The Biblioteca della Regia Università became known as the Biblioteca Regia Nazionale Universitaria following the publication of the Royal Decree, R.D. of the 20th January 1876, n. 2974, “Regolamento Organico delle biblioteche governative del Regno” (it had been qualified as “Nazionale” since the period of Napoleonic domination, from 1801 to 1814). With the creation of the Republic it became simply the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria (National University Library).

Peyron. Mss.4

Peyron. Mss.4

Since then its collection of Hebrew manuscripts and printed books has only benefited from the acquisition of the manuscripts of Amadeo Peyron, which were bought together with the archive and the library of the Peyron family.

Perhaps the most significant event in the twentieth-century history of the collection of Hebrew manuscripts was the fire of 1904, which in the course of one night irredeemably damaged the Hebrew collection and caused enormous damage to many other important sections of the Library. Before the fire the library had 274 Hebrew manuscripts. Only a single manuscript survived intact with its original binding; many others were completely lost, and many survived in the form of a few folios, in terrible condition.

The work of restoring and identifying the damaged pages, without their binding, soon began and it continued for over a century, with several interruptions especially concerning the work of identification.

Fortunately, the fire did not affect the collection of Hebrew printed books. The only catalogue of Hebrew works to have been published in the course of the twentieth century was devoted precisely to the collection of 29 Hebrew incunables; it was compiled by Elia Samuel Artom in the mid-1920s: E.S. Artom, Gli incunaboli ebraici della Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino, in Soncino-Blätter, Beiträge zur Kunde des Jüdischen Buches, Berlino, Gesellschaft der Freunde des Jüdischen Buches, 1925-26.

Hebr.VI.66, Sefer Piruš Megillat Ester, c. 84v


The collection of printed books includes around 650 volumes, including the incunables.

As for the manuscript collection, despite the enormous damage inflicted by the fire, it is one of only fifty Hebrew collections in the world which contain more than one hundred manuscripts (out of a total of around 600 collections: Colette Sirat, Hebrew Manuscripts of the Middle Age, 2002, p. 259): it now includes 133 manuscripts, in various condition, but mostly in partial form.

To these we must add the seven manuscripts acquired together with the Archive of the Peyron family.