Click here to skip to content

Italian Collections

The Italian collections comprise printed books, serials and electronic publications from Italy (including all dialects from Friulian to Sicilian), Italian-speaking Switzerland (including Romansch, Engadin, Grishuns etc.) and from former Italian colonies in Africa (Abyssinia, Eritrea and Somalia). They are one of the finest collections of Italian material in the world.

Editions of major Italian writers from Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Tasso, Leopardi, Manzoni down to Moravia, Sciascia, Calvino, Lampedusa and Eco are well represented in the collections, together with related works of criticism and scholarly editions. The Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio collections are particularly rich.

The post-1850 Italian Collections are rich and extensive. Several of the Library's holdings of historical material produced during the Risorgimento period and the Unification of Italy are extremely rare. This material is available on microfiche: Risorgimento: full texts of rare historical and political materials relating to the Unification of Italy. London: Saur, 1992 [770 microfiche (Mic.F.758) and booklet (RAM 945.083)]. The Collections contain rare editions of works by Leopardi, Ugo Foscolo, Verga, Capuana and by Antonio Panizzi, the political exile who took charge of the Department of Printed Books and later of the whole British Museum. (After his retirement he was knighted as Sir Anthony Panizzi). In recent years works published during the Fascist period, especially very rare books printed in the Italian Colonies in Africa, have been acquired, as well as works by the Italian Futurists, including dedication copies signed by Marinetti, Russolo, Mazza and others, together with splendid copies of fine Italian printing and 'livres d'artiste' illustrated by De Chirico, Morandi, Manz├╣, Annigoni and other prominent artists.

The Collections are particularly strong in history, imaginative literature, the visual arts, language and linguistics, architecture and archaeology. Important contemporary monographs, serials and electronic publications in the humanities and the social sciences at research level are acquired, with the aim of consolidating a research collection relevant not only to Italy, but also to the numerous subjects where Italian scholarship is of international importance.

Catalogues of Italian material in the British Library

Most of the Library's Italian material can be traced in Explore the British Library. Catalogues of early printed Italian material are listed in Italian Printed Collections 1501-1850.

Italian material elsewhere in the British Library

Early printed material (pre-1851) is held by Early Printed Collections. Manuscripts are held by the Manuscript Collections. Newspapers are held at British Library Newspapers. Official and government publications are held at the Social Policy Information Service, Social sciences and scientific serials and conference proceedings are held at the Document Supply service. Scientific monographs are held by Science collections. Recorded sound is held by the Sound Archive. Other Italian material is held in the Map, Music and Philatelic Collections.


Italian Section
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7412 7573 / 7531 / 7696
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7784