Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana

    The Libreria Sansovino, known as the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (National Library of St Mark) is one of the earliest surviving book depositories in the world, containing an immense collection of classical texts. The building was designed and begun by Sansovino, who completed the first 16 arcaded bays between 1537 and 1553. In 1588 Scamozzi finished the work with an additional 5 bays that connected the library with the zecca (mint) on the embankment--also designed by Sansovino. The library is the result of a gift made to the Venetian Republic by the Byzantine humanist Cardinal Bessarion in 1468. A slightly delayed project, it was intended to house this collection (while expanding it as well) and solidify the role and importance of Venice. The library further benefited from a law passed in 1603, that stated every book published in Venice (which was a major publishing center) must have a copy deposited into the collection. Although still in the construction phase, by 1560 the library was up and running. The large hall was equipped with wooden benches for reading to which the codexs would be chained, cabinets for storing books, and embellished and richly decorated. The vestibule was chosen as the seat of the School of S. Mark and academic meetings. In 1596 the Public Statuary of the Republic in the Library Vestibule was inaugurated, which had been adapted to accommodate the donation of Greek and Roman statues by Cardinal Grimani. This collection would form the core of what would eventually become the archaeological museum.