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Italian art books coming to Mugar
by Brian Fitzgerald
More than 30 years ago Lino Lazazzera received a present from a friend: a book about Michelangelo. It was the beginning of a book collection on Italian art and would eventually lead to an important gift to Boston University.
Lazazzera recently donated his collection of more than 230 volumes to Mugar Memorial Library, along with a limited-edition set of 50 sterling silver medals depicting the works of Leonardo daVinci. In addition, he also gave BU's libraries $20,000 to set up a permanent, endowed book fund to purchase books on Italian art, history, and language, as well as books by Italian authors.
"I didn't intend to build a collection when I first started buying the books," says the 85-year-old Haverhill, Mass., native. "I read them for my own pleasure. But now that my library has gotten so large, I thought that it should be put to good use."
Lazazzera decided to boost the book collection on Italy at Mugar Library, a treasure trove that is rapidly growing. In fact, Mugar's Special Collections contains rare Italian literature from the 16th to 20th centuries, including early editions of works by Italian poets Ariosto, Petrarch, and Dante. The library also holds the personal papers of such notable Italians as journalist Oriana Fallaci and writer and social reformer Danilo Dolci, the anti-Mafia "Sicilian Gandhi."
The book on Michelangelo contained photos of some of the greatest works of all time: the marble sculpture David, the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the dome of Saint Peter's Church in Rome.
However, the Michelangelo book also strengthened in Lazazzera a deep pride in his heritage. "My parents were from Italy, but I never learned Italian," says Lazazzera. "As a child, I didn't read or hear much about Italian artists or writers." The Lazazzera Family Book Fund is designed "to give students a chance to appreciate these works in a way I wasn't able to when I was young."
Ruth Thomas, the art and archaeology bibliographer at Mugar Library, says that the collection "is wonderful -- the books are from particularly good art presses, such as Skira in Switzerland and the Phaedon Press in New York." She adds that many of the older books are out of print. "They would be expensive to purchase from dealers and bookshops," she says.
"Because many of the books are museum publications," says CAS Art History Professor Naomi Miller, "the quality of both text and illustration is high."
A brief look at some of the volumes in Mugar's third floor offices, where Thomas is cataloguing them, reveals many colorful books of all sizes. The 15-inch by 11-inch Italian Primitives: Panel Paintings of the 12th and 13th Centuries, for example, contains 89 illustrations and 41 color plates.
Lazazzera's collection is not limited to Italian painting, sculpture, and architecture: there are also books on art from other cultures, including that of Mexico and Egypt. A printer by trade for half a century, he developed an appreciation for both the form and content of printed materials. In 1935 he started