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.

Issue 6

The Italian Academies 1530-1650: a Themed Collection Database.

 Issue 6 Summer 2008


The second half of this second year of the project has been both busy and productive. The Project Management team has done a great deal of travelling, both to present the project in a range of different venues and for further research. The database is in active use by scholars both in the library and on-line and is generating much appreciative comment as well as feedback ideas for refinement, on all of which we report below. The coming months will see the team particularly active in preparing our next bid for funding. As the project enters its third year the team are delighted with progress to date and ever more enthusiastic and convinced about the usefulness of the resource to researchers on early modern Italian culture.

 Project Presentations

In accordance with the original schedule contained in our funding application, we have presented the project in various parts of the UK. In April the team travelled to Manchester to demonstrate the database resource at the John Rylands University of Manchester Library to an audience of librarians and researchers. In the event the audience also included a number of final year undergraduates studying the history of the book in Italy; these proved a very enthusiastic and receptive group. It was very encouraging to have undergraduates present and we hope to have stimulated some future researchers. A further encouraging outcome of our presentation in Manchester has been the decision by the John Rylands to develop a project on one of their special collections – nineteenth-century religious books – following the model set by our Academies project.

Our second presentation was in Oxford at the Bodleian, this time to an audience of specialist librarians. Here too, though the audience was more restricted, the project sparked a large number of useful comments and observations. Our third presentation of the ‘season’ was at the British Library, this time to the participants of the annual Textual Bibliography Seminar in Modern Languages. This was in addition to our original schedule, but we welcomed the opportunity of addressing a different audience which included many non-Italianists and thus reaching out to researchers interested in other European cultures. Despite some technical hitches at the last minute – unexpected since we were ‘at home’ – the presentation was again well received.

Our application originally envisaged presentations in Cambridge and Edinburgh in the course of the second year of operation. In the event, it has not proved possible as yet to arrange for a presentation in Cambridge, while the Edinburgh presentation is now scheduled for October, due to pressures on the events calendar the National Library.

Nevertheless, in addition to the extra, Textual Bibliography seminar, we were able to take advantage of a further opportunity to present the project, beyond those indicated in the funding application, namely to the Society for Renaissance Studies international conference in Dublin in July. This provided us once more with a larger and more diverse audience of scholars and researchers and proved an extremely stimulating occasion in terms of the enthusiasm demonstrated by the audience for the project and the appreciation of the types of research which it will promote.

Our final presentation of this year was at the workshop on Cultural Institutions in early modern Italy organised by Dr. Lisa Sampson (a member of the Advisory Panel) at the University of Reading. Both of the Research Assistants presented papers at this, and information leaflets about the project were circulated. The day ended with a Round Table which proved extremely stimulating for our preparations for the next phase and new funding applications.

All of the presentations, in addition to a demonstration of the database, have included research papers by the Research Assistants demonstrating ways in which the database can be used for various types of research, both literary-cultural and historical.

On 13 September, Simone Testa took part to the international symposium ‘Scribal Culture and Political Information in Italy 1450-1650’ (Birkbeck College/The British Library), organized by Professor Brian Richardson (Leeds) and Dr Filippo De Vivo (Birkbeck). His presentation suggested the relevance of the Italian Academies Database for creating a map of manuscript Italian political writings.

Other public dissemination

The Italian Academies project has been selected for inclusion in the ICT Guides on-line register of IT research projects which is hosted on the  KCL server. This directory contains information about projects such as ours which have been sponsored by arts and humanities funding bodies and are of interest to the broad humanities research community.
The main site is at: and our project is at:
The directory contains in particular information about the technical dimensions of each project, with a view to enabling new projects to draw on existing expertise, design etc. The PMG is once again very grateful to Simon Woolf and his colleagues for their assistance in completing information for the directory.

Research trips

The two Research Assistants have both spent time in libraries and archives in Italy, in particular in Naples and Padua. In addition to the valuable information collected on academies and their members and books, which is being added in to the database and allowing us to locate further items in the BL collections, these visits have been particularly useful in helping to develop and consolidate contacts with librarians, scholars and those responsible for the promotion of culture in the regions involved in our project.

During the research trip to Padua, Simone Testa found several books relevant for the research, and made contacts with the Accademia Galileiana. The librarian there, dott. Diego Rossi, has donated to the project several very important critical studies on the history of Paduan culture in the seventeenth century, and the history of the Academy, including the complete list of academicians from the foundation to the present. In Bologna, Simone has established good links with the Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio, and we are currently exploring the possibilities of collaboration with that library in a future phase of the project.

There is particular enthusiasm in Naples and its region. Lorenza Gianfrancesco, as the Research Assistant working on Naples, was invited to attend the annual conference of librarians and present our project to them, and we have also begun to establish partnership links which it is hoped will give access to further funding sources and the expansion of the project on to an international level.

The database

Inputting of information into the database has continued apace. We have also undertaken a number of modifications and revisions in the light of feedback from early users and presentation audiences. In particular we are currently revising the front pages –About Us, Search Tips – in order to make these more cleary focussed on our database and less generic, and to provide greater assistance to new users. The database will also appear in an Italian language version, which is close to uploading. To access the database from within the BL select ‘Catalogues’ and scroll down to ‘Italian Academies’, and from outside the library:


We are delighted to report that the BL has agreed to fund a second year of the digitisation dimension of the database which will allow us to add a further 400 images to the 400 already included. We are extremely grateful to the BL for the renewal of this funding, and especially to the Director of Research Ronald Milne for his continued enthusiasm and support for the project. The digitised images in the records have transformed the look of the database and will significantly increase its usefulness to researchers on the history of art and book history. Some of the images collected provide fascinating insights, for example, into the involvement of women in both book production and the Academies.


The project is being significantly promoted by the research publications of the Research Assistants. An article by Simone Testa, ‘Italian Academies Database. Un nuovo progetto’, in Bruniana e campanelliana, 1 (2008) has been published; Lorenza Gianfrancesco is preparing another article, also on the project, for submission to a second journal. Simone Testa has also published a critical bibliography on Thesori politici which has appeared in e-BLJ; this relates to research done for his doctoral thesis and presents many fascinating insights into publishing history.

In addition, and arising out of requests by our various audiences at the presentations, we have produced a project leaflet for dissemination in libraries and university departments in the UK and internationally. This was designed and produced at Royal Holloway and we would like to express our thanks to the PR team there for all their valuable assistance. The leaflet can be obtained by emailing any member of the project team – email addresses are given on our web pages:

International links

In May we were pleased to be able to entertain Prof. Mauro Guerrini president of the Italian Library Association (AIB) and explain our project to him. He expressed great interest in the project. Following this we have been invited to attend the annual conference of the AIB and to present our project there. In this way we hope to reach a large number of representatives of Italian libraries, and again develop networks of interested scholars and institutions.

Future Plans

Discussions for the next phase of the project announced in the last issue have continued and will become especially intense through the autumn. At present priority is being given to a second bid to the AHRC. This new bid will be for a Research Grant and will involve collaboration additionally with the University of Reading. The new application will envisage extending the database to other centres and academies, but also significant research activity – publications, conferences and exhibitions. We are also actively looking at sources of funding for developing international networks.

The public launch

Arising out of a proposal made at the time of the formal signing of the agreement between Royal Holloway and the British Library for the operation of this project, a public launch of the Italian Academies project will take place on Tuesday January 20th 2009, from 5- 7 pm, in the Conference Centre of the British Library. Full details and formal invitations will be circulated during the autumn, but do please put this date in your diary. We are expecting representatives of Italian organisations including the Embassy, members of the press both British and Italian, and many other interested parties.

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