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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
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© 1996 by the VENIVA consortium