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Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta

Magistral Library & Archives

Magistral Library & Archives
The cultural point of reference on the Sovereign Order of Malta

The Magistral Library is the principal library of the Sovereign Order of Malta and represents one of the world’s most complete collections of its history.

It came into being in the second half of the 19th century as a collection of books donated by various members of the Order of Malta, and today houses approximately 20,000 volumes, 40,000 photographs, over 500 manuscripts and hundreds of maps and prints. The collection covers history, heraldry and genealogy, among other subjects.

The oldest piece in the collection is a Bull dated 1332 and signed by Pope John XXII. Within the Library are the Magistral Archives holding documents for the admission of the Order of Malta’s members, with records dating from its arrival in Rome in the eighteenth century, and the Grand Magistry’s historic archives since 1950. Together the archives cover almost one linear mile of shelving.

    information-visitorsThe Magistral Library is a private institution dedicated to researchers and students interested in the history of the Sovereign Order of Malta and the genealogy and heraldry of its members.

    As a working research library admission requires prior reservation, please kindly submit a written request to the email address below.

    After the first complimentary visit, a weekly, monthly or annual pass can be purchased.

    Guided tours include a maximum of twenty people per group.

    Opening hours
    Monday-Friday: 9.30-13.00 and 14.00-16.00
    Saturday and Sunday: Closed
    Special opening hours apply during Christmas, Easter, the Order of Malta’s feast days and during the summer months

    Guided tours of approx. 1 hour can be scheduled for:

    Monday-Friday at 10:30, 11:30, 14:00

    Contact us
    Tel.+39 06 67581432 – Fax. +39 06 67581204
    To visit the Library: [email protected]
    For information on the Library and history of the Order of Malta:
    [email protected]

    To contact the Archives: [email protected]

    How to get to the Library
    Sovereign Order of Malta, Via dei Condotti, 68 – 00187 Rome
    Metro: Spagna
    Buses: 117, 913, 628, 301
    There is no parking on site, the nearest car parks are on Viale del Galoppatoio and Via Ludovisi

    historic_collectionsLiber chronicarum by Hartmann Schedel (1493)
    An illustrated history of the world from creation to 1493, published in Latin in Nuremberg July 12, 1493; the publisher (and printer) was Anton Kroberger, godfather of Albrecht Dürer.

    The 1809 wood engravings were prepared in the workshop of Michael Wolgemut (where Dürer was apprenticed from 1486 to 1489).

    Obsidionis Rhodie Urbis descriptio by Guillaume Caoursin (1496)

    A celebrated illustrated book containing Caoursin’s orations and commentaries on events that occurred after 1480, such as the death of Sultan Mehmet II, the earthquake at Rhodes, and the life of Prince Djem.

    Breviarum secundum usum ordinis sancti Johannis hierosolymitani (1517)
    This breviary is the first uniform prayer book created and distributed to the Knights across Europe. In the Chapter General held in Rhodes on 1st February 1510, it was noted that across the Hospitaller churches the office of the canonical hours was being celebrated in different styles. This generated confusion when members from different houses attended the service at the Order’s Conventual church in Rhodes. A commission was set-up to investigate the matter and this Breviary was the result.

    private_collectionsJohn James Watts Collection
    A founding member of the British Association, John James Watts was known for his immense knowledge of culture and science. This collection contains no less than five hundred books from 15th to 19th century with some rare incunabulum.

    Chignolo Po collection
    From the 20th century the Visconti Collection was held at Chignolo Po Castle in Lombardy. The second most important private collection of the Magistral Library, it contains books on literature, French history and spirituality, with some very beautiful old bindings.

    Amabile Vella Collection
    Amabile Vella (1777-1831) was Commander and Vice-Chancellor of the Order of Malta from 1812 to 1831. He collected a large library of antique books from 16th to 19th century on classical, Italian and English literature. His collection includes Laurence Sterne’s masterpiece The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, with old engravings. The entire collection was donated to the Magistral Library in the 19th century.

    Cesare Borgia Collection
    Cesare Borgia (1776-1837) was a Knight of Justice, Commander of a pontifical ship and Professed Knight of the Order of Malta, which inherited part of his collection after his death. The Borgia Collection includes volumes on physics, botanical science, history, poetry and Italian literature.

    Valeria Rossi di Montelera Collection
    This collection of fine leather bindings is not unusually large, comprised of hardly more than three hundred items, but is quite extraordinary in its quality and wide range of colours. It is composed mainly of bindings by unknown artists but also includes a fascinating group of signed French bindings of the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Most of the fine and rare books in the collection are in French, due to the Countess’s love for the French language, literature and art.

    Joseph Delaville Le Roulx collection
    Archivist and French paleographer Joseph Delaville Le Roulx (1855-1911) had a profound enthusiasm for the medieval history of the Order of Malta. He is known, among other things, for his famous four-volume work Cartulaire général. In 2012, the Magistral Library bought Joseph Delaville Le Roulx’s collection, which consists of 103 volumes, mostly focused on the history of the Hospitallers in France and on its commandries. Also of note are the collection’s rare 16th-century literary works.

    modern_collectionsMalta Collection
    This first collection came into being when members of the Order of Malta began to donate their private collections to the Magistral Library. From this initial nucleus, a heritage developed that today contains about 5,700 volumes – the heart of the Library itself – and that continues to grow thanks to the generosity of many authors who send their contributions each year.

    General Collection
    Further to the Malta Collection, the Magistral Library has a general collection comprising books covering various fields including genealogy, nobility and heraldry. It is divided by country to help researchers of genealogy. The General Collection is mainly focused on the humanities and social sciences. Topics include religion, history and biography.

    The Magistral Library holds the complete edition of the International ‘Rivista’ of the Order of Malta (1937-2000) that chronicle the contemporary history of the 20th century through the worldwide interventions and activities of the Order of Malta. This review provides interesting accounts of key events in global history alongside reports on the development of the Order through its diplomatic activities and humanitarian missions. There are also reflections on its artistic heritage.
    The collection also includes: 53 reviews published by the Grand Priories, Sub-Priories and national Associations of the Order of Malta.

    archives_manuscriptsCabrei Fond
    The word of cabreo refers to the register that describes properties in a country. Commonly they include details of ownership, tenure, precise location, dimensions (and area) and cultivations, if rural. This collection is testimony of the vast land tenures of the Order of Malta across Italy. It contains c. 400 volumes devised between the ancient Priories of Lombardy, Venice, Capua, Barletta, Pisa and Rome, dating from 17th to 19th century.

    The 500 items is this collection have been acquired by the Library through donations. Each manuscript is of particular relevance to various aspects of the Order of Malta’s history. They cover diverse topics ranging from literature, music, art, history, legacy and heraldry, from 15th to 20th century.

    Photographic Collection
    In this collection of over 40,000 photographs one can find masterpieces of very early photography, as well as images taken by masters of the arts, both professional and amateur, over the last century and a half. Through its thousands of images – medical and humanitarian activities, institutional meetings, religious ceremonies, people, families, places, events – these historically invaluable archives provide a fascinating visual history of the Order of Malta and the world around it.

    prints_mapsCzapsky collection
    Donated by Count Bogdan Hutten-Czapsky (1897-1979), a well-known member of the Order of Malta, this collection is made up 165 items. Among them a rare map of the Holy Land and Cyprus which appeared in Sebastiano Paoli’s Codice diplomatico dell’Ordine di Malta; several bird’s-eye views of Valletta, sea-charts of the eastern Mediterranean and original lithographs printed from 1822 to 1834.

    Collection of Prints
    Among the 493 items are portrait prints of the saints and the knights of the Order of Malta, in addition to a complete series of miniature portraits of the Grand Masters, and approximately 100 fashion plates of the knight’s historical uniforms dating to the beginning 20th century.

    Geographical collection
    This collection, made up of 123 items, includes maps and plans dating from 17th to 19th century. It includes the Isola di Malta, olim Melita descritta by p. Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1689).

    digital_archivesIn 2005 the Magistral Library formed a partnership with the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) to digitise the archive material and books dating from 13th century – 1904.

    The scope of this project is to preserve and protect our cultural heritage, while also making known our collections and widening access to them. Digital files include papal bulls; family trees; postages; prints; maps; manuscripts; incunabulum and rare books; artworks.

magistral library

Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta

Magistral Palace, Via Condotti, 68 Rome - Italy

Tel. +39.06.67581.1 | [email protected]