As with the manuscripts, the collection of incunabula (books printed between 1450-1500) formed in Ferrara when the new art of typography arrived in 1471.
As with the manuscripts, the collection of incunabula (books printed between 1450-1500) formed in Ferrara when the new art of typography arrived in 1471. At the end of the fourteen-hundreds, the number of books in the possession of Ercole I and his wife Eleonora d’Aragona (the Apocalisse xilografica of c.1460 featuring amongst them) was small. During the fifteen-hundreds the collection of printed books rapidly grew with works that ranged from literature to history, geography and the sciences, bearing witness to the interests of members of the House of Este such as Lucrezia Borgia (second wife of Alfonso I) and Alfonso II. The latter was a true bibliophile, acquiring a remarkable selection of Greek incunabula amongst other things. He was also responsible for some wonderful bindings, including the 1551 edition of Appian and a presentation copy of Mattioli’s 1565 work. The move to Modena in 1598 initiated a new phase for the Ducal library. During the sixteen-hundreds purchases included the 1499 The Dream of Poliphilus and richly illustrated works glorifying the House of Este such as Gamberti’s 1659 work and the 1660 Trionfo della virtù. Muratori, Zaccaria and Tiraboschi laid the foundations for the modern Biblioteca during the seventeen-hundreds, enriching the collection with recent publications (copies of every single Encyclopédie) and works arriving as a result of the suppression of religious orders such as the Jesuits (1773), Theatines (1782-83, along with Alessandro d’Este’s books), Benedictines, Barnabites and Augustinians (1796-1814). Up until the end of the dukedom (1859) a particular focus was placed on incunabula: it suffices to say that amongst the additions made during the eighteen-hundreds more than 200 incunabula were purchased, predominantly by Francesco IV between 1825 and 1857 (D’Elci, Besini, Brignoli de Brunhoff). A unique aspect of the collection’s development during the period following Italian unification was the donation of entire private libraries, almost always given by Modena’s most eminent families. In the early nineteen-hundreds, this custom brought to the Estense library many important collections such as: Ferrara Moreni (1925), Formiggini (1939), Muzzarelli (1970), Bertoni (1982), Mari (2000) and Forni (2009). Thus, along with direct purchases, the Estense collection continues to grow to this day, enriched by important publications and rare, valuable editions.