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Istituzione Biblioteca Malatestiana


Piazza Bufalini 1, 47023 Cesena (Forlì). The library, a must-see recorded in every guidebook, is situated in the city centre, in a former Franciscan monastery.


The Malatestiana focuses on humanities and general information. Its strongest assets, however, are linked to the mesmerizing collections of codices, manuscripts and rare books, which bring to mind the activity of the Scriptorium and the names of Jean d’Epinal and Francesco da Figline. Paolo Manuzio was so taken by its riches that his friend Annibal Caro wondered if he had gone missing among the books.

The name Malatestiana comes from its founder and patron the Lord of Cesena, Malatesta Novello, who in the 15th century supported the idea and made possible the construction of a library developing the Franciscans’ own library. He devised a financial, governing and architectural structure which contained the seed of the idea of a ‘public’ library. At the death of Novello, the lord’s financial contribution and the activity of copyists substantially ceased, but the collections were still enriched by a few important donations, such as that of Giovanni di Marco, Malatesta Novello’s physician. The joint government of friars and township protected it against the dispersions and abolitions common to most monastic libraries.


View of the 15th Century Reading Room (Photos: Riccardo Vlahov/IBACN)

There are 404,000 books including 287 incunabula, 3,200 16th-century editions. The library includes various sections such as the Malatestiana -and its precious 341 codices, the Corali del Duomo - a collection of illuminated music sheets of the 15th century, the Comandini - devoted to the history and literature of the 19th century, the Nori - for law and literature from the 18th century to the 1950s. The Biblioteca Piana, the personal library of Pope Pius VII, is deposited here. There is an important photographic department with separate collections, prints and drawings, 2,286 discontinued and 450 current serials, and a juvenile section.

There are 18 catalogues among general and special ones: the general ones are by author, shelf and subject, on card and since 1983 on-line, one catalogue in dictionary form spans from 1870 to 1960; special catalogues are for codices, book and/or card, for serials, in book, card and since 1985 on-line, 16th-century editions, photos, incunabula, daily papers, prints.

The library was intended to celebrate the power and culture of the lord and his family, reflected by the grandeur of the architecture - on the blueprint established by Michelozzo in Florence - and by the attention to the symbols which became decorative details. Even light and colours remind Malatesta’s coat-of-arms and the sides of the beautiful plutei are carved with various elements of the family’s escutcheon. The plutei are cleverly designed desks, where the reader could comfortably sit at, while leafing through the books - securely chained to the sloping top with an iron-wrought chain!


Libraria Domini. I manoscritti della Biblioteca Malatestiana, a cura di Fabrizio Lollini e Piero Lucchi, Bologna, Grafis, 1995.
La Biblioteca Malatestiana, a cura di Lorenzo Baldacchini, Roma, Editalia, 1992.
Antonio Domeniconi, La Biblioteca Malatestiana, Cesena, Biblioteca Malatestiana, 1982.

Opening hours

Contemporary section (catalogues, reading rooms, reading and loan, Internet access), Manuscripts and rare books, Study Room (Sala Verde, specific for bibliography, librarianship, codicology, paleography, microfilms, CD-Roms), Juvenile section have different opening hours in winter and summertime, and are closed in August.

For detailed information call the library number 00 39 0547 610892.

Guided tours of the 15th-century Reading Room and of Biblioteca Piana: from June 20 to September 20, Monday to Saturday 9.00 a.m. to 12.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m.; from September 21 to June 19, Monday to Saturday 9.00 a.m. to 12.30 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. Sundays and festivities 10.00 a.m. to 12.30 a.m. groups and school parties are admitted by pre-booking (telephone: 00 39 0547 610892).

Biblioteca Malatestiana hosts a number of cultural events and temporary exhibitions. A diary of the forthcoming events is posted on the relevant webpage. Adjoining shop selling reproductions, publications, photos and posters.

Further information

Telephone: 00 39 0547 610892
Fax: 00 39 0547 21237
E-mail: malatestiana@sbn.provincia.ra.it
Website: http://www.malatestiana.it/

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