The Marciana Library (Italian: Biblioteca Marciana), also Library of Saint Mark, is a public library in Venice, Italy. It is one of the earliest surviving public libraries and repositories for manuscript in Italy and holds one of the greatest collections of classical texts in the world. It is named after St. Mark, the patron saint of the city. In historical documents, it is officially Bibliotheca (Aedis) Sancti Marci but commonly Libreria pubblica di san Marco.[note 1]
The library was founded in 1468 when the humanist scholar Cardinal Basilios Bessarion, titular Latin patriarch of Constantinople, donated his personal collection of Greek and Latin manuscripts to the Republic of Venice with the stipulation that a library of public utility be established. The collection was the result of Bessarion's concerted effort to locate and acquire rare manuscripts throughout Greece and Italy as a means of preserving the knowledge of the classical Greek world after the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. His choice of Venice was primarily due to the city's large community of Greek refugees and its historical ties to Byzantium. The Venetian government was slow, however, to honour its commitment to suitably house the collection with decades of discussion and indecision, owing to a series of military crises and the resulting climate of political uncertainty. The library was ultimately built during the period of recovery as a part of a vast programme of urban renewal aimed at glorifying the republic through architecture and affirming its international prestige as a centre of wisdom and learning.
The original library building is prominently located in Saint Mark's Square, Venice's former governmental centre, with its long façade facing the Doge's Palace. Constructed between 1537 and 1588, it is considered the masterpiece of Jacopo Sansovino and a key work in Venetian Renaissance architecture. The Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio described it as "perhaps the richest and most ornate building that there has been since ancient times up until now" ("il più ricco ed ornato edificio che forse sia stato da gli Antichi in qua"). The art historian Jacob Burckhardt regarded it as "the most magnificent secular Italian building" ("das prächtigste profane Gebäude Italiens"), and Frederick Hartt called it "one of the most satisfying structures in Italian architectural history". Also significant for its art, the library houses many works by the great painters of sixteenth-century Venice, making it a comprehensive monument to Venetian Mannerism.
Today, the historical building is customarily referred to as the Libreria sansoviniana and is largely a museum. Since 1904, the library offices, the reading rooms, and most of the collection have been housed in the adjoining Zecca, the former mint of the Venetian Republic. The library is now officially known as the Biblioteca nazionale Marciana.[note 2]
Cathedral and monastic libraries were the principal centres of study and learning throughout the Middle Ages. But beginning in the fifteenth century, the humanist emphasis on the knowledge of the classical world as essential to the formation of the Renaissance man led to a proliferation of court libraries, patronized by princely rulers, several of which provided a degree of public access. In Venice, an early attempt to found a public library in emulation of the great libraries of Antiquity was unsuccessful, as Petrarch's personal collection of manuscripts, donated to the republic in 1362, was dispersed at the time of his death.
In 1468, however, the Byzantine humanist and scholar Cardinal Basilios Bessarion, titular Latin patriarch of Constantinople, donated his collection of 482 Greek and 264 Latin codices to the Republic of Venice, stipulating that a public library be established to ensure both their conservation for future generations and availability for scholars.[note 3] The formal letter of donation, dated 13 May 1468 and addressed to Doge Cristoforo Moro and the Senate, narrates that following the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and its devastation by the Turks, Bessarion had set ardently about the task of acquiring the rare and important works of the classical Greek authors and adding them to his existing collection so as to prevent the further dispersal and total loss of ancient Greek knowledge. The cardinal's stated desire in offering the collection to Venice specifically was that the manuscripts should be properly conserved in a city where many Greek refugees had fled and which he himself had come to consider "another Byzantium" ("alterum Byzantium").[note 4]
Bessarion’s first contact with Venice had been in 1438 when, as the newly ordained metropolitan bishop of Nicaea, he arrived with the Byzantine delegation to the Council of Ferrara-Florence, the objective being to heal the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches and unite Christendom against the Ottoman Turks. His travels to and from Germany as envoy for Pope Pius II brought him briefly to the city again in 1460 and 1461,[note 5] and on 20 December 1461 he was admitted into the Venetian aristocracy with a seat in the Great Council.
In 1463, Bessarion returned to Venice as the papal legate, tasked with negotiating the republic's participation in a crusade to liberate Constantinople from the Turks. During this extended sojourn (1463–1464), the cardinal lodged and studied in the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, and it was to the monastery that he initially destined his Greek codices which were to be consigned after his death. But under the influence of the humanist Paolo Morosini and his cousin Pietro, the Venetian ambassador to Rome, Bessarion annulled the legal act of donation in 1467 with papal consent, citing the difficulty readers would have had in reaching the monastery, located on a separate island.[note 6] The following year, Bessarion announced instead his intention to bequeath his entire collection, both the Greek and Latin codices, to the Republic of Venice with immediate effect.[note 7]
On 28 June 1468, Pietro Morosini took legal possession of Bessarion’s library in Rome on behalf of the republic. The valuable bequest included the 466 codices, which were transported to Venice in crates the next year.[note 8][note 9] To this initial delivery, more codices and incunabula were added following the death of Bessarion in 1472. This second shipment, arranged in 1474 by Federico da Montefeltro, departed from Urbino where Bessarion had deposited the remainder of his collection for safekeeping. It included the books that the cardinal had reserved for his personal use or had added to his collection after 1468.
But despite the grateful acceptance of the donation by the Venetian government and the commitment to establish a library of public utility, the codices remained crated inside the Doge's Palace, entrusted to the care of the state historian under the direction of the procurators of Saint Mark de supra. Access was difficult and consultation impracticable. To no avail, Marcantonio Sabellico in his capacity as official historian, Bartolomeo d'Alviano, and various prominent humanists repeatedly urged the government to provide a suitable location. But the political and financial situation during the long years of the Italian wars stymied any serious plan, notwithstanding the Senate's statement of intent in 1515 to build a library.[note 10] However, with the nomination of Pietro Bembo as gubernator (curator) in 1530 and the termination of the War of the League of Cognac in that same year, efforts were renewed. At the instigation of Bembo, an enthusiast of classical studies, the collection was transferred in 1532 to the upper floor of Saint Mark's Basilica where the codices were finally uncrated and placed on shelves. This facilitated consultation. That same year, Vettore Grimani pressed his fellow procurators, insisting that the time had come to act on the republic's long-standing intention to construct a suitable public library wherein Bessarion's collection of codices could be housed.
The construction of the library was an integral part of the Renovatio urbis (urban renewal), the vast architectural programme begun under Doge Andrea Gritti to reaffirm Venice's international prestige after the earlier defeat at Agnadello during the War of Cambrai and the subsequent Peace of Bologna, which sanctioned Habsburg hegemony on the Italian peninsula at the end of the War of the League of Cognac. Championed by the Grimani family, the programme called for the transformation of Saint Mark's Square from a medieval town centre with food vendors, money changers, and even latrines into a classical forum. The intent was to evoke the memory of the ancient Roman republic and, in the aftermath of the Sack of Rome in 1527, to present Venice as Rome's true successor.
In addition to the mint (begun 1536) and the loggia of the bell tower (begun 1538), the programme involved replacing the dilapidated thirteenth-century buildings that lined the southern side of the square and the area in front of the Doge's Palace. For this, Jacopo Sansovino, a refugee from the Sack of Rome, was commissioned on 14 July 1536. Subsequently, on 6 March 1537, it was decided that the area of the building facing the palace was to be destined for the offices of the procurators and for the library. This would not only satisfy the terms of the donation, it would also bring special renown to the republic as a centre of wisdom, learning, and culture. Significantly, the earlier decree of 1515, citing as examples the libraries in Rome and in Athens, had expressly stated that a perfect library with fine books would serve as an ornament for the city and as a light for all of Italy.[note 11] The construction of the library was also seen as an opportunity to promote the publishing industry by providing ready access for printers who needed to periodically consult the original manuscripts whenever printing critical editions and to make working copies of the manuscripts on which to write notes and make corrections.[note 12] Many of the manuscripts were later copied to produce the editiones principes (first editions) of the Greek classics in the printing house of Aldus Manutius.
Sansovino’s superintendence (1537–c.1560)
Construction proceeded slowly. The chosen site for the library, although owned by the government, was already occupied by five hostelries and several food stalls, many of which had long-standing contractual rights. It was consequently necessary to find a mutually agreed upon alternative location, and at least three of the hostelries had to remain in the area of Saint Mark's Square. Also, the hostelries and shops provided a steady flow of rental income to the procurators of Saint Mark de supra, the magistrate responsible for the public buildings around Saint Mark's Square. So there was the need to limit the disruption of the revenue by gradually relocating the activities as the building progressed and new space was required to continue.
The lean-to bread shops and a portion of the Pellegrino hostelry adjoining the bell tower were demolished in early 1537. But rather than reutilizing the existing foundations, Sansovino built the library detached so as to make the bell tower a freestanding structure and transform Saint Mark's Square into a trapezoid. This was meant to give greater visual importance to the Basilica of Saint Mark located on the eastern side and also make it possible to see the Doge's Palace from anywhere in the square.
Work was suspended following the Ottoman–Venetian War (1537–1540) due to lack of funding in the period of recovery but resumed in 1543. The next year, 1544, the rest of the Pellegrino hostelry was torn down, followed by the Rizza. But on 18 December 1545, the heavy masonry vault collapsed. In the subsequent enquiry, Sansovino claimed that workmen had prematurely removed the temporary wooden supports before the concrete had set and that a galley in the basin of Saint Mark, firing cannon as a salute, had shaken the building. Nevertheless, the architect was sentenced to personally repay the cost of the damage which took him 20 years.[note 13] Also, his stipend was suspended until 1547. As a consequence of the collapse, the design was modified with a lighter wooden structure to support the roof.
In the following years, the procurators increased funding by borrowing from trust funds, recovering unpaid rents, selling unprofitable holdings, and drawing upon the interest income from government bonds. Work proceeded rapidly thereafter. The Cavaletto hostelry was relocated in 1550. This was followed by the demolition of the Luna. By 1552, at least the seven bays in correspondence to the reading room, had been completed.[note 14] The commemorative plaque in the adjacent vestibule, corresponding to the next three bays, bears the date of the Venetian year 1133 (i.e. 1554),[note 15] an indication that the end of construction was already considered imminent. By then, fourteen bays had been constructed. However, owing to difficulties in finding a suitable alternative location, only in 1556 was the last of the hostelries, the Lion, relocated, allowing the building to reach the sixteenth bay in correspondence to the lateral entry of the mint. Beyond stood the central meat market. This was a significant source of rental income for the procurators, and construction was halted. The work on the interior decorations continued until about 1560. Although it was decided five years later to relocate the meat market and continue the building, no further action was taken, and in 1570 Sansovino died.
Scamozzi’s superintendence (1582–1588)
In 1582, following the demolition of the meat market (1581), Vincenzo Scamozzi was selected to oversee the construction of the final five bays, continuing Sansovino's design. This brought the building down to the molo, or embankment, in correspondence with the main façade of the mint. Scamozzi also added the crowning statues and obelisks.[note 16] Since the original design by Sansovino does not survive, it is not known whether the architect ever intended for the library to reach its actual length of twenty-one bays. Scamozzi's negative comment on the junction of the library with the mint has led some architectural historians to argue that the result could never have been intentionally designed by Sansovino.[note 17] But archival research and technical and aesthetic considerations have not been conclusive.[note 18]
During Scamozzi's superintendence, the debate regarding the height of the building was reopened. When Sansovino had first been commissioned on 14 July 1536, the project expressly called for a three-story construction similar to the recently rebuilt Procuratie Vecchie on the northern side of Saint Mark's Square. But by 6 March 1537, when the decision was made to locate the library within the new building, the plan had been abandoned in favour of a single floor above the ground level.[note 19] Scamozzi, nonetheless, recommended adding a floor to the library. Engineers were called to assess the existing foundation to determine whether it could bear the additional weight. The conclusions were equivocal, and it was ultimately decided in 1588 that the library would remain with only two floors.[note 20]
The upper storey of the library is characterized by a series of "Serlians", so-called because the architectural element was illustrated by Sebastiano Serlio in his seven-volume architectural book Tutte l'opere d'architettura et prospetiva, a guide for architects and scholarly patrons that explained the principles of Ancient Roman architecture as outlined by Vitruvius in De architectura. The element, inspired by ancient triumphal arches such as the Arch of Constantine, consists in a high arched opening that is flanked by two shorter sidelights topped with lintels and supported by columns. Later popularized by the architect Andrea Palladio, the element is customarily known as the Palladian window. From his days in Florence, Sansovino was likely familiar with the Serlian, having observed it in the tabernacle of the Merchants’ guild by Donatello and Michelozzo (circa 1423) on the façade of the Church of Orsanmichele. He would have undoubtedly seen Donato Bramante's tripartite window in the Sala Regia of the Vatican during his Roman sojourn and may also have been aware of the sixteenth-century nymphaeum at Genazzano near Rome, attributed to Bramante, where the Serlian is placed in a series. At the Marciana, Sansovino adopted the Serlian of the Orsanmichele prototype, which has narrow sidelights, but these are separated from the tall opening by double columns, placed one behind the other. This solution of the narrow sidelights ensured greater strength to the structural walls, which was necessary to balance the thrust of the barrel vault originally planned for the upper storey.
Superimposed upon the series of Serlians is a row of large Ionic columns. The capitals with the egg-and-dart motif in the echinus and flame palmettes and masks in the collar may have been inspired directly by the Temple of Saturn in Rome and perhaps further influenced by the Villa Medicea at Poggio a Caiano by Giuliano da Sangallo. For the bases, as a sign of his architectural erudition, Sansovino adopted the Ionic base as it had been directly observed and noted by Antonio da Sangallo the younger and Baldassare Peruzzi in ancient ruins at Frascati.[note 21] The idea of an ornate frieze above the columns with festoons alternating with window openings had already been used by Sansovino for the courtyard of Palazzo Gaddi in Rome (1519–1527). But the insertion of windows into a frieze had been pioneered even earlier by Bramante at Palazzo Caprini in Rome (1501–1510, demolished 1938) and employed in Peruzzi's early sixteenth-century Villa Farnesina. In the library, the specific pattern of the festoons with putti appears to be based on an early second-century sarcophagus fragment belonging to Cardinal Domenico Grimani's collection of antiquities.[note 22]
The ground floor is modelled on the Theatre of Marcellus and the Colosseum in Rome. It consists in a succession of Doric columns that support an entablature and is superimposed on a series of arches resting on pillars. The combination of columns superimposed on an arcade had been proposed by Bramante for Palazzo di Giustizia (unexecuted) and was employed by Antonio da Sangallo the younger for the courtyard of Palazzo Farnese (begun 1517).[note 23] In adopting the solution for the Marciana Library, Sansovino was faithfully adhering to the recommendation of Leon Battista Alberti that in larger structures the column, inherited from Greek architecture, should only support an entablature, whereas the arch, inherited from Roman mural construction, should be supported on square pillars so that the resulting arcade appears to be the residual of "a wall open and discontinued in several places".
According to the architect's son, Francesco, Sansovino's solution to the difficulty in applying strict Vitruvian principles to the corner of a Doric frieze was much discussed and admired. These principles required that a triglyph be centred over the last column and then followed by half a metope, but the space was insufficient. With no surviving classical examples to guide them, Bramante, Antonio da Sangallo, Raphael, and other great Renaissance architects had struggled with the dilemma, implementing various ideas, none of which satisfied the Vitruvian dictum. Sansovino's solution was to lengthen the end of the frieze by superimposing a final pilaster on a wider pier, thus creating the space necessary for a perfect half metope.[note 24] Francesco Sansovino also relates that his father further sensationalized the design by challenging the leading architects in Italy to resolve the vexing problem and then triumphantly revealing his own solution.
Rather than a two-dimensional wall, the façade is conceived as an assemblage of three-dimensional structural elements: piers, arcades, columns, and entablatures that are layered atop one another to create a sense of depth. The resulting effect of plastic richness is increased by the extensive surface carvings. These are the work of Sansovino's collaborators, including Danese Cattaneo, Pietro da Salò, Bartolomeo Ammannati, and Alessandro Vittoria. Male figures in high relief are located in the spandrels on the ground floor. With the exception of the arch in correspondence to the entry of the library which has Neptune holding a trident and Aeolus with a wind-filled sail, these figures represent allegories of non-specific rivers, characterized by the cornucopias and the urns with water flowing out. The enlarged keystones of the arches on the ground floor alternate between lions’ heads and the heads of pagan divinities (Ceres?, Pan, Apollo, Diana, Mercury, Minerva, Venus, Mars, Juno?, Jupiter, Saturn, and Phanes). In low relief, the underarches have either mythological scenes, mostly related to the divinity in the keystone, or grotesques. The spandrels on the upper floor have allegorical female figures with wings. These are in mid relief, thus creating the illusion that they are further from the viewer. The upright structural axes, consisting in the succession of columns and pedestals, also become progressively lighter. This all serves to emphasize the verticality and counterbalance the long, horizontal succession of arcades.
The balustrade above is surmounted by statues of pagan divinities and immortalized heroes of Antiquity. Built by Scamozzi between 1588 and 1591 following Sansovino's design, this solution for the roofline may have been influenced by Michelangelo's designs for the Capitoline Hill in Rome and may have later inspired Scamozzi's own work at the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza.[note 25] Among the sculptors were Agostino and Vigilio Rubini, Camillo Mariani, Tiziano Aspetti, and Girolamo Campagna. Over time, however, several of the original statues were eroded or otherwise damaged and ultimately replaced with statues that are not always consistent with the original subjects.
The effect of the library, overall, is that the entire façade has been encrusted with ancient archaeological artefacts. Statues and carvings abound, and no large areas of plain wall are visible. In addition to the abundance of classical decorative elements – obelisks, keystone heads, spandrel figures, and a richly carved frieze – there is a correct and erudite use of the Doric and Ionic orders that recalls Roman prototypes with the intent of giving the building a sense of authenticity. The proportions do not always respect Vitruvian canons. Scamozzi, a rigid classicist, was specifically critical of the arches on the ground floor, considered to be dwarfed and ill-proportioned, and the excessive height of the Ionic entablature with respect to the columns.[note 26] Nevertheless, the classical references were sufficient to satisfy the Venetians’ desire to emulate the great civilizations of Antiquity and to present their own city as the successor of the Roman republic. At the same time, the design respects many local building traditions, and it harmonizes with the gothic Doge's Palace through the common use of Istrian limestone, the two-story arcades, the balustrades, and the elaborate rooflines.
The actual library was always only on the upper floor with the ground floor being let to shops and, later on, cafés as a source of revenue to the procurators. The gilded interior rooms are decorated with oil paintings by the masters of Venice's Mannerist period, including Titian, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, and Andrea Schiavone. Some of these paintings show mythological scenes derived from the writings of classical authors: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Fasti, Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, Martianus Capella's The Marriage of Philology and Mercury, and the Suda. In many instances, these stories of the pagan divinities are employed in a metaphorical sense on the basis of the early Christian writings of Arnobius and Eusebius. Other paintings show allegorical figures and include Renaissance hieroglyphics, symbols of plants, animals, and objects with specific, but enigmatic, meanings. They reflect the particular interest in the esotericism of the Hermetic writings and the Chaldean Oracles that enthused many humanists following the publication in 1505 of Horapollo’s Ἱερογλυφικά (Hieroglyphica), the book discovered in 1419 and believed to be the key for deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The iconographic sources vary and include Pierio Valeriano’s dictionary of symbols, Hieroglyphica (1556); popular emblem books such as Andrea Alciati’s Emblematum Liber (1531) and Achille Bocchi’s Symbolicarum quaestionum de universo genere (1555); the divination game Le ingeniose sorti (1540) by Francesco Marcolini; as well as Vincenzo Cartari’s mythographic manual for painters Imagini colla sposizione degli dei degli antichi (1556). The "Mantegna Tarocchi" were used as iconographic sources for the depictions of the liberal arts and the muses in the staircase.
Although several images have a specific pedagogical function aimed at forming temperate and stalwart rulers and inculcating qualities of dedication to duty and moral excellence in the noble youth who studied in the library, the overall decorative programme reflects the Venetian aristocracy's interest in philosophy as an intellectual pursuit and, in a broader sense, the growing interest in Platonic philosophy as one of the central currents in Renaissance thought. It is conceptually organized on the basis of the Neoplatonic ascent of the soul and affirms that the quest for knowledge is directed towards the attainment of divine wisdom. The staircase largely represents the life of the embodied soul in the early stages of the ascent: the practice of the cardinal virtues, the study and contemplation of the sensible world in both its multiplicity and harmony, the transcendence of mere opinions (doxa) through dialectic, and catharsis. The reading room corresponds to the soul's subsequent journey within the intellectual realm and shows the culmination of the ascent with the awakening of the higher, intellective soul, ecstatic union, and illumination. The programme culminates with the representation of the ideal Platonic State founded upon a transcendent understanding of a higher reality. By association, it is implied that the Republic of Venice is the very paradigm of wisdom, order, and harmony.
The staircase consists of four domes (the Dome of Ethics, the Dome of Rhetoric, the Dome of Dialectic, and the Dome of Poetics) and two flights, the vaults of which are each decorated with twenty-one images of alternating quadrilinear stuccoes by Alessandro Vittoria and octagonal frescoes by Battista Franco (first flight) and Battista del Moro (second flight). At the entry and on the landings, Sansovino repeated the Serlian element from the façade, making use of ancient columns recuperated from the sixth-century Byzantine Church of Santa Maria del Canneto in Pola (Pula, Croatia).
The vestibule was originally a lecture hall for the public school of Saint Mark which had been founded in 1446 to train future civil servants of the Ducal Chancery. The initial curriculum, focusing on grammar and rhetoric, was expanded in 1460 with the creation of a second lectureship for poetry, oratory, and history. Over time, it evolved into a humanistic school principally for the sons of the nobles and citizens. Among the Italian humanists who taught at the school were George of Trebizond, Giorgio Valla, Marcantonio Sabellico, Raphael Regius, and Marco Musuro. The vestibule also briefly (1560–1561) hosted the meetings of the Accademia veneziana before its failure for bankruptcy. During this period, the room was lined with wooden benches, interrupted by a lectern that was located under the central window of the western wall.
Beginning in 1591, the vestibule was transformed into the public Statuary Hall by Vincenzo Scamozzi in order to display the collection of ancient sculpture that Giovanni Grimani had donated to the Venetian Republic in 1587. Of the original decoration, only the ceiling remains with the illusionistic three-dimensional decoration by Cristoforo and Stefano De Rosa of Brescia (1559). Titian’s octagonal painting in the centre (c.1560) has most often been identified as a personification of Wisdom  or History. Other suggestions include Poetry, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Love of Letters.
The adjacent reading room originally had 38 desks in the centre, arranged in two rows, to which the valuable codices were chained according to subject matter.[note 27] Between the windows were imaginary portraits of great men of Antiquity, the "philosophers", each originally accompanied by an identifying inscription. Similar portraits were located in the vestibule. Over time, however, these paintings were moved to various locations within the library and eventually, in 1763, to the Doge's Palace in order to create the wall space necessary for more bookshelves. As a result, some were lost along with all of the identifying inscriptions. The ten that survive were returned to the library in the early nineteenth century and integrated with other paintings in 1929. Of the "philosophers", only Diogenes by Tintoretto has been credibly identified.[note 28]
The ceiling of the reading room is decorated with 21 roundels, circular oil paintings, by Giovanni de Mio, Giuseppe Salviati, Battista Franco, Giulio Licinio, Bernardo Strozzi, Giambattista Zelotti, Alessandro Varotari, Paolo Veronese, and Andrea Schiavone. They are inserted into a gilded and painted wooden framework along with 52 grotesques by Battista Franco. The roundels by Bernardo Strozzi and Alessandro Varotari are replacements from 1635 of earlier roundels, respectively by Giulio Licinio and Giambattista Zelotti, which were irreparably damaged by water infiltrations. The original roundels were commissioned in 1556.[note 29]
Although the original seven artists were formally chosen by Sansovino and Titian, their selection for an official and prestigious commission such as the library was indicative of the ascendancy of the Grimani and of those other families within the aristocracy who maintained close ties with the papal court and whose artistic preferences consequently tended towards Mannerism as it was developing in Tuscany and Rome. The artists were mostly young and innovative. They were primarily foreign-trained and notably non-Venetian in their artistic styles, having been influenced by the new Mannerist trends in Florence, Rome, Mantua, and Parma. The roundels that they produced for the ceiling of the reading room are consequently characterized by the greater sculptural rigidity and artificial poses of the figures, the emphasis on line drawing, and the overall dramatic compositions. They nevertheless show the influence of local painting traditions in both the colouring and brushwork.
For the single roundels, various and conflicting titles have been proposed over time.[note 30] The earliest titles that Giorgio Vasari suggested for the three roundels by Veronese contain conspicuous errors, and even the titles and visual descriptions given by Francesco Sansovino, son of the architect, for all 21 roundels are often imprecise or inaccurate.
with Francesco Sansovino's titles/descriptions and the more recent proposalsKEY: (S) = Sansovino, 1581 (I) = Ivanoff, 1967 (P) = Paolucci, 1981 (H) = Hope, 1990 (B) = Broderick, 2016
Note: The roundels by Andrea Schiavone are shown in their original positions. The inversion of roundels 19 and 20 occurred between 1819 and 1839, probably following structural work or restoration.
Although the procurators remained responsible for the library building, in 1544 the Council of Ten assigned the custodianship of the collection itself to the riformatori dello studio di Padova, the educational committee of the Senate. Created in 1517, the riformatori had initially been tasked with reopening the University of Padua after its closure during the years of the War of Cambrai.[note 31] This involved repairing physical damage to the buildings, hiring new professors, and organizing courses. But over time, their role came to encompass virtually all aspects of public education. Under the riformatori, the collection was inventoried and first catalogued (1545). Preparations were also made to move the manuscripts from the upper floor of Saint Mark's Basilica to the new building: the effective date of the transfer is not known from any surviving documents, but it must have occurred between 1559 and 1565, probably prior to July of 1560. For the loaning of the valuable codices, the Council of Ten established stricter conditions which included the requirement of a deposit in gold or silver in the amount of 25 ducats. This sum, already substantial, was increased to 50 ducats in 1558.
Beginning in 1558, the riformatori nominated the librarian, a patrician chosen for life. But in 1626, the Senate assumed once again the direct responsibility for the nomination of the librarian whose term was limited by the Great Council in 1775 to three years. With few exceptions, the librarians were typically chosen from among the procurators of Saint Mark.
The reform of 1626 also established the permanent position of custodian with the requirement that he be fluent in Latin and Greek. It was further prescribed in 1633 that the election of the custodian was to be the purview of the riformatori in concert with the librarian. To the custodian fell the responsibility for opening and closing the library: opening days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings) were also fixed whereas access had previously been only by appointment. The custodian was also tasked with showing the library to foreign visitors and assisting readers, including the international scholars attracted by the importance of the collection. Among these were Willem Canter, Henry Savile, Jacques Gaffarel, and Thomas van Erpe. Foreign printers, authorized by both the librarian and the custodian, also continued to consult and copy the codices for publication.
In 1680, the Senate accepted the recommendation of the librarian, the future Doge Silvestro Valier, to better protect the codices by removing them from their chains and placing them inside cabinets. In place of the earlier benches, four large tables were set up for consultation. It was also decided to limit loaning, but the library was to now be open daily.
Overtime, foreigners, animated by cultural interests, visited primarily to admire the structure and the collection, commenting in their travel diaries about the magnificence of the building, the ancient statuary, and the paintings as well as of the codices themselves. Notably among these were the English travel-writer Thomas Coryat, the French archaeologist Jacob Spon, the French architect Robert de Cotte, and the German art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann.[note 32]
Truly the beauty of this Librarie is such both for the notable magnificence of the building, and the admirable variety of bookes of all sciences and languages, that I beleeve none of those notable Libraries in ancient times so celebrated by worthy historians, neither that of the royall Ptolomies of Alexandria, burnt by Iulius Cæsar, not that of King Eumenes at Pergamum in Greece, nor Augustus his Palatine in Rome, nor Traians Ulpian, nor that of Serenus Sammonicus, which he left to the Emperor Gordianus the yonger, nor any other whatsoever in the whole world before the time of the invention of printing, could compare with this Palatine. Also I attribute so much unto it that I give it precedence above all the noble Libraries I saw in my travels.— Thomas Coryat, Coryat's Crudities
After the fall of the Venetian Republic to the French in 1797, the position of librarian, as with all government offices, ceased to exist. The custodian, Jacopo Morelli, became by default librarian. The name of the library was briefly changed to the Biblioteca nazionale under French occupation (May 1797–January 1798) but reverted to Libreria pubblica di san Marco at the time of the first period of Austrian rule (1798–1805). During the second period of French domination (1805–1814), it was designated the Regia Biblioteca di Venezia (Royal Library of Venice).
In 1811, the entire collection was moved to the former Hall of the Great Council in the Doge's Palace when the library, as a building, was transformed together with the adjoining Procuratie Nuove into an official residence for the viceroy of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. Referred to as the Libreria vecchia (Old Library), the building continued to be used in this capacity in the second period of Austrian rule (1814–1866), whereas the collection, still inside the Doge's Palace, became the Biblioteca Reale di S. Marco di Venezia (Saint Mark's Royal Library of Venice).
After the annexation of Venice to the Kingdom of Italy, the building came into the possession of the Italian Crown which ceded ownership to the State in 1919. The collection, renamed the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana under Italy,[note 33] was moved from the Doge's Palace to the former mint in 1904, and in 1924, the Marciana came into possession of the historical rooms of the library. These underwent extensive restoration and in 1929 were reopened to the public as a museum.[note 34]
The Venetian government viewed the possession of the valuable codices as a source of civic pride and prestige for the Republic. As a result, little was done initially to favour public access to the library or to improve services to readers. Although inventories were sporadically conducted, no bibliographical material was developed to facilitate consultation until the nomination of the scholar Antonio Maria Zanetti as custodian in 1737, nor was an acquisition policy established for the continued incrementation of the collection. Only two new manuscripts, both donations, entered into the collection prior to the inventory of 1575. An attempt in 1603 to increase the collection by legally requiring that a copy of all books printed within the territory of the Venetian Republic be henceforth deposited in the Marciana had little initial effect due to lack of enforcement.[note 35][note 36] Similarly, the invitation of the Senate in 1650 to allocate funds for the acquisition of new books was disregarded. Nevertheless, a series of individual bequests of private collections began in 1589 and greatly expanded the collection over time. The requirement for printers to deposit copies of new books was also increasingly enforced. In addition, beginning in 1724, the Senate appropriated annual funding for the acquisition of newly printed foreign books so as to ensure that the collection remained current. Concurrently, the library began to sell books and manuscripts of marginal or unrelated interest and use the proceeds to purchase specific works in order to maintain the quality and focus of the overall collection.
The private library of Cardinal Basilios Bessarion constitutes the historical nucleus of the Marciana. In addition to liturgical and theological texts for reference, Bessarion's library initially reflected his particular interests in ancient Greek history, Platonic philosophy, and science, especially astronomy. Some of these texts were brought by Bessarion when he arrived in Italy (1438) for the Council of Ferrara-Florence; others were shipped at an unknown later date from the Venetian city of Modone (Methoni), near Mystras where Bessarion had studied under Gemistus Pletho. Among the early codices in his collection were works by Cyril of Alexandria, Euclid, Ptolemy, and Strabo, some of which were rare, if not unknown, in Western Europe. Elevated to the cardinalate in 1440, Bessarion enjoyed greater financial resources, and he added notable codices that included the precious tenth-century manuscripts of Alexander of Aphrodisias' works and of Ptolemy's Almagest that had once belonged to the library of Boniface VIII.
In 1454, following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks (1453) and the ensuing devastation, Bessarion charged Michael Apostolius and Theophanes, bishop of Athens, with the task of locating and purchasing specific works throughout Greece, primarily in Adrianople, Athens, Thessaloniki, Aenos, Gallipoli, and Constantinople, with the objective of preserving the knowledge of the Hellenistic world. He also established a scriptorium on Crete, under the direction of Apostolius, where hired scribes copied the texts that could not be found for purchase. A similar scriptorium existed in his Roman residence where other texts were copied. Many of the originals were borrowed for this purpose from the monastery of Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana (Marche) and from several monasteries in southern Italy, most notably San Nicola di Casole (Apulia). These included Bessarion's discoveries of the Posthomerica by Quintus Smyrnaeus and the Abduction of Helen by Coluthus, which would have otherwise been lost as a result of the Ottoman invasion of Otranto and the destruction of the library of San Nicola di Casole in 1480. Copyists were also hired and coordinated through the bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci.
From the scholar and book trader Giovanni Aurispa and subsequently from his nephew and heir, Nardo Palmieri, Bessarion acquired "Venetus A" and "Venetus B", the oldest texts of Homer’s Iliad with centuries of scholia, the Anthologia Planudea containing 2400 Greek poems, the autograph copy of the commentary on Homer's Odyssey by Eustathius of Thessalonica, the orations of Demosthenes, Roman History by Cassius Dio, the Bibliotheca of Photius, and the only surviving copy of Deipnosophistae by Athenaeus.
Simultaneously, Bessarion assembled a parallel collection of Latin codices with a relative preponderance of works on philosophy (primarily the medieval Platonic and Aristotelian traditions), history, mathematics, and literature. Some of these were purchased during his residence in Bologna (1450–1455) or copied from originals in San Giovanni Evangelista (Ravenna), including the works by Quintilian, Lactantius, Augustine, and Jerome. Of particular interest to Bessarion were the Latin historiographers. Among these were Livy and Tacitus. The Latin codices also included translations of Greek works, commissioned by Bessarion. Other Latin codices were purchased during his legation to Germany (1460–1461), predominately works by Nicholas of Lyra.
Towards the end of his life, printed books became increasingly available, and Bessarion began to purchase incunabula, primarily from the printing house of Arnold Pannartz and Konrad Sweynheim in Rome. These books included works by Cicero, Plutarch, Pliny, Quintilian, and Thomas Aquinas as well as the Latin translation of Bessarion's own work in defence of Plato, Adversus calumniatorem Platonis (1469).
The Marciana Library now possesses 548 Greek codices, 337 Latin codices, and 27 incunabula that once belonged to Cardinal Bessarion. Among these are codices with works of Middle Platonic and Neoplatonic authors, many of which constitute the most important, if not the sole, surviving source for their writings.
Major additions to the collection over time include:
- 1589 - Melchiorre Guilandino of Marienburg: the bequest of the Prussian-born doctor and botanist, director of the botanical gardens at the University of Padua and professor of botany and pharmacognosy, consisted of 2,200 printed books dealing with philosophy, medicine, mathematics, botany, theology, literature, poetry, and history.
- 1595 - Jacopo Contarini da S. Samuele: the bequest of the Venetian patrician, delayed until the extinction of the male line of the Contarini in 1713, consisted of 175 Greek and Latin manuscripts and 1,500 printed books and included works on Venetian history, Law, poetry, naval and military matters, astronomy, physics, optics, architecture, and philosophy.
- 1619 - Girolamo Fabrici d'Acquapendente: the bequest of the surgeon and professor of anatomy at the University of Padua consisted of 13 volumes with hand-coloured anatomical illustrations.
- 1624 - Giacomo Gallicio: the donation consisted of 21 Greek codices, comprising over 90 works, dealing primarily with exegetics, philology, and philosophy.
- 1734 - Giambattista Recanati: the bequest of the Venetian noble poet and man of letters, member of both the Florentine Academy and the Royal Society of London, consisted of 216 Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Franco-veneto, and Illyric manuscripts among which were several medieval illuminated manuscripts once belonging to the House of Gonzaga.
- 1792 - Tommaso Giuseppe Farsetti: the bequest of the Venetian patrician consisted of 386 Latin and Italian manuscripts and over 1600 printed books, primarily literature.
- 1794 - Amedeo Schweyer, called "Svajer": the purchase of the collection of the German-born antiquarian involved more than 340 manuscripts and included genealogies and Venetian and foreign documents among which is the last will and testament of Marco Polo.
- 1797 - Jacopo Nani: the bequest of the Venetian collector consisted of 716 Greek, Latin, Italian, French Arabic, Egyptian, Persian, Syrian, and Turkish manuscripts covering history, travel, literature, politics, science, military matters, architecture, philosophy, and religion.
- 1814 - Girolamo Ascanio Molin: the bequest of the Venetian nobleman, collector and author, included 2209 fine printed books and incunabula, 3835 prints, 408 drawings, and 136 maps.
- 1843 - Girolamo Contarini: the bequest of the Venetian nobleman, consisted of some 4000 printed books and 956 manuscripts, including 170 musical codices.
- 1852 - Giovanni Rossi: the bequest consisted of 470 manuscripts dealing primarily with Venetian history and a collection of Venetian operas.
Three hundred and three precious manuscripts along with 88 rare printed books were transferred to the Marciana in 1789 from the religious libraries of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Sant'Andrea della Certosa, and S. Pietro Martire di Murano by order of the Council of Ten after an investigation into a theft revealed unsatisfactory security conditions. Between 1792 and 1795, the Council of Ten also transferred to the Marciana works from its Secret Archives that were no longer considered politically sensitive. These included the scientific writings of Tycho Brahe and Cesare Cremonini, originally presented to the Inquisition for concerns over religious orthodoxy, as well as political documents of historical interest.
After the fall of the Venetian Republic to Napoleon in 1797, 470 precious manuscripts, selected from public, religious, and private libraries throughout Venice, were turned over to the French as prizes of war. Of these, 203 were subtracted from the Marciana collection along with two musical scores. Similarly, during the first period of Austrian occupation (1798–1805), six rare incunabula and 10 important manuscripts were removed.[note 37] However, the Marciana obtained 4,407 volumes including 630 manuscripts when during the second period of French occupation (1805–1815), numerous convents and monasteries were suppressed and their libraries dispersed. In 1811, the map of Fra Mauro was transferred from the suppressed Camaldolese monastery of San Michele in Isola.
Today, the collection consists of 4,639 manuscripts; 13,117 manuscript volumes; 2,887 incunabula; 24,060 cinquecentine; and 1,000,000 (circa) post-sixteenth-century books.
- The official Latin name was indicated by the Venetian Senate on 10 August 1468. See Raines, 'Book Museum or Scholarly Library?...', p. 34 and Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 84.
- The library is administered by the Direzione Generale Biblioteche e Istituti Culturali of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali.
- Bessarion’s private library was among the most important in the fifteenth century. In 1455, the collection of Pope Nicholas V, the largest, contained 1209 codices. Significant private libraries belonged to Niccolò Niccoli (808 volumes) and Coluccio Salutati (circa 800 volumes). Among the larger court libraries were those of the Visconti (998 volumes in 1426), Federico da Montefeltro (772 volumes), the Estensi (512 volumes in 1495), and the Gonzaga (circa 300 codices in 1407). With regard to the Greek codices, Bessarion’s collection was unrivaled in Western Europe. The Vatican collection, the second largest, included 414 Greek codices in 1455. See Zorzi, Biblioteca Marciana, p. 20.
- The formal letter of donation is preserved in Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana codice Lat. XIV, 14 (=4235).
- For a detailed discussion of Bessarion’s legation to Germany and the attempts to raise troops for a crusade, see Kenneth M. Setton, The Papacy and the Levant (1204–1571), vol. II, The Fifteenth Century (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1978), pp. 213–218, ISBN 0871691272.
- The terms of Bessarion's original act of donation to the monastery of San Giorgio (untraced) are recorded in the bull authorizing the revocation that Pope Paul II issued on 16 September 1467. The text of the papal bull is published in G. Nicoletti, 'Bolla di Paolo II ed istrumento di donazione fatta della propria libreria dal cardinale Bessarione ai procuratori di s. Marco', Archivio Storico Italiano, Serie terza, Vol. 9, No. 2, 54 (1869), pp. 195-197. Also, abbreviated, in Pittoni, La libreria di san Marco, pp. 14–15 (note 1).
- Marino Zorzi attributes the sense of urgency in Bessarion’s donation to the conspiracy to assassinate Pope Paul II in February 1468 and the resulting arrest, imprisonment, and torture of several noted Roman humanists, members of the Academy of Julius Pomponius Laetus who were also largely associated with Bessarion’s own intellectual circle. There were additional charges of heresy that reflected the pope’s deep aversion to Platonism, secular poetry, rhetoric, and astrology. Zorzi argues that in this climate of suspicion and repression, Bessarion would have been anxious to quickly remove his collection to safety, outside the territory of the Papal States. See Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco…, pp. 80–82. For a detailed discussion of the assassination plot against Paul II, see Anthony F. D'Elia, A Sudden Terror: The Plot to Murder the Pope in Renaissance Rome (Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 2009) ISBN 0674061810. For Paul II’s relationship with Humanism, see A. J. Dunston, 'Pope Paul II and the Humanists', Journal of Religious History, 7 (1983), pp. 287–306 ISSN 1467-9809.
- The full inventory is published in Labowsky, Bessarion's Library..., pp. 157–188.
- In the preliminary letter of acceptance, the Senate valued the collection at 15,000 ducats. The letter, dated 23 March 1468, is published in Labowsky, Bessarion's Library..., p. 124. For Bartolomeo Platina, Bessarion’s precious codices had cost 30,000 golden scudo. See Bartolomeo Platina, Panegyricus in Bessarionem doctiss. partriarcham Constantin (Colonia, Eucharius Cervicornus, 1529) p. 9. Regardless of the differing figures, the value was considerable: from several contemporary contracts, a well-paid professor earned 120 ducats a year. See Zorzi, La Libreria di San Marco..., p. 60.
- The deliberation of the Senate appropriated no funding and was without effect. It nevertheless constitutes the first proposal to construct a library rather than to simply find a suitable location for the collection. The deliberation of the Senate, dated 5 May 1515, is published in Labowsky, Bessarion's Library..., pp. 130–131.
- Fragmentary descriptions of ancient libraries survive in classical literary sources. See Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., pp. 26 and 166 (notes 99 and 100) for bibliographical references. It has been suggested that specifically Pausanias' description of Hadrian's Library in Athens may have served as an architectural prototype for the Marciana Library. See Hartt, History of Italian Renaissance Art, p. 633.
- The decision to begin the construction of the library coincided with the laws of 1534 and 1537 which sought to redress a decline in the book trade and the increasing importation of books printed elsewhere by providing further copyright protection to printers and imposing standards of printing quality. For the printing history of the period, see Horatio Brown, The Venetian Printing Press: an Historical Study (London: John C. Nimmo, 1891), pp. 75–82.
- In 1565, the procurators discharged the remaining debt in exchange for sculptural work by Sansovino. The deliberation of the procurators, dated 20 March 1565, is in the State Archives of Venice (PS, Atti, reg. 130, c. 72). See Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., p. 21.
- In 1552, the practice began of extracting by lot the use of the balconies by the procurators and their guests to observe the carnival celebrations in the Piazzetta. In that year, seven balconies were awarded. See Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, p. 21 and Morresi, Jacopo Sansovino, p. 202.
- The Venetian year was calculated beginning with AD 421, the legendary year of the city's foundation on 25 March. See Edward Muir, Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), pp. 70–72.
- Only one statue had been placed during Sansovino's superintendence. See Ivanoff, 'La libreria marciana…,' p. 8.
- Scamozzi criticizes the truncating of cornices, bases, and capitals in reference to the junction of the facades of the library and the mint and considers such solutions "indecencies and follies" ("indecentie e sciocchezze"). See Vincenzo Scamozzi, L'idea della architettura universale di Vincenzo Scamozzi architetto veneto (Venetiis: Giorgio Valentini, 1615), Parte seconda, p. 171.
- The issue is summarized in Deborah Howard, 'The Length of the Library', Ateneo veneto, Anno CXCVII, terza serie, 9/11 (2010), pp. 23–29, ISSN 0004-6558.
- There are no surviving records regarding the debate, and it is not known what factors were determinative. See, Howard, Jacopo Sansovino...…, pp. 15–16.
- Manuela Morresi suggests that in addition to engineering considerations, the decision to retain the height of the library stemmed from the ascendency of the giovani faction in the aftermath of the constitutional crisis of 1582 and its opposition to the aggressive building programme. See Morresi, Jacopo Sansovino, p. 207.
- This Ionic base, utilized once by Palladio for Palazzo Porto in Vicenza, is believed to have been part of the Villa of Lucullus at Frascati. It consists in the sequence of an upper torus, scotia (concave molding with the lower edge projecting beyond the top), astragal (half-round molding), scotia, and – after a lower torus – a plinth. See Maria Barbara Guerrieri Borsoi, Villa Rufina Falconieri: la rinascita di Frascati e la più antica dimora tuscolana (Roma: Gangemi, 2008), p. 13, ISBN 8849214065. For a discussion and comparison with the Attic and Vitruvian bases for the Ionic order, see Howard Burns, '"Ornamenti" and ornamentation in Palladio's architectural theory and practice', Pegasus: Berliner Beiträge zum Nachleben der Antike, 11 (2009), pp. 49–50, ISSN 1436-3461.
- The fragment showing the rape of Proserpina is in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Venezia, inv. 167. See also Antonio Foscari, 'Festoni e putti nella decorazione della Libreria di San Marco', Arte veneta, XXXVIII (1984), pp. 23–30.
- The motif was earlier proposed by Antonio da Sangallo the younger for Palazzo Farnese and may have been intended for the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Rome. See, Lotz, 'The Roman Legacy in Sansovino's Venetian Buildings', pp. 8–9.
- Lotz suggests that the inspiration may have been the corner pier in Santa Maria presso San Biaggio in Montepulciano which lacks, however, the corner metope. See Lotz, 'The Roman Legacy in Sansovino's Venetian Buildings', p. 9.
- Deborah Howard suggests that the idea for the balustrade may have been derived from Raphael's design for Palazzo Branconio dell'Aquila. See Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., p. 27.
- Scamozzi considered appropriate a ratio between the height of the entablature and the column of 1 to 4 for the Doric order and 1 to 5 of the Ionic order, whereas the ratios in the library are 1 to 3 and 1 to 2 respectively. See Vincenzo Scamozzi, L’Idea dell’Architettura Universale (Venetiis: expensis auctoris, 1615), Lib. VI, Cap. VII, pp. 20-21.
- The Latin section, slightly smaller, occupied desks 1 to 16 and included rhetoric, secular history, medicine, canon and civil law, logic, moral philosophy, the works of Aristotle and his commentators, natural sciences, mathematics, astronomy, Peter Lombard’s The Four Books of Sentences and relative commentaries, theology, the works of Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, and Biblical texts with commentaries. The Greek section originally occupied desks 17 to 38 and included grammar, poetry, secular history, rhetoric, medicine, civil law, the works of Aristotle and his commentators, the writings of Plato and the Platonists, mathematics and astronomy, hagiography, theology, canon law, and Biblical texts with commentaries. See Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., pp. 159–161 and Labowsky, Bessarion's Library..., pp. 95–96.
- In 1967, Nicola Ivanoff identified Aristotle and Plato in the "philosophers" by Veronese and, tentatively, Ptolemy and Democritus in the "philosophers" by Andrea Schiavone (one of which is alternatively attributed to Giuseppe Salviati). However, these identifications are purely speculative and without significant supporting arguments. Ivanoff identifies Aristotle solely on the basis of the oriental headdress, which is said to be a reference to his Arab translators. He also sees a possible correlation in the hand gesture between Veronese's "philosopher" and the figure of Aristotle in Raphael’s School of Athens. For Plato, he references Marsilio Ficino’s imaginary description of the philosopher as being older and bearded with broad shoulders, a high brow, and an inspired look and then writes that most of these features are present in Veronese’s “philosopher”. See Ivanoff, 'La libreria Marciana'..., pp. 43.
- The contracts stipulated with Giuseppe Salviati, Battista Franco, and Giulio Licinio survive and specify a payment of 20 ducats per painting. Although the canvas would be provided by the procurators, the artists themselves were to provide their own pigments with the exception of blue ultramarine which would be paid for separately. The contract relative to Salviati is published in Pittoni, La libreria di san Marco, pp. 111–112.
- For the principal studies and proposed titles, see Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de' piu eccellenti pittori scultori e architettori, vol. III, parte 2 (Fiorenza: I Giunti, 1568), p. 526; Francesco Sansovino, Venetia città nobilissima et singolare descritta in 14 libri (Venetia: Iacomo Sansovino, 1581), fols 114r–114v; Carlo Ridolfi, Le marauiglie dell'arte, ouero Le vite de gl'illustri pittori veneti, e dello Stato (Venetia: Gio. Battista Sgava, 1648), pp. parte I, 222, 230–231, 291–292, 352; Marco Boschini, Le minere della pittura (Venezia: Francesco Nicolini, 1664), pp. 90–91; Francesco Macedo, Pictura Venetae vrbis, eiusque partium in tabulis Latinis, coloribus oratorijs expressa, & pigmentis poeticis colorata (Venetiis: Cieras, 1670), pp. 56–59; Domenico Martinelli, Il ritratto di Venezia (Venezia: Gio. Giacomo Hertz, 1684), pp. 589 and 590 [sic]; Antonio Maria Zanetti, Della pittura veneziana e delle opere pubbliche de' veneziani maestri (Venezia: Giambatista Albrizzi, 1771), pp. 182, 244, 248–250, 284, 369, 497–498, 509; Giulio Lorenzetti, Venezia e il suo estuario: guida storico-artistica (Venezia: Bestetti & Tuminelli, 1926), p. 161; Nicola Ivanoff, 'La libreria Marciana: arte e iconologia', Saggi e Memorie, 6 (1967), pp. 33–78; Antonio Paolucci, 'La sala della libreria e il ciclo pittorico' in Rodolfo Pallucchini ed., Da Tiziano a El Greco. Per la storia del Manierismo a Venezia 1540-1590 (Milano: Electa, 1981), pp. 287–298; Charles Hope, 'The Ceiling Paintings in the Libreria Marciana' in Massimo Gemin, ed., Nuovi Studi su Paolo Veronese (Venezia: Arsenale Editrice, 1990), pp. 290–298; Jarrod, M. Broderick, 'Custodian of Wisdom: The Marciana Reading Room and the Transcendent Knowledge of God', Studi veneziani, LXXIII (2016), pp. 15–94.
- Originating as a temporaray committee, the riformatori were definitively established in 1528. See Andrea Da Mosto, L'Archivio di Stato di Venezia: indice generale, storico, descrittivo ed analitico, vol. I, (Roma: Biblioteca d'arte, 1937), p. 217
- Other noted visitors and travel writers included Fynes Moryson, Charles de Brosses, the Scottish historian Gilbert Burnet, the French palaeographer Jean Mabillon, Richard Lassels, the English music historian Charles Burney, Charles-Nicolas Cochin, Pierre-Jean Grosley, and the French astronomer Jérôme Lalande. See Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco…, pp. 188, 238, and 264.
- The library was established as a national library by royal decree in 1876. The decree, Num. 3530 dated 12 novembre 1876, is published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale, Num. 288, 12 dicembre 1876.
- The historical rooms are presently included on the Saint Mark's Square Museum Ticket. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
- Only an estimated 50 books were deposited in the 19 years following the passage of the law. See Raines, 'Book Museum or Scholarly Library?...', p. 41 (note 42).
- The requirement (the first such requirement in Italy) was part of the law of 21 May 1603 that regulated the printers' guild. See also Horatio Brown, The Venetian Printing Press: an Historical Study (London: J. C. Nimmo, 1891), pp. 218–221.
- As a consequence of the Austrian defeats in 1866 and 1918, most of the volumes were returned as reparations of war. See Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 355
- Hartt, History of Italian Renaissance Art, p. 633
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, p. 28
- Palladio, I quattro libri dell'architettura..., p. 5
- Burckhardt, Der Cicerone eine Anleitung zum Genuss der Kunstwerke Italiens, p. 325
- Humfrey, Painting in Renaissance Venice, p. 194
- Raines, 'Book Museum or Scholarly Library?...', pp. 31–32
- Pittoni, La libreria di san Marco, pp. 5–10
- Raines, 'Book Museum or Scholarly Library?...', pp. 32–33
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., p. 17
- Pittoni, La libreria di san Marco, pp. 10–19
- Raines, 'Book Museum of Scholarly Library?...', p. 33
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., pp. 80–85
- Labowsky, Bessarion's Library..., pp. 153–156
- Pittoni, La libreria di san Marco, pp. 15–17
- Zorzi, 'Bessarione e Venezia', pp. 197– 201
- Zorzi, 'Bessarione e Venezia', p. 204
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco…, p. 204. The deliberation of the Great Council is in the State Archives of Venice in Grazie Maggior Consiglio, fol. 75v (in Avogaria di Comun, b. 168, fasc. 6).
- Zorzi, 'Bessarione e Venezia', p. 205
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco…, pp. 79–80
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco…, pp. 82–83
- Zorzi, 'Bessarione e Venezia', p. 220
- Zorzi , La libreria di san Marco…, p. 83
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 84
- Zorzi, 'Bessarione e Venezia'..., p. 221
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 87.
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., pp. 89 and 98.
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, p. 18
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 98
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 105
- Labowsky, Bessarion's Library..., p. 75
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 108
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, p. 18. The record of the procurators’ proceedings is published in Labowsky, Bessarion's Library..., p. 132.
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco…, p. 125
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., pp. 121–125
- Chambers, The Imperial Age of Venice..., pp. 12–31
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., pp. 10–16
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 124.
- Howard, The Architectual History of Venice, pp. 144 and 152
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, pp. 14–15
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco…, p. 127
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, p. 15. The deliberation of the procurators is in the State Archives of Venice (PS, Atti, reg. 125, c. 2) and is published in Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, p. 163.
- Raines, 'Book Museum or Scholarly Library?…', p. 35
- Rapp, 'Bessarion of Nicaea', p. 126
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., p. 19
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., p. 15
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., p. 20
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 132
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, p. 21
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., pp. 21 and 23
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, p. 23
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 158
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco…, p. 135
- Howard, The Architectual History of Venice, p. 147
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco…, p. 136
- Serlio, Regole generali di architetura..., fols 33v–36r
- Summerson, The Classical Language of Architecture, p. 134
- Tavernor, Robert, Palladio and Palladianism (London: Thames & Hudson, 1991), p. 29
- Lotz, 'The Roman Legacy in Sansovino's Venetian Buildings', p. 10
- Morresi, Jacopo Sansovino, p. 193
- Morresi, Jacopo Sansovino, pp. 193–194
- Morresi, Jacopo Sansovino, pp. 193–194
- Lotz, 'The Roman Legacy in Sansovino's Venetian Buildings', pp. 11–12
- Morresi, Jacopo Sansovino, p. 194
- Lotz, 'The Roman Legacy in Sansovino's Venetian Buildings', p. 8
- Lotz, 'The Roman Legacy in Sansovino's Venetian Buildings', pp. 8–9
- Alberti, Leon Battista. De Re Aedificatoria, VII, 15
- Rudolf Wittkower's discussion in Wittkower, Architectural principles in the age of humanism, pp. 35–36.
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino..., pp. 20–21
- Morresi, Jacopo Sansovino, p. 451–452
- Howard, Jacopo Sansovino…, p. 20
- Morresi, Jacopo Sansovino, p. 195
- Sansovino, Venetia città nobilissima..., fol. 113r
- Lotz, 'The Roman Legacy in Sansovino's Venetian Buildings', pp. 10–11
- Sansovino, Venetia città nobilissima et singolare.., fols 113v–114r
- Zorzi, La libreria di san Marco..., p. 140
- Sperti, 'Temi ovidiani...', pp. 159, 161, 163, 168, 169, and 171
- Ivanoff, 'La libreria marciana...', p. 4
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