Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews   entry Aug 2005   


Storia Patria Nostra Library


My least favorite quote about books is from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 12:12—“…of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh…”. It is, however, the one favored by most of my college students. My favorite quote, on the other hand, is from Groucho Marx: “Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

Which reminds me—I have no dog, but the Storia Patria Nostra library has long been one of my best friends in Naples. Whether I want an item about the recent history of Naples or the front page of the March 13, 1918 Mattino (which chronicled a WWI German Zeppelin attack on Naples), they put up with me. Even cheerfully. They look at my scribbled request slip, wonder why I don’t cross my 7’s, smile, disappear for a moment and reappear with the goods.

The origins of the Storia Patria Nostra library can be traced to the Neapolitan Historical Society founded in 1843, well before the unification of Italy. Under the current name, however, the society and library were founded in 1875. The library now occupies sections of two floors of the Maschio Angioino, the great fortress at the port of Naples.

The holdings of the library consist of about 350,000 volumes and monographs plus an enormous number of newspapers and other periodicals. It is the largest such institution in southern Italy and, indeed, is one of many such regional societies in Italy, each dedicated to its own local history. For the foreigner, it is important to remember that “Patria nostra” does not mean simply the city of Naples, and not even just the province. It should be understood in the sense of “southern Italy.” The society that governs the library also publishes the periodical Archivio Storico per le Province Napoletane, an important scholarly journal that was, between 1899 and 1932, in the diligent hands of Benedetto Croce, one of the great historians and scholars in European history. The library hosts numerous conferences and discussions, as well.

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