Central Municipal Library of Milan, Italy

The Central Public Library of Milan (known as the Sormani Library) is the main seat of the municipal library system of the Milanese capital, located in Corso Porta Vittoria.

The library has a vast collection of volumes, the catalog has more than 650,000; deals with all fields of knowledge and is therefore a general library, even if it maintains a large quantity of texts in the field of humanistic, juridical and artistic sciences.

Palazzo Sormani, now seat of the Central Municipal Library, dates back to the first half of the seventeenth century. It was built by the will of the Cardinal Cesare Monti and with the intervention of Francesco Maria Richini.

Today the “Sormani”; is the library with the widest range of books, periodicals and multimedia of the Milan Library System and one of the largest public libraries in the city.

“Sormani” Library is a place of culture for everyone, that gives access to fundamental documents and publications in all branches of knowledge, with a particularly rich heritage in the humanities, legal sciences and arts. According to the definition of its first Director, Giovanni Bellini, it is “the home of the Milanese scholars”.
The bound newspapers cataloged with the Q PER signature and the periodicals in paper are kept in the detached warehouse of via Quaranta 43, a deposit now accessible only by reservation.

The French writer Stendhal, born Marie-Henri Beyle (1783 – 1842), was a consul in Civitavecchia from 1831 until his death, which happened suddenly during a trip to France in 1842. The Bucci family, who had hosted Stendhal in Civitavecchia during his years at the Consulate, looked after his assets in the Papal States for exactly a century before deciding to sell them to Federico Gentile in 1942. Finally, in 1969, the president of the Banca Commerciale Italiana, Raffaele Mattioli (1895 – 1973), negotiated the purchase of the Bucci Stendhal Collection in order to donate it to Milan’s Municipal Library, where it was permanently rehoused on 14th April, 1970.

The Bucci Stendhal Collection
The Bucci Stendhal Collection consists of 2,793 items, including:around 1,200 volumes, pamphlets and magazine issues (of which almost a thousand belonged to Stendhal); letters, documents and manuscripts;an oil portrait painted in Rome in 1835 by the artist Jean-Louis Ducis; two wooden bookcases and some relics, including a walking stick and a wooden tin containing handwritten notes by the French writer, clear proof of Stendhal’s irresistible urge to write wherever he went.

Stendhal’s graphomania
Stendhal’s graphomania is mainly evidenced by the numerous annotations, marginalia and glosses that fill the covers, the margins and sometimes entire pages (or interleaves) of about half the volumes in his library (458 out of a total of 987). In these brief and sometimes deliberately enigmatic notes, the writer spontaneously jots down moments from his daily, private, social and professional life, just as in a real “diary”.

Stendhal in Milan
Between 1814 and 1821, Stendhal spent long periods in Milan, falling in love with the city for its lively art and culture.In June 1821, however, he was forced to leave the Lombard capital in haste because he was wanted by the Austrian police due to his links with the Carbonari. The French writer entrusted his manuscripts and the volumes from his library to his friend Luigi Buzzi, in the hope of being able to recover them shortly. He managed to return to his beloved Milan for a very short period in January 1828, taking with him some volumes of particular importance.

The “Grechetto” room at Palazzo Sormani
These 23 paintings belong to a pictorial cycle depicting the myth of Orpheus and offer a unique insight into the knowledge of botany and zoology at the beginning of the 17th century. A “cabinet of curiosities” with more than 280 animal specimens and hundreds of botanical species.

Humorous and satirical magazines
Both pre- and post-unification, Milan has been home to many significant humorous and satirical magazines, examples of that “lighter” branch of literature that aims to represent the disharmony, contrasts and complexity of real life by following, illustrating and mocking characters and events. From the first (“L’uomo di pietra”) to the best-known (“Il Guerin Meschino”) all the way through to “Bertoldo”

The Beretta mayoralty
One of the prime targets was the first mayor of Milan, Antonio Beretta, and his policy of “Great Works”.

The Divine Comedy illustrated by Amos Nattini
Milan’s Central Municipal Library preserves one of the 1,000 numbered copies of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, illustrated by Amos Nattini (1892 – 1985) and published between 1931 and 1941.The work consists of 3 imposing volumes (81×65 cm), one for each cantica, printed by the Casa Editrice Dante (Dante Publishing House) founded by Nattini and Valdameri. Each volume was produced with extreme attention to detail, using paper made from rags in the town of Fabriano; the print characters, designed by Nattini himself, are inspired by “primitive Latin types” and are engraved on a copper plate in the form of etchings; each cantica has a hand-embossed calfskin cover. The three volumes, acquired in the 1930s, survived the bombings of 13th August, 1943 thanks to effective precautionary measures and, stored in the specially designed “Danteum” on display in one of Palazzo Sormani’s state rooms, still form part of the Library’s collection.