The Malatestiana Library, also known as the Malatesta Novello Library, is a public library in the city of Cesena in northern Italy. Purpose-built from 1447 to 1452 and opened in 1454, and named after the local aristocrat Malatesta Novello.
It is significant for being the first civic library in Europe, i.e. belonging to the commune rather than the church or a noble family, and open to the general public. It is the oldest public library in the world still in operation.
The building and creation of the library was commissioned by the Lord of Cesena, Malatesta Novello. Construction was directed by Matteo Nuti from Fano (a pupil of Leon Battista Alberti) and lasted from 1447 to 1452.
At Novello’s direction, the books were owned by the commune of Cesena, not the monastery or the family. Because of this governing structure, the collection was not dispersed like many monastic libraries.
The Malatestiana Library is the only one in the world of the so-called humanistic-conventual type, which blends humanistic principles with architecture otherwise reserved for religious buildings, and has preserved its structure, fittings and codexes since its opening more than 550 years ago.
Inside, the library features geometric design, typical of the early Italian Renaissance style. The aula has the layout of a basilica (reflecting the importance of the library as a “temple of culture”), with three naves divided by ten rows of white columns made from local stone; there are eleven bays in each aisle, which are pole vaulted.
The central nave is barrel vaulted and ends with a rose under which is the gravestone of Malatesta Novello.
The library has over 400,000 books, including over 340 codices covering various fields such as religion, Greek and Latin classics, sciences and medicine, and about 3,200 manuscripts from the 16th century. The oldest manuscript in the library is a copy of Isidore’s Etymologiae.
According to en.wikipedia