Library Awarded CLIR Grant


The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Illinois has received a $498,942 Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) . The grant will support the project Cataloging Cavagna: Italian Imprints from the Sixteenth through the Nineteenth Century .

With this funding, the project—one of only 19 selected from a total of 92 applications in 2014—will catalog more than 20,000 rare Italian imprints from the 16th through 19th centuries in the Library’s historically significant Cavagna Collection. The collection was purchased by the University in 1921 from the family of Count Antonio Cavagna Sangiuliani di Gualdana (1843-1913), a recognized authority on the local history of Northern Italy.

Most of Count Cavagna’s library of printed and manuscript documents are in Italian, but the collection also contains French, Latin, and German publications. A significant number of works written in various disappearing Italian dialects will be increasingly valuable to linguists. The collection also contains many unica (the only known copy), as well as items that are the only copies in North America.

Cataloging this rich collection over the course of the next three years will make it newly accessible to scholars in multiple fields, including Italian history, literature, art, theater, law, economics, and religion. When the items are fully cataloged, they will also be digitized to enhance accessibility. In speaking about the Cavagna Collection, William Connell, Professor of Italian History and La Motta Chair at Seton Hall, said, “I cannot think of another collection anywhere…in the U.S. that offers such potential for NEW discoveries by historians and other scholars.” Valerie Hotchkiss, Director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, agrees and notes that the grant will “increase accessibility to one of the world’s premier collections for Italian Studies.” Dean of Libraries John Wilkin noted that “the Cavagna Collection offers a wide range of areas for research and discovery” and praised the innovative and cost-effective cataloging process developed by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The model for this project is the Quick & Clean Rare Book Cataloging Project. First developed with generous support from the Mellon Foundation, the approach has significantly improved access to the Library’s collections. Library science students and recent graduates of the program are thoroughly trained in the art of rare book cataloging, and the method is economical.

“We are so grateful to CLIR for their faith in us,” says Hotchkiss. “And we’re thrilled to receive this grant not only because a great collection will finally be cataloged, but also because the grant will allow us to train a new generation of rare book catalogers, who will then go on to careers in libraries around the world. It’s a win-win project in every way.”

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the principal repository for early manuscripts, rare books, and literary manuscripts in the broad fields of literature, history, art, theology, technology, theater, and the natural sciences. For more information, visit .

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. Visit for additional information. CLIR’s Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant program is generously supported by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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