The Biblioteca Angelica (the Angelica Library) in Rome takes its name from the Augustinian who had most to do with founding it. Angelo Rocca was born at Rocca (now renamed Arecevia) near Ancona in the year 1545. He was received at the age of seven into the Augustinian monastery (convento) at Camerino, studied at Augustinian houses in Perugia, Rome, and Venice, and in 1577 graduated as doctor in theology from Padua.
He became secretary to the Prior General of the Augustinians in 1579, was placed at the head of the Vatican printing office in 1585. He was entrusted with the superintendence of the projected editions of the Bible and the writings of the Fathers of the Church. It is mainly to his efforts that the Vulgate edition of the Bible was published during the pontificate of Pope Clement VIII.
Images (above): The unpretensious entrance to the Angelica Library, which is right beside the front steps of the Church of St Augustine. At right: The main reading room of the Angelica.During his work and historical research, he became accustomed to the historic manuscripts stored in - some of which have not been made accessible until modern times. He edited the works of Giles of Rome O.S.A. (also known as Egidio Colonna) in 1581, and of Augustine of Ancona O.S.A. (also called Augustinus Triumphus) in 1582. In 1595 he was appointed in charge of the small church (cappella) in the residence of the Pope, and in 1605 was made the titular prelate of Tagaste in Numidia (the former diocese of St Augustine).Video (below): The Angelica Library, Rome. (2 minutes 40 seconds)
He conceived the idea of amalgamating two libraries. The first was the extensive community library of the Convento Sant'Agostino (the principal house of the Order in Rome). As early as 1518 it had 1,500 volumes (a large collection at that era). The second library was his own vast collection of books (then containing approximately 20,000 volumes). He entrusted the management of this library to his fellow Augustinians at the Convent of Sant'Agostino, the central house of the Augustinian Order.
Video (below): Angelica Library. Commentary in the Italian language. (8 minutes 40 seconds) By 1626 - six years after Rocca's death - this large amalgamated library was called the Biblioteca Angelica ("Angelica Library"), in honour of Angelo Rocca O.S.A. He made a set of regulations that required the library to be open to all persons, and to be without censorship or governmental restriction. This was a revolutionary step. Books were valuable, and were usually kept in cabinets that required a key for access. But the library of the Augustinians at Rome was formally established as open to all scholars on 23 October 1614. It became the first public library in Rome and Europe. These innovative regulations of Angelo Rocca aroused the positive interest of scholars and the public, and the reputation of the library soon spread internationally. He died in Rome on 8 April 1620. Rocca had arranged for the library a suitable centre, and its own source of income.
Pope Alexander VII (1665-1667) entrusted the construction of a new building for the library to architect Francesco Borromini. Five old houses were demolished and some land facing the Convento along Via de S. Agostino was resumed. The new form of the building extended from the facade of the Church of Sant'Agostino, as still can be seen on the right-hand side when one is facing the church facade today.
In the year 1661 Rev. Lukas Holste, caretaker of the Vatican Library, left to the Augustinians a precious collection of about 3,000 volumes. In the first half of the eighteenth century, this Augustinian house (convento) and the Library were affected by the religious controversies of the age. The presence there of the main supporters of Augustinian thought made the collection of the Angelica fundamental for the study of the theology of both the Protestant Reformation (early 16th century) and the Counter Reformation that followed.
In 1704 the great library of Enrico Noris O.S.A. (1631-1704), who was made a cardinal of the Church in 1695, was turned over to the Biblioteca Angelica. In 1762 the extensive library of Cardinal Domenico Passionei was acquired by the Augustinian who was Prior General for a record thirty-two years between 1753 and 1785, the Peruvian Francisco X. Vazquez O.S.A. This doubled the Library in both size and value. Passionei, in his travels as an ambassador for the Pope, had searched for and acquired many books on Protestant theology in the predominantly Protestant sections of Europe.
With this great increase in the number of books in the library, Luigi Vanvitelli (1700-1773), an Italian architect of the Rococo era, was commissioned by Prior General Francisco X. Vazquez O.S.A. to restructure the Biblioteca Angelica (Angelica Library) and the Convento Sant'Agostino. The work was completed in 1765. Vanvitelli had already been engaged by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1755, after the thirteenth-century gothic Church of Sant’Agostino in Siena had been devastated by fire in 1747.
In the eighteenth century a remarkable Augustinian involved with the Angelica, among other tasks, was Kosmas Schmalfus O.S.A., of the Augustinian Province of Bohemia. After occupying the chair of Augustinian theology at the University of Prague from 1760 onwards, he served in Rome from 1766 to 1776 as an Augustinian Assistant General. In Rome he completely indexed the subject catalog of the immense number of books in the Angelica Library, and half of its catalogue of authors. The second half of the authors' catalogue was completed soon afterwards by the industrious Richard Tecker O.S.A., the replacement from Germany for Kosmas Schmalfus O.S.A.
The huge amount of work done by Kosmas Schmalfus O.S.A. and Richard Tecker O.S.A. for the Biblioteca Angelia and for its users even up to the twenth-first century can be appreciated by knowing two facts: firstly, the catalogues comprise of fifty-four folio volumes, and, secondly, they were still in daily use in recent times.
In the nineteenth century the history of the Biblioteca Angelica paralleled that the Church in the city of Rome: the invasion of the Italy by France after the French Revolution of 1798, and the suppression by Napoleon on 1st May 1810 of all religious houses in Rome and in the territories of the Pope to its north.
For another image already on the Internet, go to the web page http://romeartlover.tripod.com/Vasi123.html
After 1810 at the Convento Sant'Agostino, the mother house of the Augustinian Order, only a few members of the Order were permitted to remain there. This concession was granted to the Order by the French for the pragmatic and non-religious purpose of their staffing the Biblioteca Angelica, seeing that it was a public library and one of the best in Rome. Most of the Convento Sant'Agostino, however, was in 1810 taken over to billet French and Polish soldiers in the armies of Napoleon. After the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the Augustinians considered themselves blessed that the Biblioteca Angelica had not been destroyed along with the pillaged and partly ruined Convento Sant'Agostino.
The vicissitudes of the Augustinians continued in 1871, with the confiscation of the library to the Italian government. Today the building is the responsibility of the Ministry for Cultural Activities. It now contains over 200,000 volumes, plus rare maps and other invaluable material. It can still be accessed by scholars.
The Antique Book Collection has 100,000 volumes, of which 2,700 are written in Latin, Greek and oriental languages. All of these 100,000 volumes were published between the 15th to the 18th centuries. Many of these volumes deal with the Order of Saint Augustine and the history of the Protestant Reformation.
The Manuscript Collection contains 24,000 documents, among which is a manuscript from the ninth century, the Liber Memorialis from Remiremont Abbey. In the Angelica, there are over 1,100 incunabula (in Latin literally meaning "of the cradle", i.e., books produced during the infancy of printing before 1501). By international standards, this is a huge collection. One of them was the first book printed in Italy - De Oratore by Cicero (printed in Subiaco in 1465). It also contains one of the earliest copies of Dante's Divine Comedy, and rare early editions by Petrarch and Boccaccio.
In 2004 a historical symposium and celebration was held at the Library to highlight its contribution to learning over the centuries.
Photo GalleryFor the Augnet gallery that includes the Angelica Library, click here.Link
Angelica Library. Official website. http://www.bibliotecaangelica.beniculturali.it/index.php?en/1/home