Italian printed collections

Veduta della Piazza del Popolo
G.B. Piranesi 'Veduta della Piazza del Popolo' from Vedute di Roma ca 1750.

Our Italian collections cover all periods and a wide variety of subjects. They include material published in the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino and publications in Romansch.

About the collection

The collections are particularly strong in history, literature, the visual arts, language and linguistics, architecture and archaeology. The early printed collections from the 15th century onwards are outstanding including ephemera and popular printing. Later periods, including the Risorgimento and the early 20th century are also very well represented, with a significant collection of Futurist material.

Important contemporary monographs, serials and electronic publications in the humanities and the social sciences at research level continue to be acquired.

What is available online?

As a result of mass digitisation projects, in particular the ongoing British Library Google Books digitisation project, access to a growing number of Italian out-of-copyright digitised books is available free of charge. To find them search Explore the British Library and then refine your result list by Access Options: Online.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The British Library's online catalogue, Explore the British Library, can be used to search for Italian printed material and order it to a Reading Room.

Most post-1850 Italian printed books and periodicals can be ordered to any of our Reading Rooms, usually within 70 minutes, although an increasing amount of material is held at our Boston Spa site in Yorkshire and may take up to two days to arrive.

Pre-1850 material can be consulted in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room, while newspapers, maps and manuscripts are available in their own respective Reading Rooms. All the reading rooms have some reference works on open shelves, including bibliographies, catalogues, dictionaries and general reference works.

A large number of electronic resources are also available through the Reading Room PCs. Staff are available to offer bibliographic and other basic research assistance.

Further information

there are two specialist printed catalogues of our pre-1701 holdings as well as a full-text catalogue of the library’s Risorgimento collection. 

How to guides

Guide to researching provenance of books now in the British Library

Where do the British Library’s old printed books ‘come from'? Who owned or read them in centuries past? Why does it matter?

Terms of use for Google Books

This page states the terms and conditions surrounding the British Library’s out of copyright books which have been digitised by Google.

How to request items not in the catalogue

You can use 'Request Other Items' to order items which have no record in Explore the British Library. Also to order most items found in Expore Archives and Manuscripts.

Guide to Explore the British Library

A guide to help you use the catalogue, covering: login, search, how to manage your results, how to order/view items

What collection items can I view online?

You can see books, manuscripts, maps, playbills, scores and much more. Researchers can use our collection of electronic resources and databases to help them find material relevant to their research.

Can I take photographs of British Library material myself?

You can now take photos of our collection items yourself in British Library Reading Rooms

Can I copy material in the Reading Rooms?

What you need to know about copying British Library collections in our Reading Rooms

How to handle books

See the techniques you should use to keep our books in good shape.

How to handle rolled items

We show how you should unroll items like scrolls, rolls and maps.

Conditions of Use of British Library Reading Rooms

You need to follow some rules if you want to use our Reading Rooms

Breaches of British Library Reading Room Conditions of Use

These guidelines outline the British Library’s policies and procedures with regard to breaches of its Reading Room Conditions of Use. They are to ensure consistency in the actions taken in response to such breaches and to define the appropriate roles and responsibilities in the process.

Electronic resources

We collect thousands of electronic journals, books and websites and hundreds of databases. You’ll need to come to the British Library to access the majority of these resources.

Free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions: 2019

We offer a range of free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions to help you make the most of your time researching here.

Using gloves with our collection items

Should you wear gloves? Here's some advice to help you decide.

Get a Reader Pass

Access over 200 million collection items for free with a Reader Pass. Carry out research in our Reading Rooms and access our online collections.

Search for resources in microforms

How to search for resources in microforms

How to handle folded items

Find out how you should hand items like large maps and book inserts.