More than one million books, periodicals and journals were damaged on November 4, 1966 at 6.50am, as the Arno spilled mud and debris into the miles of stacks in piazza dei Cavalleggeri, a stone’s throw from the Basilica of Santa Croce. Sawdust was used to soak up the water and young volunteers from all over the world wore gas masks to protect them from the stink of sewage and decaying leather bindings.
Donning rubber boots, [library director, Emanuele] Casamassima worked relentlessly to rescue the library’s priceless collections, having the shelves dried in Tuscany’s tobacco barns, brick furnaces and textile mills, and delivering the sorry volumes to Forte Belvedere into the expert hands of a team of book restoration specialists who had come especially from overseas. Page by page was separated before being sent to Santa Maria Novella railway station where a massive “laundry” had been set up: the oddest of locations for the washing, pressing and drying of individual leaves.
Read the Complete Article, View Images