Printer's device, Selva Rinovata di Varia Lettione di Pietro Messi
Printer's device, Selva Rinovata di Varia Lettione di Pietro Messia.
Detail. Venice: Ambrosio and Bartolmeo Dei, 1616


Until 27 October the Book Library foyer has been transformed by a display of early printed books from or about Venice. The selection has been made by one of the Institute's Senior Lecturers, Jennifer Fletcher, who has been teaching Venetian art at the Institute for many years. The display is centred on five themes: early guidebooks; the church and the state, artist's lives, inþuential works of literature and books on costume. Most of the items are drawn from the Library's Special Collections, with the bequests of Anthony Blunt, Count Antoine Seilern and Johannes Wilde's all well represented, supplemented by items from Jennifer's own collection which she frequently uses in teaching.

The display reveals the richness of the Library's holdings in this area, with the Institute boasting: three editions of Sansovino's Venetia Citta Nobilissima; Zanetti's beautiful book of engravings after celebrated Venetian painters; Varie Pitture a Fresco, 1760; early editions of Vasari's and Ridolfi's lives; and rather unexpectedly, a rare edition of Guarino's Il Pastor Fido. Plans are afoot for a second display, which will include some of the splendid architectural treatises produced in Venice during the Renaissance and many of the regional guidebooks held in the Library.

As well as highlighting some of the key texts used in the study of Venetian art, the current display has drawn attention to the urgent need for funding for preservation of the Library's collections. A new reading room is being planned to accommodate the present collections along with John Shearman's books, which are due to arrive in 2002.

In the meantime work is underway on making the existing collections fit for consultation. Last month the Library launched an 'Adopt a Book Appeal' which has already had considerable success. Thank you to all those people who have already responded with generous donations. At the present time the funding is being directed towards the English and Italian architecture books which are heavily used in teaching within the Institute. In the coming year we can look forward to seeing some of the conserved items on display in the second exhibition devoted to Venetian art, which promises to be as beautiful and informative as the current one.Ann Sproat
Special Collections Librarian