The performing arts in the library: the “Lucchesi-Palli”

The Lucchesi Palli Library was born in 1888 when Count Febo Edoardo Lucchesi Palli of the Princes of Campofranco donated his rich dramatic library with attached musical archive to the Italian State so that it could be aggregated to the National Library of Naples.

The Lucchesi Palli family was one of the most illustrious of the time and still boasts descendants both in Naples and Sicily. Count Edoardo was born in Milan on 13 October 1837, the second son (after a girl, Clotilde) of Count Ferdinando and the opera singer Adelaide Tosi. The father, progenitor of the cadet branch of Naples.

He wrote various economic works published in Naples and Palermo. Her mother, a very successful soprano, had a short but glorious theatrical life. Daughter of a Milan lawyer, a pupil of Crescentini, she made her debut at La Scala in 1821 in the Fedraby Mayr. In addition to Milan, he performed at the San Carlo in Naples and in various European cities including Madrid and Vienna. He brought to success works by Donizetti and Bellini, by Mercadante and Pacini.

From a very young age Edoardo proved to be a great admirer and lover of theatrical things. In his beautiful house located in via Chiaia 216 (Giroux palace), he had a small theater built. With the approval and encouragement of the countess mother, the young man staged prose works by the best contemporary authors (Carlo Cosenza, Giulio Genoino, Federico Riccio) and comedies translated from French, directed by Raffaele Moreno, Achille Majeroni and sometimes by Riccio himself. The “Academic Theater” in the house of Countess Lucchesi Palli was particularly active in the years between 1853 and 1857, as evidenced by the news that appeared in the newspapers of the time.

Edoardo’s passion for the theater went well beyond the years of his youth. At the end of the 1980s he found himself in possession of a huge book and manuscript patrimony – of theatrical and musical subjects, but not only – collected in almost thirty years of meticulous research with the outlay of considerable sums of money. In 1887, also encouraged by Achille Torelli, he conceived the plan to offer his rich library to the State.

In reality, the count would have preferred to link his name to a specifically Neapolitan institution and had thought of the Filangieri Museum, but Palazzo Cuomo lacked suitable premises. He then turned to the Municipality to find spaces elsewhere, but the municipal administration continued to stall. A case was born of which the city press dealt extensively and in terms that were not very flattering for public administrators.

After about a year of useless solicitations, the count took advantage of a visit to Naples by the Minister of Education Boselli to submit the donation project to him. With great sensitivity Boselli made available two rooms of the National Library, at the time in the seat of the Museum, the ancient Palazzo degli Studi. A third room was granted in 1892 to house the legal section. ancient palace of the Studies. A third room was granted in 1892 to house the legal section. ancient palace of the Studies. A third room was granted in 1892 to house the legal section.

The munificence of the count was not limited only to the gift of books and manuscripts: he also wanted to offer furniture and shelves, having them transported and adapted at his own expense. He called famous artists and craftsmen to decorate and embellish the rooms. Ignazio Perricci was in charge of the architecture of the decorations and the design of both the floor and the stigli. The adaptation of the pre-existing furniture and the execution of the new one was entrusted to one of the most renowned workshops in Naples, that of the cabinetmaker Germano Masia. The ceilings and walls were decorated in fresco by Paolo Vetri, son-in-law and pupil of Morelli. In addition, the count wanted to make the library administratively autonomous by providing it with an annual income of 3,000 lire to be used for increasing collections and maintaining the premises.

In the donation instrument drawn up in Rome on 20 October 1888, at the notary Umberto Serafino, among other things, the prohibition was established that the Lucchesi Palli Library with the adjoining musical archive “be transported to another city either separately or together with National Library “. The deed of donation, by decree of 25/11/1888, was then published in the Official Gazette of 15/12/1888. The last internal regulation, a few years later (OJ 8/1/1901) at point n. 20 makes it expressly forbidden to lend any book of the Lucchesiana.