Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

Franca Arduini
January 11, 2007

The Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana represents one of the finest examples of Michelangelo’s skill as an architect. Access to the Library is through the famous staircase, designed by Michelangelo and built by Mannerist sculptor, Bartolommeo Ammannati. The Reading Room hosts two series of wooden benches, the so-called plutei, and contains 3,000 manuscripts from the private Medicean Collection. The stained-glass windows were constructed by a Flemish workshop, in keeping with Giorgio Vasari’s drawings.

Throughout the first decades of the 1800s, a rich collection of incunabula (books printed before 1500) and original print editions were donated to the Laurentian Library by the Florentine aristocrat Angelo Maria D’Elci (1754-1824). This donation led to the construction of a Tribune designed by the architect Pasquale Poccianti.  During the mid-1700s and the end of the 1800s the Library acquired a series of important collections, including the autograph manuscripts of Vittorio Alfieri and the manuscripts of Lord Ashburham. Two thousand five hundred Greco-Egyptian papyri were acquired in the 1900s, one of the most important collections of its kind in the world.


The Laurentian is one of four public libraries in Florence. Its extraordinary pietra serena staircase is one of the most original in the world. Filled with 11,000 manuscripts, the construction of the library began in 1524 and was finished in 1568. When Duke Cosimo I opened it to the public in 1571, the manuscripts belonging to the Medici private library were stripped of their original covers and rebound in red leather with the Medici arms. The volumes were then chained to benches (plutei) for fear they would be stolen. Chain marks can still be seen on the covers.

In 1757, Angelo Bandini was appointed librarian and served for 50 years. During this period many of the libraries finest works were acquired. Bandini is credited for publishing of a series of catalogues of the collection which is unrivalled today. Works by Virgil, Leonardo da Vinci, Petrarch, Machiavelli and Michelangelo can be found here, and it is an extraordinary source of material for classical and humanist scholars.

Piazza San Lorenzo 9

Entrance: free

Special exhibition fees: 5 Euro

Open Daily: 8:30am-1:30pm

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