History, foundation and function

The Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze has its origins in the 30.000 volumes of the private library of Antonio Magliabechi, bequeathed in 1714, according to his will, to the city of Florence. To increment the growing Library in 1737 it was decided by decree that one copy of all works printed in Florence be deposited there and after 1743 one copy of all publications printed in the entire Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In 1747 it was opened to the public for the first time with the name of Magliabechiana. During the following years the Library was enriched by many legacies and gifts and by the acquisition of the collections of the monastic libraries following the dissolution of the religious corporations. In 1861 the Magliabechiana was unified with the important Biblioteca Palatina (created by Ferdinand III of Lorraine and continued by his successor Leopold II) and assumed the name of National Library and in 1885 of National Central Library of Florence (hereafter referred to as BNCF).
Since 1870 the BNCF has the legal deposit for all that is printed in Italy.

In its early days the Library had its headquarters in rooms belonging to the Uffizi; in 1935 it moved to the present building, for which work began in 1911 to the design of the architect Cesare Bazzaniu, and which was afterwards enlarged by the architect V. Mazzei. The building, one of the rare examples of a library construction, is a part of the monumental area of Santa Croce. From 1886 to 1957 the BNCF published the "Bollettno delle pubblicazioni italiane ricevute per diritto di stampa", which in 1958 became "Bibliografia Nazionale Italiana" (BNI) (The Italian National Bibliography).

BNCF is also the pilot center for the creation of the National Library System (SBN), whose main aims are the automation of library services and the constitution of a national index of the collections of Italian libraries.

The flood of 1966 caused enormous damage to the BNCF, in particular to the periodicals collection, to the precious collection of Miscellanee, to the antiquarian Magliabechiana and Palatina collections, and to numerous other collections, as well as to all card and paper catalogue, to the bibliographical apparatus of the reading rooms and to the furnishings. A considerable part of the damaged collections has been saved thanks to the work of the Restoration Center, set up specially, but a consistent part was totally lost.