Casa Cuseni Book Collection

The Sicilian Region decree D.D.G. no. 6252, 11 December 2018, states that the collection of books known as the “Casa Cuseni Book Collection”, pursuant to Article 13 of Legislative Decree no. 42 of 22 January 2004 and subsequent amendments and additions, is declared to be of major cultural interest, as it is listed among the assets noted in Article 10, paragraph 3, letter c) of the same Legislative Decree and in Article 2 of Regional Law No 80/77 and is therefore subject to all the protection provisions contained in the above-mentioned laws.

The book collection of the Casa Cuseni library comprises an older fund and a more modern fund specialising in Arts and Crafts Movements and in literature, which coexist together with material of a more properly archival nature, from private correspondence to notes of intellectual activity, from autograph annotations to paratextual material. In a broader sense, this material fully recreates the profile of the owners and the events of their lives and of the many scholars who worked here – from Lord Bertrand Russell (who was informed that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature in this library) to Anatole France and Denis Mack Smith (who wrote his entire monumental work on the history of Italy and Sicily in this library), as well as the writers Ezra Pound, Tennessee Williams, Roald Dahl, André Gide and Roger Peyrefitte (who wrote the books that made the city of Taormina famous). It comprises various items from celebrated artists, from Salvador Dalì to Pablo Picasso, and the Presidents of the Royal British Art Academies – suffice it to mention Sir Frank Brangwyn, Sir Alfred East, Sir George Clausen, Richard Henry Wright and Cecil Arthur Hunt, but also all the Italian Futurist painters and sculptors, (Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti), or again Duilio Cambellotti, who left in this house the photographs of his scenographies that would have been staged at the Teatro Antico. Our archives are intact and are a precious source to those wishing to study the many artists who lived in Casa Cuseni, in order to better understand the library, its dynamics, and the cultural contextualisation of the archive.

The first owner, the British artist Robert Hawthorn Kitson, who conceived the core of the library and expanded it over the years, was a prominent local and international personality.

In our management approach, we always take into account the author of the work. Only this knowledge can allow a proper handling of the library. Some of the works we possess are extremely valuable and represent a unicum – as, on the other hand, does every printed copy – both from a bibliographical and bibliological point of view, and in the more broadly cultural context, in that they reflect the reading, study and training practices of the owner and of all the scholars gathered here. Many of our specimens, catalogued by the Messina Heritage Board, are frequently accompanied by autographed dedications, ex libris, postils and handwritten notes in the margins of the text, and so on. From this point of view, attention in cataloguing the specimens and their description is necessary, and a duty, particularly in a country like ours, heir to a prestigious literary and cultural tradition. A specific attention that highlights their potential as sources for cultural and historical research. It would be desirable to carry out a scientifically controlled survey of the library, which would allow the researcher to grasp the geographical and cultural links between the collections of different authors present here, starting from their bibliographic, bibliological, paratextual and archival properties in our collections.