History of the Library
The history of the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory library is linked to that of the Specola Tower of Florence.The Specola (from the Latin specula : look out , observe)or the Imperial Observatory, was built in 1775 on the highest part of the Torrigiani Palace where the Royal and Imperial Museum of Physics and Natural History of Florence was hosted. The museum had no library, so, in 1807 Abbot Felice Fontana, the director, founded the main library. He acquired the most important european scientific texts and merged them with the historical holdings of the Cesarea Lotaringia Palatinian Library and the Lorenese Palatina Library. This marked the birth of the new library. Its catalog held eight classes. Astronomy and mathematics were the first class which contained rare books (incunaboli) like Opus preclantissimum astrolabj (1475) of Andalone dal Nero.
In 1872 when the Specola "moved" to the Arcetri hills, the collection of the antique and rare books remained in the museum's library and today is preserved at the Museo Galileo in Florence. Right from the start the library dealt whith astronomical research. The books in the new library were mainly for astronomers use. In the following years the library holdings were connected with scientific interests and biographies of the observatory's directors, starting with Wilheim Tempel whose name is linked to his beautiful drawings of celestial objects. In 1879 Tempel with his drawings won the famous Lincei Prize. When Tempel died (1889) the Arcetri building and library were neglected for years.
In 1894 Antonio Abetti (1846-1928) became the director of the Observatory. One of his aims was to reorganize the library. The first catalogue was created in 1906. At this time the library had about 1860 items including ephemerides, serials, observatory annals, stellar catalogues, celestial atlases, books of astronomy, mathematics, geodesy, geography and the complete works of Galileo Galilei. Abetti recommenced the publications of the Memorie del R.Osservatorio ad Arcetri
(1896/1962), the first observatory serial publication devoted to research activity of the "arcetrini" astronomers. Giorgio Abetti was the observatory director from 1921 until 1953 and left his indelible mark on Italian astronomical rersearch. He made the library an important centre of preservation, storage and access to the international studies
of astronomy and astrophysics.
Nowadays the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory Library holds modern publications consisiting of about 12.000 books and a wide collection of periodicals. The holdings cover international astronomical and astrophysical research starting from about 1950. The collection includes theoretical and observational studies of the solar system, stellar physics, external galaxies, interstellar medium, high energy astrophysics and modern optics