Anglo-Italian Family History Society

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London Library Visit

OopsThomas Carlyle

In November, Daphne and I had the good fortune to be invited to represent the Society at an evening reception in the historic and elegant London Library. Situated in St James's Square in the heart of the city, it was founded in 1841 by Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist and historian, Thomas Carlyle. The Library's eclectic collection covers a vast number of subjects, with a focus on Fine Arts, Literature and History. Over one million volumes, dating from the 16th Century to the latest print and digital resources are stored on 15 miles of open-access shelves; they can be freely browsed and 97% are available for loan.

More than 50 languages are represented and our charming guide, the Italian Specialist, Andrea Del Cornó highlighted the Library's unique Italian Collection, nestling within the honeycomb of corridors and shelves. In the early years, in order to collect the best material relevant to Italian studies, the Library relied on the expertise of eminent scholars - many of whom were also members. One such was political refugee Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), an acquaintance of Carlyle.

There is something within the Library's treasures for every one of us with Italian genes or a passion for Italian language, history and culture. Dante, Petrarca, Manzoni, Boccaccio, Leopardi are represented and include rare books, such as the novel Clelia, written by Giuseppe Garibaldi, which is not available anywhere else. Contemporary authors, such as Camilleri, Eco and Saviano also appear and the history section covers pre-history to the present, with an emphasis on the Renaissance, the Risorgimento, First and Second World Wars and Fascist Italy.

Free Monday night tours take place every two weeks at 6.00p.m. Membership benefits include generous loan periods, no fines, late openings two evenings a week, four attractive reading rooms and free Wi-Fi throughout the building. Postal loans for the UK and Europe are available with full membership.

For those of us whose budgets cannot stretch to annual membership fees, or live too far away to make good use of the facilities, it is possible to take out short term memberships.

The Library has plans to showcase its Italian collection at an Italian-themed event during Spring 2014 - I'll keep you posted!

Rosemarie Leonard

For more information see:

The London Library, 14 St James's Square

London SW1Y 4LG. 020 7766 4704

Nearest underground: Piccadilly, Green Park