Last week I made an interesting trip to the Biblioteca Comunale Manfrediana in Faenza, Emilia Romagna.

Giorgio Bassi is the head of the inner sanctum of this fascinating little library and a veritable font of knowledge about its history. He and his assistant Silvia, were the warmest of hosts.

The main reason for visiting was to see a small collection of books donated by the University of Portland, Oregon at the end of the second world war.

In 1944, bombing raids all but destroyed  the library which dates back to the 14th Century and used to be a convent. The town’s mayor, Alfredo Morini, sent a letter to 617 American colleges and universities requesting help.

Nello Spada, a former resident of Faenza worked at the American embassy in Portland and this connection doubtless contributed to the University’s decision to donate 1,315 works as part of ‘Oregon’s Let’s Help Italy Campaign’ in 1949.

The drive towards the de-nazification of Europe and promotion of the American way of life as a model of democracy was uppermost on the post-war agenda so one might imagine that there were some ulterior motives behind the decision to give away these volumes.

But from what I could gather, there was no overt propaganda mission behind the Portland donation. It’s an eclectic  collection which covers a wide range of topics including  history, biography, philosophy, poetry, economics and works of fiction.

I was drawn to interesting books on language like a guide to ‘good form’ and A Comprehensive Guide to Good English by George Philip Krapp. Oddities include a fully illustrated Seattle guide to boat construction!

For Portlanders spoilt by Powell’s City of Books this may sound insignificant but should you happen to be travelling in Romagna, I’d recommend a stop-off to explore  this mini-mecca.

Ask for Giorgio and tell them Martin sent you!

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