This public library, named after Carlo Giuseppe Guglielmo Boggio, Marquis of Salza and known as Carlo Berio, is located in Via del Seminario, in the city center of Genoa. Its building, which was inaugurated in 2008, is a modern structure designed to cater to the needs of contemporary library users, while also preserving and showcasing the valuable historical collections that it houses.
With over 600,000 volumes, the Berio Library‘s collection is extensive, and it is a significant cultural and educational resource for the city. Its resources include modern books and periodicals, audio-visual materials, and an important collection of antique books and manuscripts.
The library hosts a variety of cultural and educational events, including book presentations, exhibitions, workshops, and seminars. It also provides digital resources, making its collections accessible beyond the physical confines of the library itself.
The National Library of Genoa
The invention and adoption of paper, an indispensable medium for writing, had a transformative effect on the course of human history. Its invention accelerated the spread of knowledge, fostered creativity, and catalyzed significant advancements in numerous fields.
Before the advent of paper, Western societies predominantly used papyrus and parchment, also known as pergamine, for writing. Papyrus, made from the pith of the papyrus plant, was delicate and susceptible to damp conditions. Parchment, on the other hand, was derived from animal skins, which although more robust and flexible, was costly and labor-intensive to produce.
Papermaking originated in China around 105 AD during the Han dynasty. However, it was not until the Middle Ages that the technique reached Europe, brought over by the Islamic world during the 8th century. The Muslims had learned papermaking from Chinese prisoners of war following the Battle of Talas in 751 AD.
The maritime republic of Genoa, being one of the most prosperous trading centers in Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, was quick to adopt this revolutionary technology. Notaries in Genoa were among the first to appreciate the benefits of paper over pergamine. These professionals played a vital role in the city’s commerce, creating and authenticating contracts, wills, deeds, and other crucial documents. The transition from the expensive and less pliable pergamine to the cheaper and more flexible paper had a profound impact on their work, leading to an increase in the volume of written records and contributing to the expansion of Genoa’s economic and political influence.
The cost of paper production was significantly lower than that of pergamine. While the production of a single sheet of parchment could cost the equivalent of a day’s wages for a skilled laborer, a comparable sheet of paper would have cost a fraction of that amount, perhaps as little as one-tenth. This cost advantage of paper over pergamine democratized literacy and education, as more people could afford books and other written materials.
Today, the extensive paper records from this era, meticulously preserved in Genoa’s archives, provide a wealth of information for historians. The National Library of Genoa, or Biblioteca Durazzo, holds an invaluable collection of these documents. These resources offer a unique window into the city’s past, revealing details about its legal and economic structures, social relations, and cultural practices. The notarial records, many written on paper, are a testament to the city’s early adoption of this versatile medium.
The National Library of Genoa plays a crucial role in preserving and facilitating access to these vital resources. Historians and researchers worldwide rely on its collections to study various aspects of Genoese and broader Italian history. In conclusion, the adoption of paper greatly enhanced the ability of societies to record, share, and spread knowledge. The evidence of this revolution is beautifully encapsulated in the collections held at the National Library of Genoa, providing a tangible link to the city’s rich past.