The Marciana Library


The Marciana Library (the Library of St. Mark, patron saint and symbol of the Venetian State) owes its origin to the patronage of Cardinal Bessarion, who donated his collection to it in 1468: about 750 codices, to which he subsequently added a further 250 manuscripts and some printed works. Venice solemnly accepted the donation: thus the project of a "public library" in Venice was finally put into effect: a project that Petrarch had conceived a century earlier, in 1362, but had been unable to realise. The Venetian State committed itself to housing the volumes in a building worthy of the donation; but not until 1537 was work begun on building the Library. It was designed by Jacopo Sansovino, who succeeded in harmonising the noblest classical style of the Renaissance with the picturesque Venetian setting. The Library, after its transferral to the new building, was enriched by further donations and bequests. The Marciana collections were also enlarged by the acquisition of portions of the libraries of some monasteries. Furthermore, printers were obliged by law to donate one copy of every book published to the library; the law was introduced in 1603, the first of its kind in Italy. After the fall of the Venetian Republic, the Library came into possession of portions of the libraries of the religious institutions that were suppressed during the Napoleonic period. The Marciana remained in its original building until 1811; in that year, by decree of the Italian Kingdom, it was transferred to the Doge's Palace. In 1904 the Library was moved to the Zecca (Mint), another Sansovino building. In 1924 the Marciana, in addition to the Zecca, regained possession of the original Library, as well as part of the Procuratie Nuove. Thus, it now occupies not only its historical site, but also the severe palazzo of the Zecca, where the coins of the Republic were minted; the Zecca was built by Sansovino between 1537 and 1547. The Marciana now contains around a million volumes, including about 13,000 manuscripts, many of which are richly illuminated. There are 2,883 incunabola and 24,055 cinquecentine. The Marciana conserves a valuable heritage of Greek culture, Venetian history and Venetian publishing. The Library plays an important role in the cultural life of Venice and serves scholars from all over the world.





The Marciana Library Piazza San Marco 7
30124 Venice, Italy

+39 041523880


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