E.once strolling through Umberto Eco’s personal library in his Milan apartment; through the bright corridors of tall white shelves, looking at the spine of a book, stopping in front of a shelf, pulling out a book, leafing through it, noticing dog-ears and underlining, reading Eco’s handwritten notes and notes: who wouldn’t even like to do that?
You can learn a lot about how the writer and semiotic thought, what amused him, annoyed him, and interested in the intellectual connections he made. In short: how Umberto Eco worked.
Eco, who died in Milan in 2016, kept Italian originals of some of his novels, essays and academic papers as well as their transcriptions into German, French, English, Spanish and Japanese in the bookcase Q, which can be seen in the photo. His work has so far been translated into a total of 45 languages, so that the neighboring shelves of the Milan library have also been filled with translations.
It has a total of 33,000 works. Together with the approximately 11,000 books and magazines stored in the family’s summer house in the Italian Marche, together with manuscripts, private notes and correspondence, the books will find a new home at the University of Bologna, while Eco’s collection of ancient works will find a new home in the National Library Braidense will come in Milan. Yesterday the University of Bologna announced in the presence of the heirs how it would deal with the donation.
New rooms are currently being built in the modern wing of the university library, with tall, white shelves to recreate the atmosphere in Ecos Milan’s private library. The original arrangement of the books, all of which are expected to move in in the summer of 2022, will be retained in order to be able to understand Eco’s thought processes physically. What was completely new, however, was what was announced about the digitization project that the university had come up with. The entire stock of books is photographed and digitized and a walk through the rows of shelves in the library can also be done remotely, from a computer or via an app, in 3D. Instead of physically leafing through the works, you will be able to find out at the click of a mouse where Eco has made comments or underlines. For the writer and scientist, books were tools for finding new thoughts. In “How to write a scientific thesis” from 1989, which is already in its fourteenth edition in German, he advises that you should always use markings and highlighting while reading, as well as making notes in the margin. This makes it easier to find your way back to the ideas and connections that the book may have sparked later.
Umberto Eco heeded his own advice in around 2500 books in his private library and provided them with comments and underlines. About 5000 contain dedications. Anyone who wants to look at all of this and study it thoroughly will have plenty to do and need creative breaks. Bologna has come up with something special for this purpose: multimedia online treasure hunts and crossword puzzles are planned for users’ relaxation phases – the Umberto Eco library should be accessible primarily to curious schoolchildren, scientists and students. Umberto Eco, who loved any kind of puzzle, would have liked this offer.