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Italian Printed Books 1501-1800: Some Bibliographical Resources

The bibliographical record of early printing and publishing in Italy is highly fragmented and localised. Until comparatively recently there have been no large-scale attempts within Italy itself to record early book production on a national scale.

This situation is partly a result of the strongly regionalised and localised identities of Italy, but it also reflects the complex character of Italian book production. This from the outset has been notable both for the very large number of minor centres of printing in addition to the main cities such as Venice, Milan and Rome, as well as for the vast number of individual printers and publishers working in the leading centres. In looking for a reference for an Italian book therefore, it is always worth searching on the name of a town, of a library, of an individual printer or publisher since annals or catalogues with these as their focus may well have been produced.

The main bibliographical resources which are available are described below. For printed reference works, British Library shelfmarks are given.

16th Century Books

  1. Short-title catalogue of books printed in Italy and of Italian books printed in other countries from 1465 to 1600 now in the British Museum (London, 1958); Supplement (London, 1986) [shelfmark: RAR094.20945].

    With around 16,000 entries, this is a high enough proportion of the estimated total book production in 16th-century Italy to make the British Library's collections significantly comprehensive and representative. Includes indexes of printers and publishers; (in supplement) places of printing; false and fictitious imprints. For further information on the catalogue see: A.F. Johnson, Italian Sixteenth-Century Books: the Presidential Address to the Bibliographical Society 19 March 1957, The Library, 5th series, vol. 13, no.3 (1958) [shelfmark: RAR010 (small-sized sequence)].

  2. Short-title catalogue of books printed in Italy and of books in Italian printed abroad, 1501-1600, held in selected North American libraries, by Robert G Marshall (Boston, Mass., 1970) [shelfmark: RAR094.20945].

    Covers the holdings of 42 libraries, including the Library of Congress, Folger Shakespeare Library, National Library of Medicine, and New York Public Library. Index of printers and publishers.

  3. Catalogue of books printed on the continent of Europe, 1501-1600 in Cambridge libraries, by HM Adams (Cambridge, 1967) [shelfmark: RAR094.2094 CA].

    Covers the University Library, college and departmental libraries. Indexes of printers and publishers; places of printing.

  4. Censimento delle Edizioni Italiane del XVI Secolo (EDIT16)

    Since the online version went live in the spring of 2000, EDIT16 has become the leading resource for 16th-century Italian books. Contains around 50,354 entries (June 2003), estimated to rise to 80,000 when work is completed. Covers the holdings of over 1,200 libraries. Allows searching by title, author, publisher/printer, year of publication, printer's device, etc. (no keyword searching); browsing; navigational linking. Contains a partially complete authority file for the headings for authors and publishers/printers � this usefully lists the biographical/bibliographical reference sources consulted to establish the heading. Note: The first three letters of the catalogue are also available in printed form (Rome, 1985- ) [shelfmark: RAR094.20945]: it is unclear whether this form of publication will now continue.

17th Century Books 

  1. Catalogue of seventeenth century Italian books in the British Library (London, 1986) [shelfmark: RAR094.20945].

    Around 14,000 entries. Indexes of and publishers; places of printing; false and fictitious imprints; books with no place or printer or publisher.

  2. Italian 17th-century books in Cambridge libraries: a short-title catalogue, by RL Bruni, DW Evans (Firenze, 1997) [shelfmark: RAR094.20945 CA].

    Continues the work of Adams (see above). Covers the University Library, college and departmental libraries. Nearly 6,000 entries. Indexes of titles; editors, translators, commentators; printers and publishers; places of printing; by year of publication.

  3. Autori italiani del '600, a cura di S Piantanida, L Diotallevi, G Livraghi (series: Libreria Vinciana)(Milano, 1948-51). [shelfmark: RAR094.20945].

    A bookseller's catalogue which because of its range and detail has established itself as a permanent reference resource. Library locations are not given. Around 5,000 entries, arranged by subject (social life, history, law, economics, theatre, religion, etc.). The indexes as originally planned were never compiled; see below.

  4. Italian seventeenth century books: indexes of authors, titles, dates, printers and publishers - based on the Libreria Vinciana�s 'Autori italiani del '600', by RL Bruni and DW Evans (Exeter, 1984) [shelfmark: RAR094.20945].

    Indexes to the Autori italiani del '600 above.

  5. Répertoire des ouvrages imprimés en langue italienne au XVIIe siècle conservés dans les bibliothèques de France, SP Michel, P-H Michel (Paris, 1967-84) [shelfmark: RAR094.20945 FRA].

    Includes only books in the Italian language and omits the very considerable proportion of Latin books published in Italy during the century. Covers the holdings of over 50 libraries, including the Biblioth&egraveque Nationale, and the Arsenal and Mazarine libraries.

18th Century Books 

There are no major bibliographical resources dealing exclusively with 18th century Italian printed books. However, many of the works listed under General Catalogues can be used.

19th Century Books 

  1. Catalogo dei libri italiani dell'Ottocento (1801-1900) (CLIO) (Milano, 1991) [shelfmark: HLR015.45].

    Around 421,000 entries. Excludes serials, official publications, commercial catalogues, maps. Arranged in three sequences: authors, publishers and printers; places of publication. Indexes of translators, editors, illustrators, etc., places of publication by region and by city.

General Catalogues 

Given the lack of comprehensive catalogues of Italian books, especially for the 18th century, in the search for bibliographical references for Italian material, it is always worth checking:

  1. Base Dati 'Libro Antico' of the Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico (Servizio Bibliotecario Nazionale).

    Period covered: 1465-1830. Includes non-Italian books found in Italian libraries. 282,010 entries (June 2003). Searching by author, title, publisher/printer, place of publication, keyword, etc.; browsing; navigational linking. Note: About half the number of entries in this database (ca. 142,000) are also included on the Heritage Printed Book Database, produced by the Consortium of European Research Libraries (see below).

  2. National Union Catalog pre-1956 imprints (NUC) [shelfmark: HLL018.3 NUC].
  3. Heritage Printed Book Database [available through the Electronic Resources computers in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room].

    Period covered: ca. 1455-1830. Around 1,240,000 entries (June 2003), of which some 90,000 are Italian publications. Searching by author, title, subject, printer/publisher, etc. Covers holdings of 37 national and university libraries in 15 countries. For further information on contributing libraries, editorial policy, etc. see the website of the Consortium of European Research Libraries.

  4. Union catalogue of foreign books in British libraries, 1501-1800.

    Card catalogue kept in the office of the British Library Early Printed Collections department. Some 208,000 entries (no separate figure for Italian publications).

The catalogues of the principal UK and European libraries with substantial Italian holdings and also worth consulting. These include: