By CAROL ARMBRUSTER
A gift of 400 recently published fine Italian books came to the Library on Oct. 18.
The 400 books comprised the Italian Book Exhibit, organized for the 24th annual convention of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), held in Washington on Oct. 15-17. The annual NIAF convention organizes exhibits to examine Italian issues and promote Italian culture both within the Italian American community and to a wider American public. This was the first year it included a book exhibit.
The exhibit was organized by the nonprofit Center for the Promotion of Italian Books, based in Rome and headed by Giovanni Cipriani. Richard Higgins, NIAF's director for international relations, arranged for the books to be part of the NIAF convention and to be then transferred to the Library. The gift was initiated by this writer, a specialist in the European Division.
The Center for the Promotion of Italian Books collected volumes published and donated by Italian state sources such as the Italian Cultural Ministry, RAI-ERA of RAI-Radio and Televisione Italiana, as well as regional governments, cultural and local institutions and commercial publishers throughout the country. The donation recognized the various regional heritages of Italian Americans and celebrated the quality and wide range of contemporary Italian publishing in art, history, literature, music and the social sciences.
Franco Cosimo Panini, the largest single donor, personally presented to the Library a copy of the stunning facsimile of the Bible of Borso d'Este, produced by his publishing house, Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, in Modena. The facsimile, eight years in production, is the result of the most advanced techniques of photoreproduction and the highest quality of Italian book craftsmanship. The original manuscript Bible, created between 1455 and 1461, is held by the Estense Library in Modena. One of Italy's most exemplary works of Renaissance illumination, the Bible consists of 1,212 pages elaborately decorated front and back, includes more than 5,000 miniatures and is bound in two volumes. Mr. Panini's gift to the Library follows only two other gifts of this Bible, one to Pope John Paul II and one to the president of Italy. In addition to the Bible, Mr. Panini gave the Library a full set of his silk-bound series on Italian art, Mirabilia Italiae.
On Oct. 15, Francesco Sicilia, director general of the Italian Cultural Ministry's Central Office for Library Assets, Cultural Institutions and Publishing, met with Dr. Billington to present the gift to the Library and to express interest in cooperative projects between Italian libraries and the Library of Congress.
"The Library acknowledges the generous donation on behalf of all the Italian publishers, cultural and local institutions, and the Ministry of Culture," said Dr. Billington, who had met with a number of Italian library officials while in Rome in May 1997.
Mr. Sicilia was accompanied by Massimo Pistacchi, also of the director general's office; Adalgisa Perazza de Pinedo of Italy's Central Cataloging Office; Luigi Maccotta, first counselor of the Italian Embassy; and Annamaria Lelli, director of the Italian Cultural Institute.
After processing, all the materials will be available to researchers in the Library's various general and special-format reading rooms.
Ms. Armbruster is a specialist in the European Division.