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How to search for material relating to Italian collections

The electronic catalogue does not allow the reader to browse the whole of a special collection in a single search. It is possible, however, to replicate the shelf order of a collection within each size specification in Newton. To do so, one must search by classmark stem for the collection, using the first two elements of the classmark and including final punctuation. Please note that classmark searches are case-sensitive. For example, Bute.2. gives access to the earliest titles in the Bute collection; and, CCA.1. - CCE.1. to volumes in the Dante collection.

Browsing can also be done through the physical class catalogues for the collection. The class catalogue contains classmarks next to basic bibliographical data: author, title, place and date of publication. It does not contain subject headings. Please enquire in the Rare Books Reading Room if you would like to look at the class catalogues.

Beatrice and Dante conversing with Saint Peter and Saint James, Paradiso XXV (Venice: Francesco Marcolini, 1544) SSS.56.5

Brief descriptions of the main named collections for the Italian language and Italian area studies are provided on this page, linking to more detailed data where appropriate :

  • The Acton Library
  • The Dante Collection
  • The Bute Collection
  • The Norton Collection
  • CCA-E.17
  • Incunabula Project

This page also contains details of Italian language collections of donated material which have not been kept within Rare Books as named collections but have been divided up and distributed amongst the Library's general collections :

  • Collection of Sir HF Herbert Thompson

Named collections

The Acton Library

Lord Acton's vast personal library was acquired by the University Library in the early twentieth century. It is especially rich in materials on Italian Church history, notably on the Papacy and the Counter-Reformation.

The Dante Collection

The Rare Books Department houses a notable collection of early and special editions and English translations of Dante.

The Bute Collection

The Bute Collection includes a substantial collection of Italian literature, especially drama, from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The Norton Collection

The Norton Collection of books printed in the early sixteenth-century includes a substantial number of Italian items.


Italian literature from the library of K.T. Butler, Mistress of Girton, purchased 1951.

Incunabula Project

Books printed in Italy before 1st January 1501 form the largest portion of incunables from a single country held in the library's rich collection of Incunabula. This amounts to more than 1500 volumes. There is a project currently under way to create full catalogue entries for these volumes.

Visit the Incunabula Project blog.

Donated materials

Collection of Sir HF Herbert Thompson (1859-1944)

A collection of over 300 books bequeathed to the library upon Thompson's death in 1944, this contains primarily books on European literature. Thompson's working library was donated to the Egypt Exploration fund, which he supported throughout his life, and his rare books to the Fitzwilliam Museum. A Demotic and Coptic scholar, Thompson supported archaeological digs, worked on papyri in the British Museum, and established a named Chair in Egyptology at Cambridge University.

Thompson's bequest left the library over 300 books in a variety of European languages; primarily Italian but also French, English, German and Latin. Significant Italian components to this donation include two 16th century editions of Dante, and a broad collection of Italian poetry. Some examples of books from Thompson's collection follow :

Dante : Comedia... con l'espositione di C. Landino, 1564, Venetia CCA.1.3
Dante : Comedia... con l'espositione di C. Landino, 1578, Venetia CCA.1.2
Misciattelli (P.) : Il cantico di frate sole. 1903, Roma S740.b.90.1
Bertoni (G) : Biblioteca estense e la cultura ferrarese 1475-1505. 1903, Torino 878.c.20
Bonaventura, Saint : Vita di S. Francesco d'Assisi. 1888, Roma 8100.d.2886
Catherine of Siena, Saint : Lettere devotissime. 1562, Venetia F156.d.2.1
Sarno (M. di) : Il morgante maggiore di L. Pulci. 1732, Firenze 7740.b.1
Boiardo (MM) : Poesie volgari e latine. 1894, Bologna 740:01.c.1.71
Buonarroti (M.) : Rime. 1623, Firenze F162.c.2.1
Buonarroti (M.) : Rime. 1817, Rome Y.9.87