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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1834 to 1836 > Vatican Libary

I RESUME the narrative.

The Librarian of the Vatican, or as he is more properly called the " Librarian of the Roman Church," ( Bibliotecario della Chiesa Romano.,) is always a Cardinal, commonly the Cardinal Secretary of State. His duties as such, however, are in great measure nominal; and the details of the management practically rest with the Primo Custode, or chief keeper of the Library, who is assisted by a second keeper, and seven scrittori, or secretaries, among whom are distributed the seven departments,—Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, Greek, Latin, Italian, and modern foreign languages—into which the books are classified.
The Cardinal Librarian at the time of Mezzofanti's appointment was Cardinal Della Somaglia, who had been Secretary of State under the Popes Leo XII. and Pius VIII.; and who, although, owing to his great age, he had retired from the more active office of Secretary, still retained that of Librarian of the Vatican. Mezzofanti's colleague as Secondo Custode, was Monsignor Andrea Molza, an orientalist of high reputation, and Professor of Hebrew in the Roman University.

Attached to the Basilica of St. Peter's, and subject to the chapter of that church, is a college for the education of ecclesiastics, (popularly called JPietrini,) whose striking and picturesque costume seldom fails to attract the notice of strangers. The Rector of this college is always a member of the chapter, and is elected by the canons themselves from among their number. Immediately upon his nomination by the Pope as member of the chapter, Mezzofanti was appointed by his brother canons to the office of Rector of this college, which he continued to hold till his elevation to the Cardinalate. The office is in great part honorary ; and Mezzofanti, in addition to his gratuitous services, devoted a considerable part of his income from other sources to the improvement of the establishment, and especially to the support of many meritorious students, whose limited means would have excluded them from its advantages but for his disinterested generosity.

He was also named Consulter of the Sacred Congregation for the correction of oriental books, and a censor of the academy.

It need hardly be said that, from the moment of his arrival in Rome, he had been received with warm and ready welcome in every scientific and literary circle. With Monsignor Mai, both during his residence at the Vatican and after his removal to the Propaganda, he was on terms of most friendly intercourse, and the confidant of many of his literary undertakings. The most distinguished professors of the several schools of Rome, Graziosi, Fornari, Modena, De Vico, Perrone, Palma, Manera, De Luca, vied with each other in doing him honour. He was elected into all the leading literary societies and academies of the city ; and soon after his appointment as Yatican Librarian, he read in the "Academy of the Catholic Eeligion," a paper which attracted much notice at the time : " On the Services of the Church in promoting the Diffusion of True Knowledge, and the Development of the Human Mind."

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