The Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte goes back to 1735, when Charles III, a Bourbon king, founded the chair of Astronomy and Navigation at the Royal University of Naples. However, a series of historical events delayed the building of the Observatory until 1812, when work started under the then King of Naples Joachim Murat. The work was completed seven years later under King Ferdinando I, Charles' son who presided over the inauguration.
Built on the Miradois hill close to the Royal Palace of Capodimonte, the Observatory was the first institute in Italy to be built solely for astronomical research purposes. stampa oac The royal astronomer Federigo Zuccari, director of the pre-existing Neapolitan Specula, described it as "...a magnificent building and a temple worthy of Urania". It was built in the then highly fashionable neoclassical style. The earliest collection of books pre-dates the opening of the Observatory, when the Specula was still located in the Belvedere area of the San Gaudioso Monastery. The driving force behind the library was the then director F. Zuccari, who stressed the need for the Observatory to have a library of its own. He wrote in a letter to the Earl Zurlo, the Minister of the Interior, dated March 16, 1812, saying "It is forbidden to take books out of the Royal Library which is also a long distance from the location of the new Observatory". The King granted his request and set up a fund for the purchasing of books. Federico Zuccari took great pride in carefully choosing the books himself. With the help of experienced scholars he managed to acquire a fair number of books especially from abroad. Among his commission agents were the well-known astronomer Bode in Berlin, Gargani in Vienna, the booksellers of the King of the Two Sicilies, Borel and Pichard in Paris. In Naples and other Italian cities books were purchased by Zuccari or by the above mentioned French booksellers on his behalf.
In the period of four years from the setting up of the library in 1815, the collection grew by 195 works, amounting to 620 works in total, including monographs and periodicals. Today, the OAC library is an important center of scientific research in Naples and southern Italy open to researchers, students, science historians and a wide public of users. It houses an important collection of early works in the field, a modern and up to date monographs section, a noteworthy periodicals section and a precious archive of documents dating from 1802 to 1948. Recently, the monograph and periodical sections have been catalogued and are available on-line. The cataloguing of the early works is in progress. The librarians are particularly dedicated to the history of the Observatory and in reaching as wide a public as possible.