An Introduction to this

A Renaissance at Duke

This on-line exhibit showcases a representative sample of the Mazzoni Pamphlet Collection at Duke Univerity. This collection of 50,000 rare Italian pamphlets was acquired by Duke University in 1948. It is very likely one of the largest collections of an Italian private library in the United States. Assembled by the late Professor Guido Mazzoni, who taught Italian Literature in Padua and Florence and was Senator for life in the Italian Parliament, the collection consists of pamphlets, newspapers, programs, catalogs, and small volumes dating from the 16th through 20th centuries. It includes periodicals, political satire, Italian and French dramas, ballets, librettos, eulogies, epithalamia, materials from both World Wars, many collections of poetry, and many pamphlets relating to the Unification of Italy.

Through a federally-funded two-year project, the Special Collections Library has created a 50,000-record database for the Mazzoni Pamphlets, which until now have been virtually inaccessible to patrons since they were first acquired in 1948. To use the database and the pamphlets themselves, patrons should plan for an on-site visit to the Special Collections Library, where the Reference Staff will be happy to help them with their research. A limited amount of reference service can also be performed through telephone or surface mail contact.

The Acquisition of the Mazzoni

In 1947, Dr. Allan Gilbert, professor of English at Duke University and specialist in Renaissance Italy, was given a fellowship to study the Renaissance works of Ariosto in Italy. While in Florence, Gilbert heard of the sale of the Mazzoni library and, having recognized its scholarly value, strongly recommended that Duke purchase it. He wrote several letters to Dean Wanamaker, describing the steps that needed to be taken towards the purchase of the Library, and estimating its size to be about 23,000 volumes and 67,000 pamphlets. Although it seemed as though UCLA might become a competitor in the bidding, this did not come to pass, and so Duke University found itself the owner of the collection. In the photograph to the right, Dr. Gilbert can be seen inspecting the first shipment of the library. The heirs of Mazzoni were delighted, as they had ensured that their father's library would avoid the fate of so many other personal collections in post-war Italy -- dispersal to booksellers.

Bibliographic Access

In 1992, the Special Collections Library applied for and received funds from the federal government's Department of Education for a two-year project. The goal of the project was to provide bibliographic access to the Mazzoni Pamphlet Collection. This access is currently provided in two ways. Thirty bibliographic records, each representing broad subject areas in the Mazzoni Collection can be found in OCLC, a national on-line database, and in Perkins Library's on-line catalog. These 30 records briefly describe the holdings of each subject category, and refer patrons to an item-level electronic finding aid containing records for each of the 50,000 pamphlets; each record gives the pamphlet number, title, author, date, selected other names, and brief notes. This item-level database is an enormous improvement over the hand-written indexes used previously. It is currently accessed only through the Special Collections Library computers, but eventually will be available on the Internet, and thus to the scholarly community worldwide. In the meantime, the staff will be happy to receive off-site requests for searching the database.

The Mazzoni Pamphlet Collection is non-circulating, but is readily available to undergraduate, graduate, and faculty researchers. Photocopying for remote patrons is also offered. For more detailed information on the Mazzoni Pamphlet Collection, including descriptions of each subject area's holdings, visit the on-line version of the Guide to the Mazzoni Pamphlet Collection. If you are interested in using any of the Mazzoni Pamphlet Collection materials, please contact the Special Collections Library reference staff, and they will be happy to assist you.

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A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University. December 1996