Italian Studies

The present collections in Italian Studies at the University of Toronto Libraries support the research and teaching in all aspects of Italian language, literature and culture.

Brief historical introduction

Italian studies at the University of Toronto can be traced back to Giacomo (James) Forneri, a native of Piedmont, who introduced modern language studies here in the mid-19th century. By 1954 Emilio Goggio, professor at the Department of Spanish and Italian Studies, could write: “it may be said without hesitation that our collection of Italian and Spanish books is the best in Canada and one of the largest and most complete on the North American continent”. Both Goggio and his predecessor in Italian Studies, Milton Buchanan, have been preeminent in the support of library collections in Italian Studies through their endowed funds and legacy.

Collection in Italian Studies at UTL began in earnest in the 1960s as part of the growth in higher education in Ontario and the rapid increase in the number of doctoral programmes and candidates at the University of Toronto. 1973 was a milestone, the year in which the current Department of Italian Studies was established as an independent unit (formerly together with Spanish and Portuguese), and also the year of the official opening of Robarts Library, at the time the largest academic library building in the world.


The present collections in Italian Studies at the University of Toronto Libraries support the research and teaching in all aspects of Italian language, literature and culture. They provide the necessary resources for the Department’s graduate and undergraduate programmes, as well as being a complementary resource in the programmes in Comparative Literature, Drama, History, History of Art, History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Linguistics, Medieval Studies, Music and Philosophy.

The Italian Studies collections cover the wide range of themes and subjects taught at this University, all literary forms, theory and criticism, with all major and minor authors of all periods being well represented. Our most outstanding collection is that of the Renaissance period. The Medieval period and the Settecento are also areas of strength being built upon, and we collect in depth in the literature and criticism of the 19th , 20th and 21st centuries. Other areas of collection strength are linguistics, dialectology, the Italian intellectual tradition , Italian drama and cinema. One of our most salient collections in Italian Studies is in Music, with a collection of about 4,000 libretti that is second to none in North America, and other collections of rare books in Italian Studies include the Buchanan collection of Italian literature, a large collection of Italian plays, with a particular emphasis on those of the Renaissance period, including plays set to music and translations into other languages, the Rime collection of lyric anthologies, the Banana collection containing most of the editions of Petronius published since the fifteenth century, and some critical works, and many others.

The primary language of our Italian Studies collections is Italian, with a substantial proportion of Latin for the early periods, but we collect any materials dealing with Italian history, culture, language and literature regardless of the language or place of publication. Our Italian collections include monographs and journals, both in print and electronic format, audio-visual materials and a vast array of online electronic resources.

In the federated environment of the University of Toronto (St. Michael’s, Trinity, Victoria, Emmanuel, Knox, etc.) the Library System integrates collections from all the libraries that exist in the three campuses, covering the full range of subjects that fall within the scope of Italian Studies at the central Robarts Library, the Thomas Fisher Rare Books and Manuscripts, the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, the Kelly Library of St. Michael’s College, the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies and the Pratt Library at Victoria College. Materials in Italian Studies are present also at the University’s east and west campuses, Scarborough and Mississauga, respectively. Outside our University they can also be found in the collections at the Toronto Public Library and some of the libraries in our provincial universities.


The University of Toronto Libraries maintain comprehensive materials-acquisition approval plans with book dealers and vendors worldwide. These plans ensure that the Library receives materials from publishers all over the world in a timely and efficient manner. In support of Italian Studies, we specifically receive books through plans with our agents in Italy and throughout the world, supplying Italian materials published in and outside Italy in all languages. Since 2000, these approval plans have provided UTL with an average of over 5,000 monographs for Italian Studies each year. In addition to these plans our bibliographers select unique and related scholarly materials not covered by the approval plans. These additional selections include contributions to the collections of the Thomas Fisher Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies, the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, and any special requests from faculty, students and patrons at large.

Collections are acquired in all formats to meet the variety of preferences and styles of our current students and faculty. The University of Toronto Libraries are committed to collecting both print and electronic materials in support of Italian Studies at the University. Our audio-visual collections include stage performances, readings of poetry and fiction, documentaries relevant to the study of Italian-language belles-lettres, cinema and music. There are no significant perceived gaps in the collections, but there has been an opening of new areas of concentration in Italian Studies, mainly in the history of Italian in North America, Italian religious literature and translation theory (Italian), and Italy-Canadian studies. Library collection practices are being adjusted to support these areas with additional current materials as well as retroactive collecting.

Teaching and research support

The Library plays an important role in the teaching and research in Italian Studies at the University. Information literacy instruction is offered to assist in meeting B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degree level expectations in the ability to gather, evaluate and interpret information through program-specific instruction. Upon request, the bibliographer for Italian Studies provides personalized assistance ranging from specific assignment support to graduate and postgraduate research needs. The Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office helps the faculty and students in Italian Studies through their course reserve and syllabus service, guidance and advice on obtaining copyright permissions, compliance for film screenings, and tailored research, workshops or presentations on a variety of topics such as copyright, open access, author rights, licensing and permissions assistance, as well as research metrics.

Selection area
Selection area reference
Miguel Torrens