The Cicognara Library on Microfiche:
A Major Resource in the History of Art

Dedicated to the publication and dissemination of the contents of the Library of Books on Art and Architecture of Count Leopoldo Cicognara (1767-1834) in the Vatican Library.

A Joint Program of the Vatican Library and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, sponsored by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation

About the Cicognara Library

In 1824 the Vatican Library acquired from Conte Leopoldo Cicognara (1767-1834) his famous library of approximately five thousand books on art, archaeology, and kindred subjects. The books date, in a virtually unbroken sequence, from the beginning of printing to Cicognara's time. It was the largest and most judiciously selected library in the field ever brought together. To this day its possession establishes the Vatican Library as a generously equipped center for studies in the literature and the history of art and classical archaeology as well as of art criticism, taste, and aesthetics.

Cicognara was a poet and an amateur artist, a patron of the arts and one of the founding fathers of the discipline of art history. He reconstituted the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Venice (both the school and the museum) and for many years served as its president. His book on the history of sculpture, Storia della scultura dal suo risorgimento in Italia fino al secolo di Canova (title of the revised 2nd. edition, Prato, 1823-4; 1st ed., Venice, 1813-1818) remains unsurpassed.

Cicognara's annotated catalogue of his library, the Catalogo ragionato dei libri d'arte e d'antichità posseduti dal Conte Cicognara (Pisa, 1821) has long been a standard guide to primary sources in the history of art from antiquity to his own time. The Cicognara Library, as no other library can, allows us to enter into the discussion, from book to book, on the purposes and the dignity of art that animated the language of the love and the theory as well as the practice of art from antiquity to Cicognara's own time. In addition to a central core of treatises, books, pamphlets, poems, orations, and programs regarding the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture and their history and relation to literature, music, rhetoric, theology, philosophy, and other branches of the pursuit of knowledge, the library contains everything in print that Cicognara could assemble on the practice and teaching of the arts.

Included among these books are many bound volumes of engravings with texts that show how to draw and paint, how perspective works, how to build houses, bridges, fountains, machines, etc. In addition, there is a large stock of books and pamphlets on museums and private collections, sales catalogs, travel to historic and artistic sites, many volumes of engravings of works of art and architecture, feasts, funerary rites and solemn entries, costume and dress, emblems, hieroglyphs, and much more. A perusal of the library offers an enlightening view of how artists worked and how collectors and patrons of art made their choices.

About the Cicognara Project

In order to make the contents of the Cicognara Library (the «Fondo Cicognara» of the Vatican Library) in its entirety available as widely as possible the project operates on a not-for-profit basis. The generous interest in the Project of the Vatican Library and the support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation help make this possible. The films are taken by the Photographic Department of the Vatican Library and turned into microfiches by Chadwyck-Healey, Ltd. of Cambridge, England.

Until his untimely death in 2000, Philipp Fehl was Editor-in-Chief for the Cicognara Project, working with the late Raina Fehl (d. 2009) and Barbara Steindl. A new edition of the Catalogo ragionato dei libri d'arte e d'antichità posseduti dal Conte Cicognara, to be accompanied by an enhanced index and introductory material, was in preparation at Raina Fehl’s death, and it is hoped that this important project will be brought to completion.

Status of the Project

The Samuel H. Kress Foundation remains strongly committed to this important partnership between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Vatican Library. The principals are currently exploring ways of sustaining the founding vision of the Cicognara Project, which was – and is still – to ensure the widest possible access to the uniquely rich body of the literature of art that is the Cicognara Library.

For information regarding subscriptions, please contact Susan Edwards at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (; 217.333.5476). For information about the Cicognara Project, its current status and future plans, please contact the Samuel H. Kress Foundation (; 212.861.4993).

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