The Malatesta Novello Library
Documentary heritage submitted by Italy and recommended for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2005.
The Library of Malatesta Novello, the last ancient library dating from immediately before the invention of printing, embodies the very concept of a humanist library.
With its building, furnishings and manuscript collection, it constitutes a monumental and bibliographical complex of outstanding importance and is acknowledged the world over as the only fifteenth-century library still intact. The architectural design, which is possibly by Leon Battista Alberti, is splendid and innovative, but the focus and essence of the library are the books themselves. Besides the great works of medieval culture, Malatesta Novello collected the fruits of the classical Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arab traditions so that he could realize his project of a universal culture along humanist lines. The precious 343 codices are still in the place where they have lain for the past five centuries and are still linked to their original fifteenth-century chain on the same reading benches. The whole constitutes a book collection and an ideal endowment worthy of the library of a prince of the first half of the Renaissance.
Thanks to this cultural project, Cesena, despite its remote position and in company with Florence, Milan, Ferrara and Rome, was a driving force of humanist culture, the foundation of Western civilization. The Malatestiana, which started life as a gentleman’s library, was donated by Malatesta Novello to the local commune for public use and thus became one of the oldest public libraries in Europe.
Inclusion in the Memory of the World Register would undoubtedly help the Malatesta Novello Library to make the best use of the management’s longstanding activities regarding conservation of the Library and universal access to it. This is proved by the project Catalogo Aperto dei Manoscritti Malatestiani (Open Catalogue of Malatesta Manuscripts). The catalogue has been operational for the past year on the Internet under the WWW.ISIS 5.0 programme and offers unprecedented iconographical, textual and bibliographical material. Access is easy, the service is free of charge and information is plentiful.