The Angelica Library, founded in 1604 by the Augustinian bishop Angelo Rocca, is the first European library open to the public.
The ancient collection is estimated at about 120,000 volumes relating mainly to Augustinian thought and the history of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.
Since 1940 it has been the seat of the Arcadia Literary Academy and since 1975 it has been part of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and for Tourism.
Biblioteca Angelica History
The Angelica Library is an Italian library, located in Rome in Piazza Sant'Agostino, near Piazza Navona, next to the Basilica of Sant'Agostino in Campo Marzio.
The library's patrimony is quite complex: there are about 2,700 manuscripts including Latin, Greek and Oriental, and 24,000 loose documents. The library also has more than 1,100 incunabula and about 20,000 sixteenth-century books; About 10,000 are the engravings and maps preserved by the institution. Also impressive is the possession of contemporary books, for which the loan service is provided.
The Library takes its name from the Augustinian bishop Angelo Rocca, an erudite writer and passionate collector of fine editions, responsible for the Vatican Printing House during the pontificate of Sixtus V, who in the last years of the 16th century entrusted his book collection of about 20,000 volumes to the friars of the convent of Sant'Agostino of Rome.
In the first half of the eighteenth century, the Roman convent and its library were the background to the religious controversies of the time: in Angelica there are editions of forbidden texts that are still essential today for studies and research on the period of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. The Library had obtained a special authorization to possess prohibited books and precisely this derogation from censorship allowed it to keep the approximately 600 volumes of the library of the Augustinian Bishop Enrico Noris. In 1762 the fund of the library was doubled with the purchase of the very rich library of the cardinal Domenico Passionei and in those same years the friars commissioned the renovation of the convent to the architect Luigi Vanvitelli, who finished the construction of the current hall in 1765. The library, closed for works since 1748, was reopened to the public only in 1786, when the drafting of the catalog of printed works was completed.
In the 19th century the history of Angelica was marked by the historical events that affected the city of Rome: from the invasion of the French to the proclamation of the Mazzinian republic, which took place in 1849. The events of the Augustinians in Angelica ended in 1873, with the passage of the library to the Italian State.
Since 1940 it has kept about 10,000 volumes owned by the Arcadia Literary Academy. Since 1975 it has been dependent on the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. In the same year, the library of the literary critic Arnaldo Bocelli was purchased, which includes Italian literature of the twentieth century. In 2005, the Cardone Fund was donated: 800 volumes of French and Italian literature from the last years of the nineteenth century. In 2009 the book collection of Professor Achille Tartaro was acquired as a gift with 1200 works mostly of literary criticism.