Digitizing Cavagna: Italian Imprints from the Sixteenth through the Nineteenth Centuries

Material Description

The University of Illinois Library houses one of the world's premier collections of northern Italian imprints from the 16th through 19th centuries. The collection was purchased in 1921 from the family of Count Antonio Cavagna Sangiuliani di Gualdana (1843-1913). Beginning in the 1860s, Count Cavagna built a library focused on his diverse research interests, including statutes of Italian communities, banking regulations, biographical and genealogical histories, maps, theater, education and healthcare, religious practices, travel literature, and therapeutic use of mineral waters. While most of the works are in Italian, the collection contains French, Latin, and German publications and a significant number of items written in Italian dialects, which are increasingly valuable to linguistic scholars as they become extinct. The collection contains unica books, titles of which there are no other located copies of in the world. Increased access to these titles will enrich scholarship globally once Italian Studies faculty and students around the world are able to access these items. The project is prioritizing pamphlets from years 1500 through 1900, 1000 of which are openly available in HathiTrust. These include commemorative and memorial works, epithalamia and wedding books, church and local histories, travel guides, regulations of charitable organizations and learned institutions. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library will also select bound works about Catholic statutes, saints' lives, religious orders, municipal government, ephemera, calendars and gift books. "The range of publications and subject matter selected both represent the collection as a whole, and will benefit as many scholars and researchers as possible."


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign proposes to digitize 320,000 pages of rare Italian imprints dating from the 16th through 19th centuries from the historically significant Cavagna Collection. This work builds on the CLIR-funded “Cataloging Cavagna” project (2015 – 2017), which has been progressing toward its goal of cataloging some 20,000 imprints using the innovative “Quick and Clean Rare Book Cataloging” model. Just as this project demonstrated a new approach for efficient and accurate rare book cataloging, “Digitizing Cavagna” will do the same for digitization by making high quality metadata and page images discoverable in the HathiTrust Digital Library. As such, “Digitizing Cavagna” will serve as a model for the digitization of rare imprints, while also making a rich collection accessible to scholars in multiple fields, including but not limited to Italian history, literature, art, theatre, law, economics, and religion.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois


  • Mr. Kyle Rimkus (University of Illinois)
  • Ms. Angela Waarala

Date Range

1500 - 1913

Geographic Scope

Northern Italy primarily, with the rest of Italy also strongly represented, along with some French and German imprints as well


  • 320000 pamphlets, books, and serials