I love visiting libraries when I travel and the Biblioteca Alfredo De Marsico is a ‘must see’, especially if you have an interest in legal history.
Housed in Castel Capuano, (the Norman royal palace from the 2nd century), which was converted into the Palace of Justice in the 16th century (itself transferred in 2000 to the business centre on the outskirts of the city), the exceptional and extraordinary Alfredo De Marsico library owes its name to the eminent jurist of that name (1888-1895).
The library, opened on the 19th July 1986 in the beautiful hall of the Criminal Court where the Council of Queen Joan of Anjou sat in the 14th century, houses in excess of 80,000 volumes dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries, with some rare editions being cited by the British National Library as the only copies in the world. Many are also invaluable for their precious bindings and refined typography.
The bibliographic heritage that this library holds has been enhanced over the centuries through donations from illustrious lawyers, including the last memoirs of Giovanni Napolitano, father of Giorgio, the immediate past President of the Italian Republic. Apart from legal works, the library houses collections of authoritative philosophical and literary treatises, ancient codes of law, monographs, encyclopedias and four rare editions (1612, 1622, 1683, 1759) of John Calvin’s writings.
The frescoed vaults of the two rooms at the entrance to the library, painted by Belisario Corenzio, represent the Judgment of Solomon, the Judgment of David, allegories of the virtues, and coats of arms. In the 16th century, the so called “small throne” room was designed for individuals attending the trial of those indicted for serious threats to social order. This “small throne” in red velvet with gold armrests, which had probably belonged to Francis II of Bourbon, was confiscated from a mob boss. The artifact was exhibited in June 2013 in the basement of Castel Capuano as part of a stunning display on various notorious news items. Among the most original were a life-sized wooden jaguar in whose belly had been hidden a large quantity of cocaine. counterfeit cigarettes, and a rubber mask with the face of actor Lino Banfi which was used for a holdup!!
The library can be visited on appointment and really is a magnificent place to visit when you are next in Naples.
(Adapted from Secret Naples by Valerio Grimaldi Maria Franchini, published by JonGlez)