History

"Within the Sforza Castle, which evokes the figure of Leonardo and which contains so much of the intellectual heritage of Milan, a room should be dedicated to the "Raccolta Vinciana". Because the collection is well suited to an aggregation with the Historical Archives  of the City, this can take place without requiring new or specific organs, and thus seamlessly function as the focal point for the material contributed by Scholars of Da Vinci from all nations." This appeal was published in the "Corriere della Sera" newspaper on 28 December 1904 by Luca Beltrami (1854-1933), architect and later senator of the Kingdom and combative standard-bearer for the protection of monuments especially in Milan. It was thanks to Beltrami that the Sforza Castle, after running the risk of being demolished between 1890 and 1905, received the restoration he himself headed. His approach as a restorer also contemplated a renovation in the style of the times (the tower of the castle, the so-called "Filarete" tower, was actually designed and constructed by Beltrami), provided that it was based on extensive research of archives and other sources, including visual and contemporary. His studies however went beyond the requirements of a practical restoration, and included studies of the historical context of the Lombard Renaissance, with the inclusion therefore of Leonardo, about whom Beltrami had written articles and reviews in newspapers. He also undertook three particularly demanding projects: a study of the Sala delle Asse, the publication of a heliotype reproduction of the Trivulziano Codex and the catalogue of Leonardo’s drawings at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana.  

The birth of the collection

Hence, the idea of creating an aggregation, a "collection" of all variety of Leonardo related materials: a library, first and foremost, but also a library of photographs and an art collection, to be attached to the Historical Civic Archives and housed at the Sforza Castle. On 30 January 1905 the “Raccolta Vinciana” was formed within the Civic Archives and headed by director Ettore Verga. In a short space of time enough donations arrived making it possible to establish the first specialized library, and the Collection’s first edition of the connected journal, also called “Raccolta Vinciana", reported the event in 1905. Subsequently, the library holdings continued to grow thanks to the acquisition of books published worldwide on Leonardo.
The library was supported by a group of scholars united by a willingness to share with each other the fruits of their studies. As a result of this close relationship, the library received donations of their published works and also published their writings in later instalments of the "Raccolta Vinciana" journal.

From the post-war period to now

The death of director Verga and the outbreak of WWII obviously affected the everyday activities of the Collection, which at the end of the war was transferred to the Biblioteca d’Arte, also within the Castle, under the direction of Francesco Flora, who with a group of co-workers set out to add lustre to the institution. His drive to give it legal status was successful and the institution was officially recognised by the Italian State in 1955.
Under the direction of Flora and then Anna Maria Brizio, issues number 17 to 20 of the institution’s journal were published; issues number 21 to 26 were published under the chairmanship of Professor Augusto Marinoni; while the current chairman, Pietro C. Marani, has overseen the publication of issues 27 to 35.
The bibliographic funds of '' Ente Raccolta Vinciana", the photographic library and the diverse collections together constitute one of the three most important points of reference in the world for the study of the work of Leonardo.