The National Marciana Library was born from the idea of Francesco Petrarca, who decided to donate his books to the city Venice in order to found a public library in 1362. The project did not actually go ahead until 1537, when its construction began in Piazzetta San Marco to the designs of Jacopo Sansovino. It also received a large collection of books donated by Cardinal Bessarion to the Serenissima in 1468.
The main section of the library is currently located in the ancient Mint, and winds up to the Palazzo of the Sansovino Library.
The library predominantly preserves works of ancient culture of literary, philosophical, historical and patristic type, as well as cartographic, graphic, musical and theatrical materials. Of course, there are also important collections of Venetian origin and a wide range of Venetian publications, considering that the Library has been regularly receiving a copy of all the editorial production of the territory.
With this ‘right to print’ the collection has also increased in contemporary fiction. The Marciana Library holds about one million volumes, of which 17,756 are manuscripts, 2,887 incunables, 24,060 16th century works and over 4,000 periodicals.
The services offered by the library are: consultation, bibliographic information, local loans, inter-library loans and the supply of documents and reproductions. The minimum age to consult the printed books is 16, while you have to be 18 to consult manuscripts or rare and precious books.
The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana also provides a service dedicated to the blind, visually impaired and dyslexic through the Libro Parlato Lions project, which allows access to a database of works in MP3, CD or audiocassette format.
The library's catalogs allows you to find all the works kept within the library, be they printed (card and online catalogs) or handwritten (catalogs and manuscripts). The online catalog is part of the collective catalog of 23 Venetian libraries, which form the Polo di Venezia of the National Library Service (SBN).
In addition to the bibliographic heritage, the Marciana Library also has a remarkable artistic collection, located in its monumental area, the Palace of the Sansovino Library. Here you can admire the works of the most important artists of the Venetian Renaissance, such as Tintoretto, Veronese, Titian and many others.
The Monumental Halls of the library are part of the Collective Museum Itinerary of the Museums of St Mark's Square: with a single ticket you can also visit the Doge's Palace, the Correr Museum and the Archaeological Museum. The entrance to the Sale Monumentali is the same as the Correr Museum.