Etichetta della Biblioteca ducale

Etichetta della Biblioteca ducale

The first evidence of the presence of “oriental” books in the duke’s collection dates back to the beginning of the 16th century: there were two copies of the so-called Psalterium octaplum and the Psalterium hebraeum, graecum, arabicum et chaldaeum cum tribus latinis interpretationibus et glossis published in Genoa in 1516 by Pietro Paolo Porro. A few other works came to be part of what had in the meantime become a veritable library (situated in Turin) by the time of Emanuele Filiberto: among these were the Grammatica chaldea, the Dictionarium syro-chaldaicum by Guy Lefèvre de la Boderie, the Grammatica linguae syriacae and the Syrorum peculium by Andreas Masius (André Maes), all works published along with the Bibbia Regia (Royal Bible) which had been given to the duke by his brother-in-law Philip II of Spain.

We have to wait to the time of Carlo Emanuele I (1580-1630) for the creation of a true collection of Hebrew and Oriental works, which were placed in the new Great Gallery which the duke had created at the beginning of the 17th century.

It would appear that the most precious part of the collection, the manuscripts, was constituted almost as a whole between the end of the 16th and the first half of the 17th century (with the exception of the nineteenth-century bequest by Tommaso Valperga from Caluso). The large collection of printed works, although mostly formed in the mid-17th century too, seems to have been added to in the course of the following centuries, something demonstrated in part by the sources identified in the present project.

The large-scale acquisitions of oriental works at the beginning of the 17th century are demonstrated by the remarks that we find in the inventory by Giulio Torrini (see below): even though the references to the oriental works in the catalogue are unfortunately very general, as many as 380 Hebrew volumes are listed, both printed books and manuscripts. These were acquired at least in part with the creation of the new chair of Oriental Languages.

The formation of a collection of books is often accompanied by the creation of an inventory of the new possessions and we have evidence of a first catalogue of Hebrew books in the period between the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century; the inventory was written on paper, in Hebrew and Italian, and it listed the Hebrew books, both manuscript and printed, ordered according to their subject. The work, which was unfortunately lost in the fire of 1904, had no title and, although it was described by Peyron as being too vague and useless (Peyron, 1880, pp. 280-281, ms. A.VII.56), it could have been further evidence in reconstructing in detail or at least confirming the state of the Hebrew manuscripts in the Biblioteca Ducale.

Foglio di registro contenuto in Hebr.III.24

During the rule of Vittorio Amadeo I, Cristina of France and Carlo Emanuele II the collections of books were partly neglected, as can be deduced from contemporary accounts, among which for example, those of Jean Mabillon and Bernard de Montfaucon.

For this period, however, it is important to remember the topographical catalogue by Giulio Torrini, mentioned above, which was compiled in 1659, the first catalogue we have which mentions the Hebrew collection. The inventory begins with a description of the Oriental and Hebrew works which had been placed in the second “guardarobba” (“cupboard”) on the eastern side and in the second “guardarobba” on the western side, under the title Syriaci Chaldaici Hebrei. As Mauro Albenga, who made a useful transcription and wrote an introduction to the inventory, has pointed out, “Unfortuntately the two “guardarobbe” which appear at the beginning of the inventory are those for which Torrini provides the most summary information, often limiting himself to formulae of the kind, “No. of books…. in … language” (Inventario della Biblioteca Ducale del protomedico e bibliotecario Giulio Torrini (1659), tesi di Laurea del Corso di laurea in Lettere Moderne dell’Università degli Studi di Torino, a.a. 1990/1991, p. XXVIII).



In effect, the catalogue does not say much about the Oriental collection, which must have amounted to about 700 or 800 volumes in the form of manuscripts and books: the very few times a title is given by Torrini it demonstrates the presence of works such as a Novum testamentum arabic, a Dictionarium Caldaicum, an Alphabetum arabicum, and, for the Hebrew works, a Grammatica hebrea, a Tavoletta combinatoria delle conson. et vocali hebr., or the Interpretationes hebraice. The two cupboards also contained works which variously pertained to the Oriental books, such as works on Oriental history or biographies of scholars of Oriental languages. There were, as we have said, 380 Hebrew books, including printed books, but also some books that were written partly in Hebrew and partly in Arabic. The superficial nature of the catalogue lamented by Albenga was not merely limited to the paucity of information, but also the terminology and the distinction between the various manuscripts: on shelf IV, for example, of the second “guardarobba” on the eastern side Torrini counted “N. 17 folio books in Hebrew. N. 2 manuscripts in Hebrew” (“N°. libri 17 in fol. di lingua hebrea. N°. 2 manuscritti lingua hebrea”), thus combining two different parameters. Random criteria return in the description of other shelves: for shelf IV of the second “guardarobba” on the western side Torrini spoke in fact of “N. 40 big and small books, and manuscripts in Hebrew” (“N°. libri 40 tra grandi, piccoli, e mss. di lingua hebrea”). Again, the first group have in common their format, while the third is characterised by the fact that the works are in manuscript form. Considering the vague nature of the descriptions, it is far from easy to identify the manuscripts and, among the very few works for which Torrini registers a title or an author, it is not possible to recognise works that are present today in the collection of the Biblioteca Nazionale (Bnt), with the exception of two copies of the work by Deodato Segre dedicated to Carlo Emanuele I, which were found on shelf I of the second “guardarobba” on the western side.

Marca tipografica De Cavalli
Marca tipografica Tobia Foa
Marca tipografica Avraham Usque

A fire broke out inside the library in 1667, after which the necessary work of renovation was not carried out and the condition of the collections grew even worse.

It was Vittorio Amadeo II who provided the impulse behind the restoration of the Biblioteca Ducale, thanks above all to the inspiration of Scipione Maffei. In 1709 Vittorio Amadeo entrusted the abbot Filiberto Maria Machet with the task of compiling an inventory of the library, and in 1713 the Index Alphabetique des livres qui se trouvent en la Bibliothèque Royale de Turin en cette année 1713 was created. In order to describe the section devoted to the Oriental and Hebrew manuscripts the German theologian Christoph Matthias Pfass (Stuttgart 1686 – 1750) was called in. The Hebrew books are listed from page 315 of the catalogue onwards: up to page 331 there is a description of the printed books and from page 333-344 the manuscripts. The volumes mentioned by Pfaff, which all bear a title and an author (when they are not anonymous), can mostly be easily identified by comparing them with the Hebrew books which were identified more recently. The inventory includes 342 works, 188 printed books, and 154 manuscripts, some of which are divided into more than one volume. With the work of cataloguing came a physical re-organisation of the books: the Hebrew books were placed in columns XVII and XVIII, or rather, in the two cupboards that stood against the respective columns of the Great Gallery.