The Library of CongressExhibitions
Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library & Renaissance Culture
EXHIBITION COMPANION VOLUME
From the Preface
The exhibition which this book accompanies is the first in a series of exhibitions that the Library of Congress plans to present about great libraries of the world. The catalogs that will provide a record of each of the exhibits intend to go far beyond simple descriptions of artifacts. These books will be distinguished by highly readable scholarly studies, written by leading specialists, of the intellectual, social, and cultural environments that created the objects on display.
It is especially fitting that this series begin with the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. The Vatican Library is the prototypical modern research library of western culture. Surprisingly, its collections are not primarily theological. From its founding by Pope Nicholas V in the 1450s, the Vatican Library consciously pursued an acquisitions policy that focused upon the liberal arts and sciences. Consequently, the library has special strengths in unexpected areas, such as the history of the exact sciences, East Asian languages and literatures, and music history.
As Professor Grafton makes clear in his introductory essay, this counterintuitive acquisition policy was not accidental; it reflected the conscious determination of the Renaissance papacy to place knowledge systematically at the service of governance. Heir to that tradition, Thomas Jefferson assigned precisely the same function to the Library of Congress in the context of American democracy: to ground the world of public affairs in the world of learning. It is, therefore, fully appropriate that this exhibition take place in the Library of Congress, an institution that represents the ultimate modern embodiment of an ideal that originated with the Renaissance popes.
This volume and the exhibition it describes also testify to a special relationship that exists between the Library of Congress and the Vatican Library. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Library of Congress, supported by a grant from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, sent teams of technical experts to assist in the modernization of the Vatican Library's technical operations. The first time I met Fr. Leonard Boyle, the present prefect of the Vatican Library, he recounted to me the history of this extensive collaboration. As Father Boyle suggests in his essay, this unique exhibition is the Vatican's elegant way of repaying the assistance given by its American collaborator.
The Library of Congress's curatorial team learned new and surprising things in the process of selecting the two hundred manuscripts, rare books, maps, and fine prints for display. Certain schools of western historiography have depicted the papacy as fighting a long rearguard action against the rise of modernization and enlightenment. Our curators discovered quite a different reality. They were impressed by the level and depth of papal sponsorship of the life of the mind throughout the Renaissance--especially the birth of Near and Far Eastern studies and the rise of modern science and classical studies. Beyond the well-known story of papal patronage of the arts remains another untold story of great historical interest.
It is my hope that this magnificent exhibition and its accompanying volume will stimulate serious academic research on this and other heretofore neglected topics.
JAMES H. BILLINGTON
From the Acknowledgments
The book Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library & Renaissance Culture and the exhibition it commemorates are the work of many people, and it is a pleasure to finish off the project by thanking those who made it possible. In the first instance, and above all, thanks are owed to Declan Murphy of the Library of Congress, who directed the project. He negotiated the exhibition; he arranged our initial visit to Rome in winter 1989, when planning began; his siren songs induced librarians and scholars to collaborate and various benefactors, to provide financial support; and his erudition and intelligence were crucial at every stage. Other members of the Library staff made vital contributions. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, raised critical funds and offered generous moral and institutional support. Stephen Ostrow, Robert Dierker, Carolyn Brown, and Diantha Schull gave us the considerable benefit of their constructive criticism. Norma Baker helped in many ways, above all by serving, along with Richard Sherr, as the section curator for music. Irene Burnham and her staff provided expert technical support at all stages, from the first discussions of the exhibition's shape and scope to its actual mounting in a splendidly refinished exhibition room. Dana Pratt, Johanna Craig, and Evelyn Sinclair of the Publishing Office transformed texts and images into a finished book with meticulous care. Marlene Pamer coordinated the movements of an alarmingly varied and numerous cast of characters with patience and sang- froid. Jimmy Haritos coordinated events, budgets, and paperwork for the entire operation. And Elizabeth Wulkan, sine qua non, managed the entire enterprise with an equanimity, efficiency, and good humor that proved essential to all participants.
John W. Kluge, in a touching gesture of spontaneous generosity, underwrote the entire cost of the exhibition. The Charles W. Engelhard Foundation generously subsidized the design and fabrication of the exhibition cases. Two firms collaborated to give the exhibit its splendid physical embodiment. John Crank and Bob Riggs of Franklin Street Communications, Richmond, Virginia, and Michael Graves, Keith McPeters, and Tom Rowe of Michael Graves, Architect, Princeton, New Jersey, created an environment that complemented both the Library of Congress's splendid exhibit space and the Vatican Library's matchless manuscripts and books.
The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana supported our efforts with extraordinary generosity. Secretary of State Agostino Cardinal Casaroli gave permission for this unprecedented loan. The prefect of the Library, Father Leonard Boyle, gave us wonderful working conditions, sound advice, enthusiastic support, and the inspiration of his own love for the manuscripts. The beleaguered but ever-generous staff of the manuscript room, Guido Zanoni and Claudio Anzini, and Ernesto Brevetto greeted strenuous demands on their time and energy with patience and kindness. Amadeo Arditi and the staff of the photography department produced a vast number of splendid photographs with meticulous care. And many fellow devotees of the Vatican collections gave expert advice. Special thanks should go to John Monfasani, whose counsel ranged beyond the contents of the library to the restaurants of Rome; to Joseph Connors, who gave hospitality and encouragement to several of the section curators in his capacity as director of the American Academy in Rome; and to Michael Crawford, Arthur Field, Isabel Frank, Katherine Gill, Vivian Nutton, and Ingrid Rowland.
Finally, I wish to thank the section curators, whose erudition and energy made it possible to mount this exhibition and to produce this catalog; and Helen St. John, who saved all of us from many errors of taste and substance in her capacity as research assistant to the editor.
NORMA BAKER, Library of Congress, is a musicologist and is currently an administrator in the Office of the Librarian of Congress.
HOWARD L. GOODMAN, Department of East Asian Studies, Harvard University, is an intellectual historian who specializes in the history of religion, magic, and science in ancient China and the cultural relations between China and the West in early modern times. He is managing editor of Asia Major.
ANTHONY GRAFTON, Department of History, Princeton University, studies the history of Renaissance humanism and of early modern science. His books include Forgers and Critics (Princeton University Press, 1990) and Defenders of the Text (Harvard University Press, 1991).
ALASTAIR HAMILTON, Department of the History of Ideas, University of Leiden, works on the history of religion and the development of Near Eastern scholarship in early modern Europe. He has written, among other books, William Bedwell, the Arabist (E. J. Brill and Leiden University Press, 1985) and he regularly reviews books on early modern history for the Times Literary Supplement.
JAMES HANKINS, Department of History, Harvard University, has written the definitive two-volume historical study Plato in the Italian Renaissance, Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition (E. J. Brill, 1990). He is currently studying both the Platonic Academy of Marsilio Ficino and the career and thought of Leonardo Bruni, the distinguished humanist who served for many years as chancellor of the Republic of Florence.
RICHARD SHERR, Department of Music, Smith College, is an expert on the history of musical life and performance in Renaissance Rome.
NANCY G. SIRAISI, Department of History, Hunter College, and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, is a historian of medicine and of education in medieval and Renaissance Europe. She has written several books, including The Canon of Avicenna in Sixteenth Century Italy (Princeton University Press, 1986).
N. M. SWERDLOW, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago, studies the history of the exact sciences in the ancient world and during the Renaissance. He is the author, with the late O. Neugebauer, of the first detailed account, in two volumes, of Mathematical Astronomy in Copernicus's De revolutionibus (Springer-Verlag, 1984).
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