Piazzale Pilotta, 43100 Parma. The library is in the heart of the town, only a short distance from the cathedral and the baptistery. The Museo Bodoni (q.v.) is on the same premises and under the one roof of the Pilotta Palace, where the magnificent Teatro Farnese and the Pinacoteca Nazionale (the National Gallery) can also be seen.
The Palatina is the most important library in town; while preserving a rich rare book collection, it is particularly oriented towards the activities of the university of Parma and to the needs of the students. From Garibaldi to Bertolucci, from Ferdinand Gregorovius to Diego Valeri, many are those who have spent some time in the beautiful reading rooms.
The Palatina Library was funded in the 18th century, under the dukes of Bourbon. It greatly benefited from the enlightened direction of Paolo Maria Paciaudi, a friar and a librarian, who ordered the material into six classes and compiled the first card catalogue. A second boost came in the 19th century during the reign of Napoleon’s wife Marie-Louise, duchess of Parma, when the director Angelo Pezzana enriched the library with acquisitions of exceptional value.
The Palatina Library was named after Apollus Palatinus and from the very beginning it was situated in the never completed Farnese Palace. The French architect Petitot was called to design the Reading Room and we can still admire his original shelves, partly damaged during the Second World War but now completely restored. Correggio’s preparatory sketch for the Incoronata fresco - now at the National Gallery - gives the name to the second room. Another room was built and decorated under the reign of the duchess Marie-Louise, commemorated in an impressive statue by Canova.
The library has now more than 700,000 books, among which there are 3,044 incunabula and some 11,600 16th-century editions. There are 370 current periodicals, 52,479 prints and drawings - the Ortalli Collection is considered one of the most beautiful in the country. There is a unique musical section of 93,000 books, 30,340 manuscripts and 45 periodicals. The Spanish collection is a comprehensive source for the Siglo de Oro theatre. A recent acquisition is the Ethiopian collection. The Palatino manuscript collection was once the most precious part of the private library of the Bourbon-Parmas; it now has quite a few books of hours and rarities such as an 11th-century gospel and the Longobard Law. The Raccolta De Rossi is the richest and the best known collection of oriental - particularly Hebrew - manuscripts.
The electronic catalogue of the Palatina was started in 1994. There are book and/or card catalogues for books by author, subject, and DDC catalogue since 1980, as well as special catalogues for incunabula and special collections, such as the Ortalli. There is a card catalogue for discontinued periodicals and a book and card collective one for current periodicals in the library and elsewhere in Parma.
Guida di Parma, testi di Leonardo Farinelli e Pierpaolo Mendogni, Parma, Silva Editore, 1991.
Ministero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali, Ufficio Centrale per i Beni Librari e gli Istituti Culturali, Biblioteche d’Italia. Le biblioteche pubbliche statali, 1991.
Leonardo Farinelli, Le raccolte delle biblioteche statali, in: Atlante dei beni culturali dell’Emilia Romagna, a cura di Giuseppe Adani e Jadranka Bentini, vol. IV, Milano, Amilcare Pizzi, 1996.
Monday to Thursday 8.30 a.m. to 6.45 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays: 8.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.. The Bodoni Museum is open from 9.00 to 12.00 a.m. and is closed on Sundays. Guided tours can be arranged by pre-booking.