of religious texts and polemical; he was linked, among other things, to the environment of Roman Jansenism. This extension of the collection dates back to the current arrangement of the monumental hall of the Angelica, due to the unexpected needs of space: accommodation due to the architect Luigi Vanvitelli and completed in 1765.



In 1873, as required by the law, issued six years earlier, of subversion of the ecclesiastical axis, the library was acquired by the newborn Italian State. The enrichment of the book heritage also continued in this period: in 1919 there was incorporated an important collection of works published by Giambattista Bodoni, and at the end of the century there came a curious collection of 954 nineteenth-century opera librettos belonging to Nicola Santangelo, former Minister of the Interior of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and passionate melomane.

Since 1940, the Angelica is home to the Academy of Literature of Arcadia, which preserves, among other things, the library heritage (about 4000 pieces). Since 1975 it depends on the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. In the same year the library collection of the literary critic Arnaldo Bocelli was acquired.


The Angelica Library possesses and protects about 200,000 volumes of which more than 100,000, published from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, constitute the ancient fund of the library. The richest sectors, which are still increased on the basis of purchases and donations, include works on the thought of St. Augustine and on the activity of the Augustinian Order, the history of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, collections on Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio, texts of Italian literature and on the theater from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, rare editions (bodoniane, elzeviriane), works on Rome, Italian and foreign periodicals of the XVII-XVIII centuries.
The Library also has about 600 periodic publications, both Italian and foreign, relating to the same disciplines.
Bibliographic and manual tools of philology and linguistics are purchased for the enhancement and study of collections.

Ancient collection

The Ancient Fund of the Angelica Library consists of more than 100,000 volumes, published from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century.
The first nucleus consists of the volumes left in the late 16th century by the Augustinian bishop Angelo Rocca at the convent of S. Agostino; in 1661 the approximately 3,000 printed volumes were added which Lukas Holste, custodian of the Vatican Library, left at the Library.
In 1762 the rich library of Cardinal Domenico Passionei was acquired, which doubled the bibliographic patrimony of the Angelica.

The richer sectors, which are still being increased, include works on the thought of St. Augustine and on the activity of the Augustinian Order, the history of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation with particular attention to Italy, as well as the texts of religious controversies of the ‘era.
There are also collections on Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, texts of Italian literature and on the theater from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, works on Rome, Elzeviriane.



Modern collection

Since 1873, the bibliographic patrimony of the Angelica Library has continued to be increased by the Ministry of Education, which later became the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities.

The librarians who took over the direction of the Library took care to increase their funds by favoring some bibliographic sectors (Italian literature and literary criticism, church history during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation and Augustinian studies).

In almost a century and a half, so, the assets have increased by about another 100,000 volumes of Italian and foreign editions and bibliographic aids both on paper and electronic media.

In the last century, the Library, together with the autographs in the Roman dialect of Giggi Zanazzo, also received important correspondence, among which Domenico Gnoli and Felice Barnabei stand out for their significant cultural interest.

Since 1940, the Angelica Library has stored about 10,000 volumes owned by the Arcadian Literary Academy.

Also in the twentieth century are worth mentioning the background of Italian literature of the twentieth century, private collection of the literary critic Arnaldo Bocelli, the fund belonging to the Marcello Cardone family and the fund of Achille Tartaro.

Bibliographical Rarity

Liber memorialis of Remiremont

This is the Liber Memorialis of the Abbey of Remiremont, a liturgical memorial, a real register containing all the names of the people, living or dead, to remember in the prayers.

The writing was started in the ninth century, but the manuscript contains records belonging to the next three centuries and therefore there are different hands and writings. The ornamentation consists of a series of ornate initials, decorated with geometric intertwining, the colors are purple, dark red, yellow and gold in leaf. Features are the arches that adorn the pages, decorated with geometric intertwining, they rest on columns that in turn rest on steps. Some feature capitals composed of simple corbels, other larger capitals of vegetable form, similar to a Corinthian capital, while others show capitals decorated with zoomorphic elements. The columns are characterized by geometric interweaving decorations. Forms and themes are linked to the tradition of the manuscript production of the Carolingian and Ottonian period.

De balneis Puteolanis

The codex, composed at the end of the thirteenth century, contains the poison of Pietro da Eboli, De Balneis Terrae Laboris, on the healing properties of the thermal waters of the area between Pozzuoli and Baia, better known under the title De balneis Puteolanis.

Dedicator and inspirer of the poem was Frederick II of Svevia sol mundi, who had the opportunity to experience in person the virtues of the baths of Pozzuoli.

It is a manuscript richly illustrated by eighteen stupendous full-page miniatures, which illustrate the text of the eighteen epigrams that compose it, together with the scientific treatise and poetic composition.

The miniatures, the work of a single artist, are closed by a narrow frame of blue, green or red, and are made with the technique of the backgrounds in gold leaf. They constitute one of the most important examples of miniature in southern Italy, perhaps in Sicily, in the thirteenth century: Byzantine elements are juxtaposed with realistic motifs, Roman architectures with oriental domes. The human figures have common physiognomy and are represented with few variations, on the contrary, various and imaginative landscape references and settings.



Historia naturalis

This Italian edition of 1476 of the Historia naturalis, translated by Cristoforo Landino, is an extensive work on a wide range of scientific topics. It was dedicated to Ferdinando I of Aragon, King of Naples. Landino was a very important humanist scholar, rather well known for his commentary on Dante. The translation from the Latin was an important turning point in the history of Italian language and scientific knowledge. This example is characterized by a precious miniature of the school of Ferrara and in each volume there is an initial decorated. The leather binding is from the 18th century. In this sample there are two notes of possession of Giovanfrancesco Passionei, Gonfaloniere in Urbino in 1493, ancestor of Domenico Passionei, the next owner of the book. The collection of Domenico Passionei was acquired by the Angelica Library in 1762 and has doubled its heritage.

Divine Comedy sec. XIV

The code contains Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Unique copyist, who uses the littera textualis. The delicate plant motifs that adorn the references starting from the third issue also date back to the copyist. On the other hand, the miners of the initials are watermarked.

The songs of the Inferno are preceded, each one, by a miniature that illustrates the subject. They are thirty-four miniatures in which, on a golden background and in bright colors, episodes and figures of Dante’s Inferno are represented. The first scene occupies the space of two columns, the others of a single column. In the sections of Purgatory and Paradiso, reserved white spaces, destined to host cartoons never made.

A single artist is responsible for the miniatures, of high artistic and expressive quality, perhaps of the workshop of the Mezzaratta in Bologna (Ciardi Duprè Dal Poggetto). According to the Salmi, an Emilian miniature, probably from Bologna, in relation with the style of Simone de ‘Crocefissi.

Liber horarum

The code, datable to the second half of the century XV, is a precious example of the Flemish miniature art. Exemplated in Gothic writing on a single column, it contains a Book of Hours according to the use of Rome and consists of the following parts: the Calendar, the prayer to Jesus Christ, the Offices of the Cross and the Passion, of the Holy Spirit, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the seven penitential Psalms, the Litanies, the Office of the dead.

The manuscript is decorated with 15 full-page miniatures inserted in an ornamental frame. In the sheet next to each miniature the motif of the ornamental frame is repeated, which in this case surrounds the written text enriched by an initial illuminated in gold, blue and red. The frames are all on a golden background with flowers, fruit and animals of various colors, according to a type of decoration characteristic of most of the production of Books of Hours between the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in the southern Netherlands .

De Civitate Dei

De civiate Dei is commonly considered the third and last incunabulum created by Sweynheym and Pannartz in Subiaco. Some scholars, however, believe it was printed after their transfer to Rome. Carla Frova and Massimo Miglio believe it may be a sublime printing, but they hypothesize that the company could have been completed, after the departure of the two prototypes for Rome, by a group of monks of the Monastery able to take on this task. In this edition the Latin character used is particularly interesting because it consists of a union between roman and semigotical small letters.
In the lower edge of the paper [15] r., The specimen presents, inside a richly decorated laurel wreath, S. Agostino at the writing desk: behind the saint one can see the representation of a landscape. The crown extends into two side scrolls supported on the left by a putto, on the right by a putto and a cupid. In the scrolls there are two heraldic shields belonging to the Martinozzi family of Fano. The binding is in reddish leather with simple gold framing on the plates, back with friezes and gold title (18th century). The angelic specimen comes from the Biblioteca Passionei.



De Oratore

First edition printed in Italy by De oratore di Cicerone. Conrad Sweynheim and Arnold Pannartz, both from Mainz, where they had been pupils of Gutenberg, were in fact the two German typographers who introduced the art of printing in Italy. Called in the monastery of Subiaco in 1464 by Cardinal Giovanni Torquemada, they implanted the first Italian typography, printing first a Donato (Ars grammatica), and then the De oratore, both without date.

The angelic specimen is one of the seventeen still existing.
The edition, medium format, with full page text of 30 lines and wide margins, is printed with very elegant characters, between Gothic and Roman. The title is in capital epigraphic characters.

Divine Comedy sec. XV

The first edition of the Divine Comedy, the first work in Italian to be printed, was realized in Foligno on 11 April 1472 by the maguntino Johannes Numeister quoted in the colophon together with Evangelista Angelini: “I maestro Iohanni Numeister, a work by Alla decta impression et meco fue El fulginato Evangelista mei “. Neumeister, a pupil of Johann Gutemberg, arrived in Foligno probably in 1463 where he joined the papal zecchiniere Emiliano di Piermatteo degli Orfini, who drew the letters and characters necessary for the printing. Evangelista Angelini, known as Evangelista da Foligno, was born in Trevi and moved to Foligno in 1470. The identity of this Evangelist was discovered by Tommaso Valenti who identified him with Evangelista Angelini da Trevi, residing in Foligno (see A Decisive Document for the “Dante” of Foligno (1472), in “La Bibliofilia” XXVII, 1925-26).

The typographic composition is simple and austere, taking up a typical thread of the manuscript tradition of the XV century Commedia. The medium format edition presents a full page text of 30 lines and wide margins, is printed with an accurate and elegant Roman minuscule, sharp and, at the same time, sensitive to the chiaroscuro values. To the exemplar possessed by the library, one of the few complete that are preserved, was added in the XVII a manuscript frontispiece with floral decorations and coat of arms of the owner.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

First illustrated book and first book in vernacular published by Aldo Manuzio. Work of exceptional fame thanks to the 170 wood carvings, of various sizes, which make up the extraordinary and well-known iconography.
Refined and aristocratic, hermetic and complex is the text made even more difficult by the very original vulgar in which it is written, a true linguistic invention rich in Latinisms, Greek words and artificial words.
Divided into two different parts by content and extension, the Hypnerotomachia (“Pugna d’amore in sogno”) is an allegorical novel: the oneiric iter, performed by Polifilo to reunite with the beloved Polia, is in fact the initiatory journey that leads the protagonist from the initial darkness – symbolized by the forest in which he is lost – to knowledge. But Polifilo does not arrive as Dante to the contemplation of the Christian God but rather to the pagan and ancient vision of nature, of the goddess Venus, the mother goddess of all things, and of her irresistible son Love. The plot of the story is interwoven with descriptions of ancient buildings, enigmatic monuments and ruins, obelisks, hieroglyphics, epigraphs, gardens, temples and fountains, beautiful nymphs.
To the mystery of the content is added also the mystery that surrounds the true identity of the author, whose name is hidden in the long acrostic formed by the initials of the 38 chapters: “Poliam frater Franciscus Columna peramavit”.
Finally, the enigma of the content and the author is also added to the one that surrounds the anonymous architect of the celebrated woodcuts: Pinturicchio, Carpaccio, Mantegna and Bellini have been hypothesized as authors of the drawings, but on the other hand, the very close connection between text and image, has led to suppose that these can be traced back to the same column. In any case it is the hand of a great artist able to bring the tenuous woodcut to the highest expressive and poetic possibilities.

Orlando Furioso

The first edition of the Furioso appears on 22 April 1516, in Ferrara, for the types of Giovanni Mazzocco di Bondeno, perhaps with a circulation of 1300 copies, of which Ariosto himself took care of the diffusion. The novel, in octaves, with dedication to Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, is presented in 40 songs, instead of 46 as in the last drafting. The success of the work is immediate even outside the Ferrara area. The second edition appears, again in Ferrara, but for the Milanese Giovan Battista Pigna, on 13 February 1521. Ariosto spreads his work on the initiative, which he also helped to finance. The edition run of 1521 is quite limited, perhaps only 500 copies. In this edition it adds 11 octaves, removing as many and correcting 2912 verses on 32944, without however a substantial transformation.

The angelican edition of 1521, in 4 °, presents the title page with a wood-printed frame printed in red and black.

On the back of the title page, dedicates Iacopo Sadoleto to Pope Leo X. The text is arranged on two columns.

At the beginning of each song, according to the tradition of the manuscript books, the letter – guide appears that should later be replaced by an initial miniata.
On the last card appears the woodcut engraving of the typographic brand of Giovanni Battista Della Pigna with the motto: “Pro bono malum”

Treaty of scientia d’arme

It is the most famous work of Camillo Agrippa, printed for the first time in Rome in 1553, with a dedication to the duke of Florence Cosimo I, which was followed by numerous reprints. It was inspired by all the subsequent treatises on the subject. The Treaty can certainly be considered innovative due to the continuous appeal that the author makes to geometric schemes, thus giving the art of fencing a scientific type of system. Agrippa introduces a novelty in the duel, based on the use of the “pointed” sword instead of “cutting” highlighting the effectiveness of bringing the sword in front of the body instead of behind. It is probably the first one to use the term “inquartata” and has also contributed to the development of the stocco as a weapon of primary importance. The Treaty is richly illustrated by copper engravings, including the author’s portrait on the verso of the frontispiece, perhaps the work of Baldo Perogino.


It is a dried herbarium (collected in five volumes) dating from around the middle of the sixteenth century. It consists of two herbals conventionally referred to as A and B. The Herbarium A (one volume), before B, is composed of 553 samples arranged without any criteria on the recto of the cards and exceptionally, to indicate the initial imperfection of the collector , also on the verso. The Herbarium B (about 1347 samples) includes four volumes with plants arranged in alphabetical order and is accompanied by an index compiled by the same author. The sample is glued in its entirety: from the root to the flower, to the fruit. With extreme accuracy sometimes the sample itself is presented also cut to show the interior.

The paternity of the work is traditionally attributed to Gherardo Cibo (1512-1600) eclectic character, of Marche origin, who in 1540, retired to private life devoting himself completely to his studies. It does not publish any work: its activity finds an expressive graphic rather than literary form: images of plants, flowers and natural environments, practical application of the botanical studies carried out in Bologna, under the guidance of Luca Ghini. It is in correspondence with the greatest botanists of the time: Pietro Andrea Mattioli, Ulisse Aldrovandi, Leonhardt Fuchs, Andrea Bacci.

The presence of the Herbarium in Angelica is already attested in the original fund of the Library as it appears in the reasoned and commented list published in 1608 under Res Arborea & Herbaria: Herbae ac Plantae reapsae super chartam conglutinata and pluribus tomis in folio comprehensae.

Map of Vicenza

Pen drawing with brown ink and light blue watercolor on white paper (1296 x 1398 mm); in fairly good condition.

A bird’s eye view of the city seen from the north-west: the main squares and the most interesting monuments are highlighted with particular attention to the Palladian architecture.

At the top edge, in a ribbon: “VICENZA”

The card was probably given to Angelo Rocca by Prior General Spirito Anguissola from Vicenza.



Online catalogs

The books owned by the Angelica Library are on-line at the website:
These are the works acquired since 1886. It is also possible to derive the collocations. The site concerns several Roman libraries, but you can set the search only on the Angelica (the locations of the other libraries will also be displayed).

The research for authors and subjects of the works published after 1886 is available on-line at the website: (the locations will not be shown).

The historical catalogs of the Angelica and of the Arcadian Literary Academy are on-line at the website:

The “Catalog for authors and titles of the Antique Printing Fund” and the “Catalog of the Arcadian Literary Academy” for the books of the Library of the Academy of Arcadia preserved in Angelica are displayed in the order. These are the digital reproductions of the catalogs present on site.

For the incunabula the site can be consulted on-line:

On the search page (search) indicate “roma ang” as “Location of copy” and click on “Add another search term” to add other search parameters (title, author, year …). The final tab will show the various locations, but not the locations.

For the five hundred owned by the Angelica Library you can consult the site online:

For the five hundred printed in Italy you can consult the website:
For the five hundred owned by the Angelica insert in the field “Localization” in string “RM0290” in addition to at least one bibliographic data in the relevant field.

For Latin and Greek manuscripts see:

It is advisable to choose the advanced search mode by applying the Angelica Library as a filter or starting from the library search to browse the funds. For the Greek manuscripts and for the Latins 2419-2576 there are also images.

The fund of Libretti d’opera of the Angelica Library, which includes about 1987 specimens, has been digitized by Raffaella Tomaciello and can be consulted online on the Corago website To access the descriptions and reproductions just select the library from the search mask Libretti

How to get there

ANGELICA LIBRARY HOURS – The reading room is open Monday, Friday and Saturday from 8.15 to 13.45; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8.15 to 19.15.

Events, exhibitions and concerts are held at the Angelica Library. The calendar is not very rich but it is worth keeping an eye on it.