The Origins of Our Italian Statutes Collection

Statuti, e leggi della Valle Seriana Superiore (Bergamo, 1769)

The core of our outstanding collection of early Italian municipal statutes is a private collection purchased in 1946. Thanks to Rare Book Cataloger Susan Karpuk, this original collection, “Italian Statutes Collection, 1946 (Accession no. 46-209)”, is now reunited in the Law Library’s online catalog, MORRIS, and can be browsed via a collection-level record here. The link brings together 643 records for printed books and 51 for manuscripts.

The library purchased this collection in 1946 from the Italian bookdealer Nardecchia, in Samuel Thorne’s first year as Law Librarian. In his annual report for the 1945-46 academic year, Thorne wrote:

“The outstanding acquisition of the year was the notable collection of Italian statuta, numbering almost nine hundred volumes, purchased from a learned Italian lawyer who had brought it, over a period of fifty years, to its present completeness. It contained fifty-two manuscripts of the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries, nine incunabula, and many sixteenth-century editions, more than a few unknown to Luigi Manzoni whose Bibliografia statutaria e storica italiana is the standard bibliography of the class.”

In 2008, a representative of Nardecchia reported that it had no records of the sale or of the identity of the “learned Italian lawyer” who built the collection. One of the goals in identifying the volumes that made up this collection was to find clues to the collector’s identity. We indeed found some clues, inscriptions in several of the 20th-century volumes, and are in the process of investigating them.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

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