Vittoria Feola: The Bartolomeo Gamba Project

During my stay as an STSM grantee in Padua and Bassano between 17 November 2014 and 17 February 2015 I collaborated with colleagues at the History Department and the Unit for the History of Medicine at the University of Padua, and carried out archival research in the Bassano City Library. My aims were, first, to establish how many letters really make up the whole of the Bartolomeo Gamba collection; and, secondly, to investigate the nature of the Bassano collection. Firm data and amazing discoveries leading up to spin-off projects are the outcomes of my STSM.


I have ascertained that the number of letters kept in Vienna is 930 in total, while those in Bassano are 2741. This proportion makes the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection a weighty treasure trove of correspondence of eminent Italian scholars in the early modern period, as letters span the sixteenth through the first half of the nineteenth centuries.


Thanks to research which my Paduan colleagues have crucially facilitated, I have been able to realise the potential hidden in the Gamba letters. Most of their authors or recipients were alumni of the University of Padua, and their correspondence kept in Bassano complements the Padua University Archive as far as Padua professors’ personal papers are concerned. I have benefited from collaboration with the Centre for the History of the University of Padua. As a result, I am writing up an article about the significance of the Bartolomeo Gamba collection in Bassano for the Quaderni per la Storia dell’Universita’ di Padova.


Moreover, the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection contains a huge amount of the eighteenth-century Newtonian polymath Francesco Algarotti (1712-64), whose correspondence has only been partly edited so far. Thus my STSM has helped me realise that the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection is possibly the single largest repository of Algarotti’s correspondence. Similarly, the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection contains a number of letters from the correspondence of Enlightenment philosopher Pietro Giannone of which historians, such as Giuseppe Ricuperati – Giannone’s foremost intellectual biographer – were not aware so far. The Algarotti and the Giannone letters in the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection are generating spin-off projects and useful interactions with other scholars involved in the study of the Republic of Letters.