The "Repertory of Inventories and Catalogues of Medieval Libraries" (RICABIM) project is an effort to establish a research instrument that brings together as many references as possible to catalogues, inventories or book lists in sources prior to 1520 from Latin Europe. These sources could be found in archives established for other reasons (which include documents such as testaments and donations that make reference to book collections) or in registers explicitly created to keep track of book loans or purchases. As such, the project aims to create a "catalogue of catalogues" of edited manuscript books and incunabula identified in sources throughout Italy and, eventually, from across Western Europe. The first volume focused on Tuscany and was published in 2009. It was followed by one on Lombardy and then by the volume under review, whose organization includes a brief introduction; a list of the four hundred or so published secondary sources and research instruments referred to in the body of the work; the list of individual catalogue entries (521 total), organized according to geographic location of the library materials referred to by the document; and three indexes (one for localities and institutions, one for names of individuals, and one for archival sources).
Each of the catalogue record entries includes a record number (each region has a separate number series); a geographic location for the library material; the name of the owner of the material (this could be an institution); the name of the recipient or beneficiary of the library material; a date range for the catalogue reference; the document type (inventory, catalogue, donation, lending reference, testament, etc.); the archival or bibliographic source of the record; a detailed description of the contents of the catalogue reference; and indications of published versions or other bibliographic sources for the catalogue reference.
Giovanni Fiesoli, editor of this volume, is a specialist in classical and medieval philology, the history of libraries, and Renaissance humanism. One reason for the importance of his work in this volume is that it challenges the commonplace about the northwestern areas of the Italian peninsula being culturally marginal, either because of their geographic remoteness or a presumed collective focus on commercial rather than cultural relations. Fiesoli dismisses these preconceptions by highlighting the key position of the Sabaudian and Ligurian zones with respect to transalpine exchanges and communication networks. He also points out that there were more contacts between Piedmont and Liguria during the Middle Ages than scholars have previously assumed.
The 179 total entries for the Piedmont region are organized in forty- six different geographic locations. The Val d'Aosta has only four locations and six total entries. A region called "County and Duchy of Savoy" refers to thirteen locations (including places far removed from the medieval Sabaudian states, such as Paris, Basel, and Avignon) and includes 155 entries. Finally, the 180 entries for Liguria are placed in fourteen different locations. Each region also has catalogue references to material whose location is uncertain or spread across multiple sites.
Many of the Piedmont entries are testaments of wealthy clerics or nobles that include references to books, or inventories of monastic institutions or churches that list liturgical or theological texts. The series of entries from the "County and Duchy of Savoy" include a number of payments made for books or their adornment, and inventories of moveable property in various places. The vast majority of the archival sources for these entries are from the state archives in Turin, and the bulk of these from the archive of the Chambre des comptes de Savoie. Unfortunately, many of these references are mistakenly identified as being part of the series "Materie Giuridiche" located at the court archives at Piazza Castello, though they are really located at the cameral archives on via Piave. The Ligurian section includes a few long entry descriptions that identify specific texts mentioned by the document. For example, a book of accounts belonging to Bartholomaeus de Lupotis, a Genoese miniaturist and bookseller of the mid-fifteenth century, is described in great detail, as is his post-mortem inventory of 1487. Likewise, several items in a collection of books formerly belonging to a deceased Franciscan and temporarily in the possession of Lazzaro di Domenico Grimaldi are identified in an entry dated 1483.
This repertory will undoubtedly be of great service to scholars interested in the history of books and book collecting in northwestern Italy. While Fiesoli does describe his cataloguing methodology in some detail, he is not as explicit about his research methods. It is surprising, for example, that he was only able to identify six references to book collections or catalogues for the Val d'Aosta prior to 1520. One wonders how exactly he went about searching for references. While his sections on Piedmont and Liguria refer to regional historical journals from those areas, neither of the two main Valdostano journals (Archivum Augustanum and Bulletin de l'Académie Saint-Anselme) appear among his published secondary sources. Maria Costa's Les incunables et les impressions du XVIe siècle des Archives Historiques de la Ville d'Aoste (1986) might well provide some leads for other entries, as might the work of Marina Bersano Begey on the incunabula of the Grand Séminaire of Aosta, of Orphée Zanolli on the testaments of the Challant family, and of Justin Boson on the missals of the collegial church of Saint Ours. Although Fiesoli makes no claims as to the comprehensive nature of this repertory, the volume would have been stronger and even more useful than it already is had its solid Piedmontese, Sabaudian, and Ligurian sections been balanced with a bit more research on book collections in the Val d'Aosta.