Renaissance libraries

Library San Marco

Library of San Marco

In the Renaissance there were only two types of libraries: the ecclesiastic / monastic library, and the private household library of an important family. Substantial monastic libraries occurred in all monasteries which had a teaching function. In Florence important ecclesiastical libraries were to be found in the mendicant churches of Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, Santo Spirito, and the civic parish church of San Lorenzo. The monastic libraries of San Marco and the Badia Fiesolana were considered almost “public” libraries, since they facilitated access for people with the wish to read and learn. Both these libraries followed the literary canon for public libraries, with recommendations for  acquisition written by Tommaso Parentucelli (pope Nicholas V). Both libraries were therefore among the earliest “public” libraries, and helped to shape the category, which only centuries later would be finally realized.