Culture / Art Republik

The Braidense National Library of Milan

Located in the Palazzo di Brera, the building was constructed by the Jesuits in the 17th century and the expansive library housed a comprehensive collection of printed materials. Find out also who designed the bookshelves and what other rich historical archives the library collects.

Dec 16, 2017 | By Andrea Sim

Images courtesy of Anagrafe Biblioteche Italiane

The Braidense National Library of Milan

Based in Milan in northern Italy, The Braidense National Library, also known as the Biblioteca di Brera, is one of largest of the 47 Italian State libraries. Created in 1770 by Maria Theresa of Austria, she considered that Milan needed “an open library for the common use of anyone who wants to cultivate his mind, and acquire new knowledge”, and made the collection available after she had acquired the library of Count Carlo Pertusati and assigned the library of Pertusati to the public use. The library was then opened to public in 1786.

The Library

Located in the Palazzo di Brera, the building was constructed by the Jesuits in the 17th century and the expansive library includes the Brera Art Gallery, the Brera Astronomical Observatory, the Brera Botanical Gardens, the Lombard Institute of Science and Letters and the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. In addition to these rich historical archives comprising of manuscripts, printed books and art collections, the library also housed the Archivio Storico Ricordi, the historical records of the Ricordi classical music publishing company since 2003.

In addition to the facilities in the library, the Maria Teresa Hall housed bookshelves designed by the architect Giuseppe Piermarini and the “Reading Room which was originally used by the Jesuits contained some 35,000 books, the Sala Manzoniana with manuscripts, correspondence and editions of the Italian romantic writer Alessandro Manzoni and the Catalogue Room in the Palazzo di Brera.”

Initially, the Braidense was meant to be a general library with the collections consisting of choral works, historical, literary, theological and legal publications as well as extensive general reference works. It benefited from various collections as the library expanded to include botanical and medical works from Swiss bibliophile Albrecht von Haller as well as a some 3,000 works from Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, including valuable 16th century Greek and Latin editions.

“The Braidsense has always has the dual role of both the preservation of historical and literary works and of maintaining its collection of all books published in Milan.” It currently has 898,377 printed volumes, 2,119 manuscripts and 2,368 incunabula.

Admission to the Library is guaranteed to Italian and foreign readers who are at least 16 years old.

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