A Library in the Stables

March 3, 2015 / Places
Roma, Lazio

Art historians and scholars now have a new specialized library for research thanks to ABI, the Associazione Bancaria Italiana (Italian Banks Association).

entrance ABI
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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.

ABI stacks
abi maps
ABI stacks
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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.

toros y toreros

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.

abi michelang
abi window
abi opening

ABI  book

Mary Jane Cryan

by Mary Jane Cryan

Mary Jane is a historian, cruise lecturer, author and publisher of books on Italian history and central Italy has been residing in Italy for half a century.

See her award winning website www.elegantetruria.com and weekly blog posts on 50YearsInItaly for more about central Italy and to order books directly from the author.

11 Responses to “A Library in the Stables”

  1. I am curious to know what credentails one must have for entry into the library – or, is it open to anyone?

    • Mary Jane Cryan

      Click on the link to the ABI library in the article to see all rules for using the library. Or stop by the library and ask. Its very close to Largo Argentina.

  2. Mary Jane –

    Thank you SO much for your post. Anything about preserving, using, reading, displaying, loaning books is such a treat in this technology-laden world (notwithstanding that I could read your entry only thanks to it).

    What a treasure. This is the kind of ‘largesse’ that our world sorely needs. I hope it is open to school visits.

    • Mary Jane Cryan

      Check the rules about visiting and using the library on the ABI website. It definitely will be precious for individual scholars studying in Rome.

  3. Mary O. Brugliera

    What a wonderful treasure. My only concern is the shot of a visitor touching a book with her apparently ungloved hands. I trust the biblioteca is following rare manuscripts conservation best practices……

    • Mary Jane Cryan

      Not to worry, the books here are not rare manuscripts, however there are some anastatic copies of rare manuscripts. I noted that the Picasso book has the same wear as the copy I possess.

  4. Lina Falcone

    Grazie it’s very intesting hope it will be open to the children and adults to visit.


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