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The library is both a material and an ideological place: : literary and artistic-architectural production have refined, assimilated, selected and elaborated culture at their very core. Leon Battista Alberti. The library of a humanist reconstructs the intellectual laboratory of Alberti, made up of a collection of documents and books, objects and tools, memoirs, readings and inventions.
Alberti himself reveals his idea of what a library and humanistic cutlture should be:
Here the studious atmosphere is recalled by a pictorial parade of Arts which depict the nature of what is being learned; portraits of the ancient classical authors loved and imitated by Alberti are represented above the manuscripts with their writings; the armillary spheres and scientific and artistic tools together with the books testify to Alberti’s broad and complex knowledge. The winged eye, created by Alberti as his own emblem, has been chosen as the symbol of this exhibition (no. 14). It symbolizes Alberti’s watchful eye on the learning world.
The exhibition route first introduces the visitor to the most personal area of Alberti’s library (section I), where he treasured his private writings, allowing us to trace back his biography and iconography (no. 48).
His actual library follows this personal area. The section (section II) includes codices with Alberti’s works, written or emended by him, or even derived from his own writing desk. Here all Alberti’s autographs, together with manuscripts which were prepared in the confidential circle of his relatives, friends and fellow men, have been brought together for the very first time (nos 26, 56, 58).
The third section leads us into Alberti’s ‘culture temple’: the works of the authors which were his intellectual nourishment and his constant frame of reference. By Alberti’s own words we discover the breadth of his research which embraces not only the deeply beloved ancient authors but also those of his time and the Middle Ages as well as writers who used the Vulgar tongue:
The exhibition shows manuscripts of some of Alberti’s favourite authors: Greek and Latin, medieval and contemporary. Along with five surviving codices from his material library (exhibited for the first time, 59, 60, 61 e 62) are some very fine examplars from Alberti’s illustrious contemporaries, which provide valuable testimony to his culture and the culture of the age.