Insights and curiosities

The history of the Antonian Library

The history of the Antoniana Library begins in the early 1920s, when to make up for the shortage of post-primary educational institutions the premises found a new use thanks to the foresight of a charismatic priest: Bishop Onofrio Buonocore.

Higher studies, for those who wished to pursue their education, were in fact pursued exclusively either at the diocesan seminary which, from 1901 to 1915, adapted the literary and scientific studies of the gymnasium and high school to the state programs, or in Naples at considerable financial expense. St. Anthony’s Convent, at that historical moment, after the Conventuals and the Poor Clares, saw the arrival of the Friars Minor who took possession of the striking premises on March 20, 1920. The establishment of the first boys’ and girls’ vocational school “Vittoria Colonna” also housed the studentate for aspirants to the Order. The technical institute was municipalized in 1919, equalized in 1922 and regified in 1933, and then moved to a larger building: the “Drago” building.

The school experience continued when starting in 1939, for ten long years, the premises housed a Magistral Institute the “Ferrante D’Avalos.” In the course of that extraordinary experience, which had the merit of shaping and affecting the generations to whom the baton was passed in the management of the island, the need arose to be able to collect useful volumes for teaching purposes for the use of students who often had difficulty in accessing study materials. The volume lending service is attested even before the actual founding of the Antoniana, so we can for all intents and purposes speak of an original school-type library. If the genesis of Bishop Onofrio Buonocore’s library is linked to that experience, that of the entire community began on June 13, 1940, when it was officially inaugurated and opened to the public with its new function.
On July 27, 1947, the first President of the Italian Republic, Enrico De Nicola, signed the decree of election as a Moral Entity.
Concerned about the future of the library after his death, Onofrio Buonocore founded the Centro Studi su l’isola d’Ischia in 1944, of which he held the presidency until 1958. From 1951 to 1961 important was the role played by then assistant librarian Camillo D’Ambra, who later was the soul of the project that determined the founding of the Diocesan Historical Archives of Ischia. Upon Buonocore’s death in 1960, the Antoniana saw a succession of distinguished presidents at the helm, such as Prof. Paolo Buchner and Adv. Mario Buono who, in the 1960s, spent themselves on increasing books through purchases and donations. The Antoniana officially became a municipal library on July 15, 1986, and a major renovation began in 1999, which also resulted in its refurnishing, cataloging and restoration of some of its most important specimens.
The “new” library opened to the public in 2001, and for 20 years it dialogued with the entire island community as the only institution of its kind.

The Heritage of the Library

In the library’s holdings we identify the books stamped “Royal Navy” that were assets of the British naval base stationed in the port of Ischia from 1943 to 1946; a part of the volumes that once made up the library of the disused Ischia Seminary, or that had furnished the libraries of the island’s most illustrious families, flowed into the rooms. Numerous are the rarities in which it is possible to come across among the library’s shelves and display cases: from the Boccardo Encyclopedia to the 1938 Treccani, from the three copies of De rimedi naturali that are in the island of Pithecusa hoggi detta Ischia by Giulio Iasolino to the pandette of 1500. Notable manuscripts include the Platea Polverino and the Masonic Codex of Ischia.
Respectively, a 257-page folio volume entirely devoted to the description of various estates, their annuities and the list of related settlers from the seventeenth century onward. It contains the transcript of a series of notarial acts that in two years was compiled for the new buyer, the Protomedico of the Two Sicilies Francesco Buonocore.
The second document is a composite codex containing in the first section one of Alessandro Marchetti’s earliest vulgarizations of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura and at the bottom a series of papers containing a statement that was made by the first Grand Master of Neapolitan Speculative Freemasonry, the first Italian lodge framework and a transcript of the letter that Raimondo de’ Sangro forwarded to His Holiness Benedict XV, following his bull and royal edict of July 10, 1751, with a related missive in reply.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *