Art historians and scholars now have a new specialized library for research thanks to ABI, the Associazione Bancaria Italiana (Italian Banks Association).
On February 11th a unique library was inaugurated in the majestic spaces of the former Scuderie (stables) of Palazzo Altieri. Located in a quiet back street not far from the bustle of Largo Argentina and Piazza Venezia, the former stables building was recently renovated by architect Gae Aulenti and now holds 10,000 rare books – all published by Italian banks over the last 150 years.
Until now the luxuriously illustrated volumes were in the hands of a select few as they were published (sparing no expense) to use as gifts for the banks’ major clients.
I was pleased to see a few volumes picked up over the years at second hand bookshops in Moscow and on Rome’s Via del Pellegrino such as Picasso’s “Toros y Toreros” published by a bank in 1961 which has a value of $1,500 today.
The emphasis is on art, architecture, music, archeology, artists’ biographies, applied arts, local history, cinema and economic history. Among the precious in facsimile editions is the large format four volume “Corpus dei disegni di Michelangelo,” a facsimile of the Bible of Borso Este with illuminated pages, and a copy of Sir William Hamilton’s “Campi Phlegraei“ published in 1776.
There are about 1,500 volumes that are not available in any other Italian library and for this reason the Biblioteca ABI has adhered to the cultural Institutes of Rome association so a vast public can consult all the works of the Italian banks.
The catalogue can be consulted online at Biblioteca ABI along with information on library use.