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Marciana National Library

After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, the Greek cardinal Bassarione undertook the preservation of the written record of the Hellenistic world. In 1468 he entrusted the Venetian State with some one thousand codices under the assurance that they would be properly stored and made available to readers. In 1474 the final inventory of the donation was made and it listed 1024 titles. This can be considered as the first nucleus of "The Library of St. Mark."
In 1589 2,200 new volumes were added to those bequeathed by Bassarione when a Paduan botanist donated his collection to the library. This was the first substantial increase in the library's collection, but during the seventeenth and eighteenth century many more donations were to increase its inventory. At the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the Marciana Library was despoiled by the French, taken up by Austrian authorities, lost to the French, and again put under Austrian jurisdiction. In 1866 Venice was annexed to the Reign of Italy and the following year Marciana was declared National Library. Today, the library primarily aims at enlarging its collections on classic philology and Venetian history. Antique books are also being purchased, giving a preference to those manuscripts about Venetian politics and culture. Nowadays, the collection amounts to about one million items, including 13,003 manuscripts volumes and 2,884 incunabula and is visited by more than 35,000 readers yearly.

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© 1996 by the VENIVA consortium