The Library

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Occupying much of the third floor, the library was designed with quiet cork tiles underfoot and elegant wood paneling on the walls. The Paterno family—immigrants from Italy who developed the Casa and underwrote the cost of building it—generously gave books and funding for future buying, reviving Da Ponte's 1825 dream of furnishing Columbia with "il più bel fiore della nostra letteratura" (the most beautiful flower of our literature).

Paterno Library

Three archival photographs of the Paterno Library (left: facing north; center and right: facing south)

The Paterno Library housed one of America's largest collections of Italian books.

Donating Books

Letter on book donations from the Casa developer Charles V. Paterno to Judge John J. Freschi, December 11, 1925.

Dr. Charles Paterno considered it a "privilege and honor" to support book-buying for the Casa; he envisioned that this Library should "consist of about ten thousand volumes." The shelves filled so rapidly that, by the 1930s, the collection had already outgrown the Casa and needed another home. Today, readers can find the Paterno Collection in Columbia's Butler Library.

Reading in the Library

Photograph of a woman sitting in the Paterno Library.

Students and faculty and other visitors—from Columbia, Barnard, and beyond—used the Casa's Library. Notable names in the guest book included Luigi Barzini, Jr., Ruth Draper, Mario Einaudi, Beniamino Gigli, Alberto Moravia, Ottorino Respighi, Margherita Sarfatti, and Arturo Toscanini.