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Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea


Via Scienze 17, 44100 Ferrara. The library is situated in the medieval town, close to the Ghetto. The beautiful Palazzo Paradiso is undergoing important works that are restoring it to its original features.


The roots of the Ariostea Library go back deep into the community; the library is the depositary of the town collective memory and, while preserving an astonishing collection of rare books and manuscripts, it welcomes readers ranging from youngsters to scholars. It also hosts a series of cultural initiatives. The name is in honour of Ludovico Ariosto, whose tomb has been in the library since 1801.

The Ariostea Library was established in 1747. The Este family, on leaving Ferrara for Modena, had also taken with them the library and the archive, thus depriving Ferrara of its most important source of information and study. When the local Studium developed, the library became such a indispensable resource that it was incorporated into the university, as were the anatomical theatre and the botanical garden. In 1750 the city council bought Mgr. Bentivoglio’s library and, nearly at the same time, was presented with a number of Ariosto’s own manuscripts of the Furioso, very much the treasure of the Ariostea to this day. The library separated from the university and became fully autonomous in 1862.


There are 360,000 books, among which 1,560 incunabula and some 10,000 16th century editions, 407 current periodicals, 1,800 prints and a collection of printed music. The Ariostea manuscripts are subdivided according to their authors, either from Ferrara - as in the case of Ariosto’s handwritten fragments of the Furioso, or from elsewhere, and into a few more collections bequeathed to the library. Two special collections stand out: the Collezione Ariostea, with more than 650 editions and the Furioso editio princeps, and the Collezione Savonaroliana.

A number of catalogues are available: a card catalogue of printed books (1500-1986) by author and title, subject catalogues - one being entirely devoted to Ferrara -, an on-line catalogue (since 1987) and a number of special catalogues, such as the Savonaroliano and the incunabula. Various PCs located all over the library allow readers to search Ippogrifo, the Library OPAC.

The Palazzo Paradiso was built at the end of the 14th century as a private residence and belonged to the Este family until well into the 16th century. Some important frescoes survive and bear witness to the importance and richness of the building. Today, one of the most puzzling cycles looks down to the young readers of the brightly furnished children’s section. The recent works have brought to light the original water reservoirs and the garden, which may have well given the name to the place from the Greek and Hebrew etymology paradeisos and pardesh. Now they welcome readers in good weather. By the end of the 16th century the Studio had taken over the building and in the 18th century the small and austere Anatomical Theatre was added. In the early 1960s the University moved into other premises and the Ariostea could spread out in the beautiful rooms now under restoration.


Palazzo Paradiso e la Biblioteca Ariostea, a cura di Alessandra Chiappini, Roma, Editalia, Ferrara, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio, 1993.

Guida ai fondi storici della Biblioteca Ariostea, a cura di Luisa Pagnoni, Ferrara, Comune di Ferrara, 1996.


Dr Alessandra Chiappini

Opening hours

Reading Rooms, periodicals and open shelf sections are open Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. (9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. on Saturdays), rare books Monday to Friday 9.00 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. (9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. on Saturdays).

Further information

Contact person: Cinzia Ammirati
Telephone: 00 39 0532 210502
Fax: 00 39 0532 204296
Website: http://www.artecultura.fe.it/index.phtml?id=271

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