Bononia Manifesta: New Records added to USTC

| POSTED BY Flavia Bruni |

The USTC has just incorporated 2,796 new records from Bononia manifesta, a catalogue of bulls, edicts, ordinances, proclamations and other rules printed in the 16th century, mostly in the last three decades, for the town of Bologna and its surroundings (Z. Zanardi (ed.), Bononia Manifesta. Catalogo dei bandi, editti, costituzioni e provvedimenti diversi, stampati nel XVI secolo per Bologna e il suo territorio, 1996). The catalogue also allowed us to improve a number of already existing USTC records.

The survey, from which the Bononia manifesta catalogue originated, was carried out in 43 archives and libraries in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, including the library of the Archiginnasio, the Universitaria and the library of the State Archives, plus a number of small private and ecclesiastical collections as well. It revealed a large number of forgotten documents, which survived the centuries despite an intense, practical use: a total of 3,862 bibliographic items for more than 7,000 copies. Some additional copies were added from 47 libraries in other parts of Italy.

Alongside about a thousand books and pamphlets, most of the corpus comprises of editions intended to reach the widest audience: about two thirds are broadsheets (2,643 editions) while 354 are multi-sheet publications printed on one side only, to be nailed to the city walls. The Bononia manifesta catalogue also includes 83 dissertations now in the State Archives. These dissertations listed the conclusions proposed by students competing to teach in the Studio Bolognese, and were often printed in the shape of a broadsheet to advertise the event.

These publications developed through the 16th century, gradually replacing manuscript ordinances, and changing their appearance according to their specific function. In the last quarter of the century, broadsheets tended to standardise their layout on sections, to make easier the reading of a text once hung on the city walls: title and date of issue; coat of arms to validate the document; main text; signatures; imprint area (place and date of printing and printers). The same function had the position of black and white on the page (D. Roche, Il popolo di Parigi. Cultura popolare e civiltà materiale alla vigilia della Rivoluzione, 1986, p. 310).

Such publications are tremendous sources about a number of aspects of everyday life: commerce, schools, theatre, justice, security, urban regulations and roads, just to mention the most obvious. Unfortunately, they are the kind of documents that typically have a poor rate of survival and most of them are now very rare. Used so intensively that they were used to destruction, these imprints were quite unlikely to make their way onto the shelves of libraries. All the dissertations but one from this sample are unique copies.

The inclusion of such publications in the USTC is very relevant not only because they are not usually included in library catalogues, but especially in the context of “a history of the book, and, indeed, of all printed forms including all textual ephemera as a record of cultural charge, whether in mass civilization or minority culture” (D. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, 1985, p. 5). We also hope to encourage the finding of such documents still waiting to be rediscovered, especially in city archives.

The work on the catalogue was made possible by an agreement with the Soprintendenza per i beni librari e documentari della Regione Emilia Romagna and the volume was published by Olschki.

The project would also like to thank Alessandra Toschi, Bianca Fugaldi and Flavia Bruni, who worked to add these records to the USTC