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Engravings and Photography


Most of the considerable iconographical holdings of the Braidense National Library is collected in its volumes, most of which are so conceived from the editor, but also in other volumes that collect more or less homogenous material.

The prints, made with the traditional techniques (xilography, engravings on metal, lythography) cover the period of time between 15th and 19th Century, offering an exemple of the best european production of that epoque.

The prints came to the Library usually inserted between the pages of the volume in which they were published. Therefore their relationship with the context that produced them remains intact: this situation allows one to identificate the date and the place of the edition and to fully understand the meaning and the function of it.

Some of the other volumes collect instead prints that were published one by one. In the past Centuries, in fact, all the spare sheets that arrived at the Library were grouped according to the format and then joint and protected by the bookbinding.

In the 1970's some of these big volumes, that were found falling apart, were unfolded and about 5,000 prints from the 19th Century returned to the original state of spare sheets. These prints are images from the first 60 years of the 19th Century, landed in the Library because of the law on the legal deposit of the prints from the calcographies in the Kingdom of Lombardo-Veneto.

One can find the prints in the general catalogue under the engraver's name when he appears on the front page of the volume.

A catalogue in files is also available, which collects portraits between the 15th and the 20th Century. The portraits can be found under the portrayee's name.


The Library ownes just one exclusively photographic fund - of great importance - which testifies the activity of Emilio Sommariva, a Milanese photographer who lived in the first half of the 20th Century and conquered a solid reputation in Europe.

The other photographies owned by the Braidense - circa 700 (from 1844 to 1950) - belong mostly to collections which include almost just hand-written and printed papers. The photos are strictly bound to them because of the common origin and the portrayees.

The documents, of which the photos are a valuable iconographic supply, contain information that allow one to catch not only the aesthetic or documentary value of the photo, but also the meaning, the date and its function in the interpersonal relationships and in the field of production and diffusion of images. For example, the photo of Giuseppe Verdi with autograph dedication of the musician to Clara Maffei, given to the Braidense by the Countess with other various letters addressed to her by Verdi (about 60), takes in this context a particularly strong meaning, being a graphical testimony of a well-documented relationship between the two characters.