Monday, 29 October 2012

The Library...


This week it's time to look into the Library as an Architectural structure. Who was involved in the building, design, art, construction. Deciding to try and avoid the Library's actual website, I took my search firstly to ye ol' google, searching the simple term of 'Laurentian Library'. I found a fairly decent webpage regarding the actual Library as hosted by the Museums of Florence

The Laurentian Library reading benches

The website gives an understandable but comprehensive history of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. The physical library of manuscripts began under the educated eye of Cosimo the elder, changing hands through inheritance, even being confiscated when the whole of the Medici family was banished in 1494. The collection was reclaimed in 1508 by Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, who transferred the lot to Rome. The manuscripts were returned to Florence in 1523 by Giulio de' Medici, who immediately commissioned Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni to design an actual library to house the collection.

Michaelangelo took the job very seriously and spent much time on preparatory drawings for the building and spent ten years on the construction of the Library before he departed Rome in 1534. However, he continued to monitor the phases of building, with work being continued by his followers Giorgio Vasari and Bartolommeo Ammannati. 

The Elevation of the Library was built in the characteristic Florentine two-one combination of grey sand-stone elements on white plaster. Here Michelangelo's styles can be seen in the tabernacle niches, the paired columns and the portal. It consists of three flights of steps; the outer ones are quadrangular shaped, the central ones convex, and the bottom three steps are completely elliptical.

The books were not to be kept in traditional bookshelves, but instead were chained to the reading seats. Each set of benches had a list on the bench entrance catalouging what books were contained in that row. The fact that they were guarding against theft even at that time is interesting.

I wanted to look into the Library from an academia point of view, and such took my search over to EBSCO database (which is renowned for it's academic and comprehensive collection of journals, articles and  resources).  I did a search using 'Academic full search' and 'Art and Architecture' databases for Medici Library. I was confronted with 83 results as follows:  EBSCOhost Medici Library 

The results vary in content but there were quite a few very good resources relating to Michaelangelo's designs for the Library and discussions as such. Some are available for viewing online and others can only be accessed by academic students. A great periodical article I found out of the results is called The Laurentian Library and Michelangelo's Architectural Method by David Hemsoll. The Article is accessable via and was published in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. The article is fairly longwinded and full of artistic jargon, but it gives a nice overview of the Library and the method of architecture used by Michelangelo.

Taking a look at YouTube and searching for 'tour of Medici Library', there are a lot of very delightful student tour video's, which I assume are for an assessment and honestly I thought there would be more professional video's available. But searching through the clips available, I did find a nice 'Smart History Video's' mini commentated documentary called 'Michelangelo, Laurentian Library, 1524 - 71. The clip is great as it gives you a lovely architectural overview of the library and discussions on Michelangelo's specific styles. Check it out!

There really is so much available on the actual Library's structure and design, interestingly. I think this may have been the easiest topic to be researched throughout the whole blog project so far. But I guess as the actual architecture is Michelangelo's baby, it stands to reason. The more I learn about the Library and the Medici family, the more I keep thinking of planning a trip over to fair Florence!


Museumsinflorence 2012, Laurentian library, viewed 29 October 2012,

Hemsoll, D 2003, 'The Laurentian Library and Michaelangelo's Architectural method', Journal Of The Warburg & Courtauld Institutes, 66, pp. 28-62, Art & Architecture Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 October 2012.

Smithhistoryvideos 2011, Michelangelo, Laurentian Library, 1524 - 71, viewed 29 October 2012,

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