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Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata - Basilian Monks

Corso del Popolo, 128 - 00046 Grottaferrata (Rome) ITALY - Phone (01139) 069459309 - Fax (01139) 069456734

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Laboratory for the Restoration of Ancient Books

Benedetto XV Institute - High School

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More info: father Antonio - phone 0039-06.945.60.19
from Monday to Friday, 09:00 a.m - 12:00 a.m

An overhead sight of the laboratorySince 1931 the Badia Greca in Grottaferrata has been the seat of the "Laboratory for the Restoration of Ancient Books and Manuscripts" the first scientifically-based laboratory founded by The Ministry of National Education.
Situated in a large room of the old monastic guest-rooms, the laboratory has immediately showed an important role as an activity based both on scientific research and, at the same time, on a high and very refined craftsmanship.

As up to 1930 only the Vatican Apostolic Library had such a laboratory, in this same period Father Nilo Borgia, the librarian of the Abbey, suggested that the Abbey should have a similar laboratory where monks could devote themselves to restore not only the precious manuscripts in their own library but also those coming from other libraries and therefore it was necessary to support the book laboratory with a chemical laboratory as well.

Restorer monk at workSince the early years of the establishment of "The Ancient Book Laboratory", very numerous manuscripts came from different libraries all over Italy and from the pestigious libraries in Rome such as Vallicelliana and Alessandrina.

It is important to note that the work at "The Ancient Book Laboratory" was restricted not only to the manual work, but it included also and particularly for the most prominent manuscripts a bibliographic and scientific analysis, which led, for instance, to the discovery of the 6th-7th century Homiliae by St. Ephrem of Syria (†373) in a 17th-century volume from Vallicelliana Library.

Ancient codexInstances of important restorations are: the 12th-century parchment manuscript of the Typikon from Càsole, in serious conditions following the 1904 fire at the University Library in Turin; an Evangeliarium graecum from the Treasure of St. Mark from St. Mark Library in Venice badly damaged by damp; three 11th-12th century parchment scrolls of Exultet from the town of Troia in Puglia.

The 1966 flooding in Florence saw the experts from "The Ancient Book Laboratory" in the first line, after an order coming directly from Pope Paul VI, to rescue some 1,000 precious volumes from the devastating damages produced by mud and water.

Restoration from fireBy far the most prestigious work of restoration are universally considered to be the over 1,000 papers from Codex Atlanticus by Leonardo da Vinci, comprising drawings of machines, studies on geometry, calculations, different and personal notes.
The manuscript was in a serious situation because after four centuries insects and moths had produced vast damages as well as mould and oxidation had begun to propagate. First of all it was necessary to unglue the papers, then to carry on a vast cleaning and the closing of the holes produced by worms, the margin integration and the mending of the tearings.

During the millenium celebration of the Abbey (2004-2005) a vast exhibition of the restoration work carried out by "The Ancient Book Laboratory" as well as of the restored manuscripts will be set up.

Giovanna Falcone
Alfredo Serangeli

 
 

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