The Englishwoman visits Senigallia’s Biblioteca Antonelliana. Part I: Manuscripts.

Senigallia is a pleasant resort town. As well as its lively Lungomare (Promenade) and its Spiaggia di Velluto (velvet beach), it boasts an attractive old town and a fine communal library.

It is much easier to explain face to face, rather than on the telephone, who I am; a British librarian, and what I want to do; spread awareness of the bibliographic treasures of Le Marche. So it was easy to book an appointment to look at some of the manuscripts and rare books in Senigallia’s  library, and return a day or two later, as Senigallia is just down the road from us. The staff were most welcoming and helpful. The conditions were not the best for photography, but I thought you’d like to see the manuscripts anyway.

The Biblioteca Antonelliana is called after Cardinal Antonelli, its founder, who in 1767 left all his books to the public administration of Senigallia, for the opening of a public library. His heirs contested the will and it was not until 1825 that the library opened. Since then it has acquired the libraries of various suppressed religious orders, and benefited from the wills of local citizens, both priests and aristocrats.

The library possesses not only books but manuscripts, and I was privileged to be allowed to see some of its greatest treasures.

This  manuscript is, according to the catalogue, Patriarch Joseph III’s Chaldean missal with the Nestorian liturgy. Presumably this was Patriarch Yosep III Maraugin, who was in office from 1714-57 (or -59), and could therefore have known Antonelli. Apparently the Patriarch had a copy made from a thirteenth-century original used by the “heretical patriarch Elias, whose name can be read” . It is not clear to me whether this is the original or the copy.

Here are four pages from the liturgy.

Page from Chaldean liturgy, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia


Another page from Chaldean liturgy, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia

Two pages from Chaldean liturgy, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia


This is a 14th century cantorino of the Office of the Dead. A cantorino is a book of liturgical chants with music. The script is Bolognese Gothic, which was in use in Italy from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries.

C14 Cantorino of the Office of the Dead


Translation: “that he be not made to suffer for any wrong he  may have done; for he always desired to do Thy will. And as the true faith numbered him  here among those who served Thee, so let thy mercy find him hereafter a place among the choirs of Angels.

O God be mindful of me, for that my life is but wind, nor the sight of man may behold me.

V: From the depths I did cry to thee O Lord, O Lord hear [my voice]. ”

A vow shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem. Office of the Dead. Biblioteca Antonelliana Senigallia.

Translation. “A vow [shall be paid to Thee] in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer. All flesh comes unto thee. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine on them.”

[Blessed is he] who cometh in the name of the Lord. Office of the Dead. Biblioteca Antonelliana Senigallia.

Translation. ” [Blessed is he] who cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us. Thou only art holy, thou only …”. You can see that there are two different hands here, and it looks as if , in an attempt to substitute a missing page, the Agnus Dei (well over halfway through the Mass) and the Gloria (near the beginning) have got mixed up.

Below is a fifteenth-century illuminated Book of Hours, a collection of devotional text for private use by the laity. Its central nucleus is the Hours of the Blessed Virgin. The script is Gothic Rotunda, in use in Italy, southern France and Spain from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. This photograph shows an illuminated D.

Illuminated D from Biblioteca Antonelliana's Book of Hours Senigallia

Translation: “O God make speed to save me: O Lord make haste to help me.Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning [is now, and ever shall be].”


The last manuscript I saw was Bishop Pietro Ridolfi da Tossignano’s “Historiarum libri duo” (Two volumes of histories) which, as well as a history of Senigallia, contains the results of his episcopal visitation, or inspection, of its diocese. According to Marinella Bonvini Mazzanti in Volume 1/1 of “Collectio thesauri”(the exhibition catalogue of the treasures of Le Marche’s libraries), Ridolfi, a man of the Counter-Reformation, was actuated by a passionate desire to revive the spiritual life of the diocese and, presumably, to rescue its churches from neglect. He describes all the places of worship in the diocese, including Corinaldo, with illustrations by Gherardo Cibo and two others. Thus Ridolfi’s work has become an invaluable historical document.

Here is its title page.

Ridolfi Historiarum libri duo, Biblioteca Antonelliana, Senigallia.

In fact the book was probably actually finished in 1601, the year of Ridolfi’s death, so he never had it printed. It has now actually been printed in August of this year, but the official launch is planned for later this month (September).

I didn’t see any more manuscripts but next time I’ll tell you about the early printed books in the Biblioteca Antonelliana.