Access the AHRC-funded Italian Academies project and the British Library Italian Academies database, a collaboration between Royal Holloway University of London, the University of Reading and the British Library.


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The four-year project The Italian Academies 1525–1700: the first intellectual networks of early modern Europe (2010–2014) develops from an earlier project which by Summer 2009 had completed a comprehensive catalogue of books deposited at the British Library published by Italian Academies in the cities of Bologna, Naples, Padua, and Siena. The Italian Academies 1525–1700: a Themed Collection database is publicly available at:

This valuable electronic resource has now been significantly extended to include books published by Academies in Venice, Verona, Mantua, Ferrara, Rome, Sicily and cities of southern Italy for the period 1525–1700. By the end of the current phase of the project the catalogue will list data for some 500 Academies from across the Italian peninsula.

In tandem with the database we have developed a series of new research initiatives and publications on information contained in the database and on the place of Academies in early modern European cultural networks. See Publications and Events Tabs.

These include two workshops: Science, learning and censorship (2011), and Literature, Theatre and the Arts in the Italian Academies 1525-1700 (2013), an international conference The Italian Academies 1525–1700: the first intellectual networks of Early Modern Europe (2012) both now available in podcasts, monographs and scholarly articles.

We are committed to further stimulating the interest of the wider public in this rich resource, and in the activities of the Academies, through a series of lectures, presentations, and interaction with schools and colleges.

Learned Academies represent a vital and characteristic dimension of early modern culture. There were ca. 600 Academies in Italy in the period 1525-1700. In the 16th and 17th centuries the Italian Academies were responsible for promoting debate and discussion in many different disciplines from language and literature, through the visual and performing arts to science, technology, medicine and astronomy. This wide range of interests was matched by a wide range of different concepts and models of an Academy. Some were formally constituted, with published rules and lists of members; others were much looser groupings of like-minded individuals, often young men, with common interests; some pursued research on particular topics, others ranged across the whole spectrum of arts and sciences; some enjoyed the patronage and participation of the political authorities, others operated more in private and even clandestinely. Scientific experimentation, political debates, recitations of poetry, performances of drama are all to be found among the activities of Academies. The Academies functioned as alternative institutions to the universities and the courts, and numbered among their members pioneering scientists, writers, artists, political thinkers, and representatives of both sexes and all social classes. The Academies also had a more playful aspect, devising for the academy and for each member amusing names which were often represented visually in punning illustrations and devices. International in membership, and in correspondence with scholars across Europe, they were fundamental to the development of the intellectual networks later defined as the République des Lettres, and to the dissemination of ideas in early modern Europe. The range of interests and the very large number of Academies and their publications makes these institutions central to the study of early modern European culture.


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