Photo Credit: Sabeena Singhani
The La Pietra Library is a characteristic example of a book collection of a family belonging to the Anglo-American community living in Florence at the beginning of the 20th century. The collection contains about 12,000 volumes, including series and periodicals, and represents the combination of the diverse interests and tastes of two generations – the parents, Arthur and Hortense, late-Victorian connoisseurs, and the children, Harold and William, authentic modernist aesthetes. The occurrence of bookplates inside the books makes it possible to attribute many of them to the correspondent family member owner. The arrangement of the locations on the bookshelves in the rooms of this domestic library adds information about the frequentation of the household spaces by its users and, in a way, about their reading habits and how they changed in time. Harold’s holdings, for example, range from the Illustrated Children’s Books of his childhood to the Italian History titles of his later studies, but also include the Poetry, Drama and Fiction of his Eton and Oxford years and all the Chinese History, Art and Literature books collected during his sojourn in China in the 1930s.
The book collection in the La Pietra Library is available via the NYU Libraries union catalog BobCat but also can be searched separately in the NYU Florence Mandarin Catalog. The library is a non-circulating collection. Requests for the consultation of books held in the La Pietra Library should be made via the following form.
A distinguishable spatial division of the Acton family book collection between ‘leisure’ and ‘serious’ reading recalls the typical division of spaces in the Victorian house between the ‘living room’ library, where the family congregated and the guests were entertained, and the study/drawing room where scholarly work was done.