The Catholic University of America

Rare Books and Special Collections

The Clementine Library

Representation of the Albani library at Urbino
Representation of the Albani library at Urbino:
a pen drawing in the 1720
manuscript catalog of the library's contents.

The Clementine Library is named for Pope Clement XI (1700-21), the most distinguished member of the Albani family of Urbino and Rome. The Catholic University collection of approximately 10,000 printed books and pamphlets, which date from 1473 to the early nineteenth century (the majority printed in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries), was acquired by Catholic University in 1928. It is believed that the collection comprises about one third of the books amassed by the Albani over more than two centuries, including volumes from the family home in Urbino and others owned by Clement's nephew, Cardinal Annibale Albani who served as the Pope's biographer and the editor of his sermons.

Limited author or title access to the Clementine Library is available by means of the original card catalog from the 1930s. A major effort is underway to catalog the entire collection, which will result in searchable records in the WRLC Catalog and in WorldCat. Documentary material connected with Pope Clement XI and the Albani family may be found at the Archivio Albani hosted by the Biblioteca Oliveriana di Pesaro where some seven thousand digitally reproduced documents are available in a searchable database.


Sixteenth and seventeenth century Roman and canon law folios                  Photograph by Edmund Pfueller

 

book cover Over 1,000 volumes in the Clementine collection relate to the history of law: Canon, Roman, and feudal. They include editions of the Corpus iuris civilis and the Corpus iuris canonici, along with glosses and commentaries; Rota decisions relating to both the Church and the Papal States; and reports of councils and synods. Many of these works exist in no other library in the United States and are scarce or unknown in Europe.
A major event in the pontificate of Clement XI was his promulgation of the bull Unigenitus against the Jansenists in 1713. The Clementine Library contains some forty volumes of pamphlets and broadsides relating to this event and its aftermath, as well as monographs and Jansenist "Nouvelles Ecclesiastiques" from the period.

clememtis

 

Other strengths of the collection include Bibles, Jesuit material (especially relating to the Chinese rites controversy), and a wide variety of devotional literature. The science, history and literature sections are not large, but are of considerable value. Included are Greek and Latin classics, poetical works (including libretti) emanating from the Roman colleges in the 1620s, and 22 volumes of Le Mercure francois covering the years 1605 to 1638.


The collection as a whole provides fine examples of the book arts of the 16th to the 18th centuries. Many books were presentation copies printed on fine paper and bound with elaborately gilt or armorial bindings. However the largest portion of the collection is bound in simple vellum, with the majority of volumes still in the original bindings. A variety of decorated paper is present in these bindings, most notably the so-called Dutch-gilt papers manufactured in Germany and Italy during the eighteenth century. An exhibition catalog from 1989, Festina Lente, describes and illustrates many of the bindings. The collection itself includes three 18th century manuscript catalogues for books housed in the Albani family library at Urbino.
  1718 announcement of the consecration of the Bishop of Cremona, illuminated for presentation to Clement XI. One of many pamphlets collected and bound together by the original Albani owners during the eighteenth century.

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