The popular circulating library of the Ferrara Savonarola Society. A paradigmatic case in post-unification Italy

Ivan Poli


This essay follows the course performed by the Savonarola Society, the philanthropical institution that founded in Ferrara the first “biblioteca popolare circolante”(a sort of subscription library for the lower classes, the first model of public library in Italy). The course started after the unity of Italy and ended approximately twenty years later. This experience was included in the middle of the first growth of those cultural enterprises, paradigmatically following their parabolical trajectory until their nearly complete regression in the eighties of 19th century. Through historical sources analysis it has been possible to reveal the mentality of those well-off and educated men who promoted at the same time the libraries development and failure, showing their inability to understand the actual necessities and capacities of the popular classes, the ones the projects were dedicated to. The whole efforts were turned to reach the “fare gli italiani”(“make the Italians”) goal, to create the new Reign citizen, a citizen knowing his rights and duties, a fundamental element of a young nation that wanted to stay amongst the European Powers. 


Subscription libraries; Public libraries; Savonarola Society; Ferrara; Giovanni Gattelli; Dino Pesci; Curzio Buzzetti; Adolfo Cavalieri

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DOI: 10.6092/issn.2283-9364/7026


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