A prestigious European archive of philosophical tomes in Naples is being forced to close and go into storage because of Italy's budget cuts, the library's founder told AFP on Thursday.
The 300,000 volumes of the Italian Institute for Philosophical Studies, including first editions by top thinkers Benedetto Croce and Giordano Bruno, are being put in storage because the institute can no longer afford the rent.
Co-founder Gerardo Marotta, himself a philosopher, worked with Croce as a young scholar and began building up his collection in the 1950s in journeys around Europe.
He said the closure of the institute, founded in 1975, was part of a wider decline of philosophical studies in Europe as a whole.
"This is the most beautiful private library in Europe. We have been working on it for more than 40 years," Marotta said, adding that the only comparable institution in Europe was the Warburg Institute in London.
"The government is ignoring this project," the 85-year-old said.
The institute said its financing from the higher education ministry of around 3.0 million euros ($3.8 million) a year was abruptly cut to zero in 2010.
Plans by regional authorities to move the institute into a building that has already been bought for the purpose have also dragged on for years.
The volumes are currently being kept in 14 separate offices in central Naples and the rent is being paid either by Marotta himself or with loans.
"So as not to leave the volumes in the street, we are taking them all to a storage facility outside the city," secretary general Antonio Gargano said.
Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris said: "Creating a library for the precious volumes of the institute is a top priority not only on a local but on a national level because it is part of our historical and cultural heritage."