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The Uffizi Library


The Uffizi Library (formerly Biblioteca Magliabechiana) is a large, bright and refined room, set up in the 18th century to house the 30,000 volumes (manuscripts and printed books) bequeathed by the librarian of the Medici grand dukes of Tuscany, Antonio Magliabechi (Florence 1633-1714).

In order to arrange the volumes, the executors of the will, Marmi and Comparini, the first librarians of the collection, rented from the Uffizi the ancient theatre of the Istrioni-property of the Florence Customs House-known in the 16th century as the Teatrino della "Baldracca", named after the infamous quarter of taverns and brothels where the actors of the Commedia dell'Arte, the histrions of popular shows, performed. During the most recent restoration, a series of frescos celebrating ethics and culture (such as Knowledge overcoming Lust) and lamenting the former use of the building were rediscovered, as demonstrated by the inscription on the cartouche in the reading room: QUIDNI DICARIS/STUDIORUM APPETENS LITERARUMQUE CULTRIX/ FLORENTIA/THEATRUM IAMDIU HISTRIONIA ET RISUI DICATUM/NUNC MELIORE FATO CONVERSUM EST/IN PUBLICUM DOMICILIUM ERUDITIONIS/ATQUE MUSARUM (Why, O Florence, could you not be said to be longing for learning and a lover of words, you who for so long have been the scene of comedy and devoted to laughter and now transformed by the greatest of fates into the public home of Erudition and Poetry?)

The refurbishment of the room and its decoration were entrusted to the meticulous care of artist and architect of the Medici court, Giovanni Battista Foggini. Throughout the furnishing of the Library and the preparation for its opening to the public, Grand Duke Gian Gastone de’ Medici played a leading role, acting to ensure that the legal printing and storage rights for books from all the typographers across Florence were held by the Magliabechiana Library. Finally, on the first Tuesday of 1747, during the reign of Francis I Stefano di Lorena, the Magliabechiana Library was opened to the public, becoming an important meeting point for Florentine academics and the most illustrious Italian and foreign scholars for over two centuries.

Following the unification of Italy, in 1885 the Magliabechiana Library was renamed the National Central Library. Fifty years later, in 1935 every single volume was transferred to the new site of the National Central Library of Florence in Piazza Cavalleggeri. On December 1998, the Uffizi Library took up residence in the eighteenth-century hall of the former Magliabechiana Library. Today the Library is a precious source of information on the history of the Uffizi and the Florentine Galleries: it houses the inventories of the Tribuna Room from 1589 to 1890, letters from artists, Directors and antique dealers, historical guides, artist biographies, catalogs of exhibitions and museums from around the world, as well as important documents essential to the understanding of the histories and origins of the assets of the museums' collections.

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