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The University Library

The University of Padova’s library, established by the Venetian Republic in 1629 and originally located in the Jesuit monastery in the city’s Pontecorvo district, is Italy’s oldest university library.
In order to make sure it would grow, it was compulsory to file a copy of any document printed in the territory of the Venetian Republic.

In 1631, it was moved to the Sala dei Giganti (“Hall of Giants”), and, over time, it acquired a number of private book collections from professors, including the ones belonging to the jurist Bartolomeo Selvatico (1631), the mathematician Bartolomeo Sovero (1632) and the doctor Giacomo Zabarella (1646). Furthermore, in 1773, 5,000 books were acquired from the book collection of the anatomist Giambattista Morgagni who had died two years before. Books belonging to the naturalist Antonio Vallisneri were also added to the library.

Following Napoleon’s suppression of religious groups, a large quantity of manuscripts, incunables and printed books coming from dozens and dozens of monasteries were confiscated. The library was also enriched with the book collections of the Natio Germanica, donations from the Botanical Garden, Canestrini, Musatti, Morpurgo’s collection, the former library of the military base and the papers belonging to the philosopher Roberto Ardigò, a professor at the University of Padova.

In 1912, the library moved from the Sala dei Giganti, as this space had become far too small, and moved to its current home: a state-owned building that was Italy’s first to be constructed following modern criteria specifically designed for use as a library, based on the design by the engineer Giordano Tomasatti.

The shelves, sculpted by the Flemish carpenter Michele Bertens between 1698 and 1704 and inherited from the library in the monastery of Saint Giustina, were taken to Palazzo Bo where, in the 30s, they were installed in the College Hall of professors, today’s “Ancient Archive”, and in the Baldo degli Ubaldi Hall in the School of Law.

The university’s library collection includes the De civitate Dei” manuscript by St. Augustine, which belonged to the bishop, presenting a couplet composed by Petrarca and written by his own hand. There are many incredibly important medical and astronomical works dating back to the XVII-XVIII centuries, as well as Shakespeare’s First Folio, the complete works printed in London in 1623, after his death.