The District Library and "Luigi Torri" Museum
Unknown to most, this library houses around 6.000 books. Most of them were donated to the municipalities of the territory of Valle San Martino by the priest Carlo Rosa in 1810. Born in Carenno, Don Carlo Rosa lived in Milan for quite some time, in one of the most important centres of the Italian Enlightenment, where he developed his love for encyclopaedic knowledge and for the collections that distinguished the Enlightenment. The priest was able to gather a «library» of about 4.000 books «with considerable expenses» and he requested this patrimony to be passed on to the municipalities of the small valley where he was born for «public interest rather than only private». He also requested the library to be built in Caprino, which at the time was the centre of the valley not only from a historic point of view but also from an economic and cultural perspective. He also donated about 6.000 Lire in order to transport and arrange the books, which allowed the library to be economically independent for more than a century and to increase the collection with the purchase of some classics of the Italian and Latin literature.
The books, which were transferred in November 1814, were placed in a room made available by Mr. Carlo Rota-Rossi where they remained until the beginning of summer in 1816. In May 1818, the assembly of the mayors of the district appointed a commission of three members who were in charge of the management of the library and the drafting of its regulations. In the meantime, rooms, shelves and furnishings were set up. The library was set and ready in 1822 when it started to function regularly with its highs and lows for almost a century. In the ‘80s of the XIX century, the municipal authorities began to complain about the mismanagement of the library and hoped for a revival of its best practice. For this reason, the commission of mayors, convened in 1892, took the necessary measures for the renewal of the commission.
In 1908, the library was turned into a circulating public library with the purchase of books of different genres (novels, readings, travels, reports, sketches) that could be lent out. In this way, however, according to the commission (1914) the character of a library open only to scholars was turned upside down and the idea of transferring the Rosa collection to the Collegio di Celana was starting to be taken into consideration again. The rector of the Collegio in fact had already requested such transfer, but obtained an almost unanimous refusal.
Despite all the attempts to bring the library back to its original élitist character, popular books continued to be lent out even if in a more organized way thanks to the introduction of a system of registers. According to those registers, in the two years between 1912 and 1914 more than 1500 books were lent out. The district library began to suffer a period of decadence, according to a report of the 1935 «since 1917 the library was in fact abandoned. The scholars had still the possibility to consult the books, yet only following a request to the town hall, where the key was kept».
The district library was never forgotten and the ideas and attempts to bring it back to its former glory were numerous after the war, but unfortunately without great success. The initiative was resumed in the ‘80s of the 21th century by the municipal administration of Caprino, which restored and expanded the space and the furniture of the library and catalogued the entire book collection.
Most of the books of the library (4.000 books) were donated by Don Carlo Rosa, while all the others were later purchased by the various commissions during its century of active operation. Most of them are works from the XVII and especially the XVIII century, but there are also some works from the 16th century (around 150) and two incomplete incunables. There are also significant works and collections of the XIX century and some other volumes of little value of the 20th century.
As Don Carlo Rosa himself used to say, his collection «consists mainly of bibliographies, biblical books, sacred and profane history; some general and more particular stories, books about arts, science, literature but also manuscripts with different volumes on the history of Milan organized in different sections, the history of Valle S. Martino, the Adda river and its villages, and some other collections of memories of centuries back». Alongside the larger collection of religious books, there is an important collection of historical works too, including some by Ludovico Antonio Muratori and some others about local and Lombard history.
The “Museum collection Luigi Torri” is set in the halls of the municipal building of the XVIII century in Caprino Bergamasco. The interior was redesigned to create an exhibition with a strong didactic purpose. The museum itinerary is divided in thematic and chronological areas that allow each visitor to better enjoy the exhibited materials.
It is an exhibition with a modern set-up, designed to welcome and worthily enhance through scientific methods the extraordinary collection of Ol Tôrr di sass (the Torri of stones). This is how Luigi Torri was called in the village for his decade-old passion, that started developing at a very young age almost by chance and that was cultivated with patience and tenacity, at first in an almost total anonymity, and from the 1945 through some contacts in the scientific world. His home in Caprino became shortly a museum with thousands of mineral finds and fossils and a destination for scholars from all over the world, teachers and students.
For as long as he could, he carried on strolling through the wide area of Albenza, the mountain that separated Valle San Martino from Valle Imagna, the basin where he found most of the pieces of his collection. With his findings, Luigi Torri demonstrated that this was one of the richest and most interesting areas in Italy from a mineralogical, geological and palaeontological point of view, in opposition to what it was claimed at the time by most scientific experts who believed it could not be considered a fossil site of any interest.
During the ‘60s of the last century, its collections had already become so consistent as to attract the interest of both Italian and foreign scientific institutes, some of which tried to buy his findings. Except a small part that was left to the University of Milan and that was later donated to the Natural Science Museum “Enrico Caffi” in Bergamo, Torri refused all offers, wanting to keep the fruits of his research in its territory of origin. In 1964, he considered the possibility of transferring its collection to the municipality of Caprino, provided that the collection was stored and exhibited in one of the towers but the project never saw the light of day.
After his death, the collections were acquired by the municipality that after cleaning, restoring, cataloguing and dating each piece, finally organized them all and created a dedicated museum. It includes mainly fossils from the Mesozoic era and for the most part from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Born in Caprino Bergamasco on 16th March 1904, Luigi Torri starts collecting fossils as a child when, walking with his grandfather in the Opreno quarry, he discovers his passion for the history of fossils. In 1923 he graduates from the Esperia in Bergamo and serves in the Navy as an aerologist; later on, he is transferred to the Meteorological Observatory of the Air Force in Sicily. During his military service in Calabria, a military office gives him the book Palaeontology by Paolo Vinassa de Regny in exchange for some sea urchins, confirming again his scientific interests.
In 1927, he comes back home and starts seeing his vale differently. He patiently and meticulously starts collecting fossils and working for Breda in Milan, where he will stay for twenty-six years, and then, for another eleven years, at the Magrini of Bergamo. In 1936, he marries Pia Rognoni.
Having reached retirement age in 1964, Torri dedicates himself to the search of fossils, minerals and natural curiosities in the area of Albenza. Some of his discoveries led to some new palaeontological specimens to which the scientific community assigned his name. In 1945, many renowned scholars began to visit and appreciate his collection. Ardito Desio, in 1951, with his publication Ophioderma Torrii, a new species of ophiuroids from the Rheatian on mount Albenza gives him credit for the discovery.
In 1963, prof. Caio Mario Cattabeni, the rector at the University of Milan and prof. Desio paid a visit to the collection and «considering the great scientific and educational value of the immense amount of material collected» they intended to buy the entire collection on behalf of the university, although the purchase was never finalized due to some legal disputes. In 1974, Luigi Torri is nominated member of the University of Science and of the University of Literature and Arts in Bergamo. He died in Caprino Bergamasco at the age of ninety-two, on 4th of February 1996.
FIND OUT MORE
- TREMOLADA C., La Biblioteca Mandamentale, Caprino 2007
- TREMOLADA C., La collezione di Luigi Torri un naturalista del XX sec., Caprino Bergamasco, febbraio 2009
- ROTA G., Sfogliando le pietre. Collezione museale "Luigi Torri", Caprino Bergamasco, maggio 2012