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The President of the Italian Republic, H.E. Sergio Mattarella, opens the exhibition “Between East and West: Biblioteca Angelica in Doha”

On Tuesday, 21 January 2020, the exhibition “Between East and West: Biblioteca Angelica in Doha” opened at Qatar National Library in the presence of the President of the Italian Republic, H.E.Sergio Mattarella; member of the Shura Council and a member of the Library Board of Trustees, H.E. Dr. Hessa Sultan Al Jaber; the Ambassador of Italy to the State of Qatar, H.E. Alessandro Prunas; the Secretary General of the Dante Alighieri Society, Alessandro Masi; and senior library officials.

The exhibition showcases – five manuscripts and 16 printed volumes – from the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome, Italy, and one autograph letter written by Pietro della Valle, a pilgrim from the XVI century, loaned by the QNL, illustrate the scientific and cultural exchange between Europe and the Arab world from the 16th century to the 19th century. Fiammetta Terlizzi is the curator of the exhibition, which is promoted by the Embassy of Italy in Doha, organized by the Dante Alighieri Society and hosted by the Library.

The Islamic korans on display were selected by Michele Bernardini, an Italian expert on Arabic literature and formerly Director of the Department of Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean of the University of Naples, L’Orientale. The printed volumes were selected by curator Fiammetta Terlizzi; books by European authors translated into Arabic, and books by Arab authors translated into Latin, the international language of culture at the time. The selection includes volumes on the subjects of medicine, geography, travels, and scientific studies on falconry and horses, highlighting the intense dialogue between Italian and Arab cultures and civilizations.

Biblioteca Angelica was established as the first public library in Europe in 1604 and still earns international renown as an important cultural attraction. Its collection of more than 100,000 antique books printed from the 15th century to the first decades of the 19th century includes Arabic volumes and Latin translations of Arab works, emphasizing the vivid interest of the Western world in Arab culture.

The rarity of the manuscripts and volumes, their magnificent frontispieces, the diligence of bookbinding and the handmade illustrations show how books have long been the real bridge between cultures and a means of dialogue between civilizations. Massimo Papa, professor of Muslim and Islamic law at University Tor Vergata of Rome and Vice President of Istituto per l’Oriente, gave a tour of the books on display to President Mattarella to mark the opening of the exhibition, which runs through 19 February.