The Archives

In the "Project for the Brera Specola" compiled in 1772, on the advise and suggestions of Father Ruggero Boscovich, to serve as the policy of the observatory, it states that "The Observatory Superintendent will exchange letters with some of the major European observatories, such as those in Greenwich, Paris and Bologna". This policy can be considered the foundation act for the Observatory archives, which has survived largely intact. The records span in years from about 1740 to 1960, and is, currently, the largest archives among the Italian observatories. The amount of records is proportionate to the importance gained by the Brera Specola. During the 1700s, it was one of the most prominent observatories in Europe in the following century, was the place of work for two outstanding scientists, Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli and Giovanni Celoria.
Since 1837, the archives has undergone several reorganization attempts, but its present arrangement has been devised by Schiaparelli, who was the director from 1862 to 1900. He alternated between observational activities and history of astronomy, and used the documents of the historical archives to deepen his knowledge of the specola of Milano.
The main archival series (Administrative Archives, Scientific Correspondence, Astronomers' Fonds, and the various series on observations) were thus identified by Schiaparelli and were maintained during the last reorganization.
In addition, this arrangement has been used as a model for the archives of the other astronomical observatories, taking into account the diversities of the records.
After Schiaparelli, the maintenance of the archives had been neglected until 1983. Then, it was decided to reorganize and inventory the materials until 1917. This has led to the publication of the first archives inventory.
In the following years, more records have been found in other places, such as the antique book collections and the deposit archives. These recent discoveries were included in the "Specola 2000" project. At Brera, there are, also, the archival records produced by other institutions: Accademia Fisio-Medico-Statistica of Milano, Comitato Astronomico Nazionale, Associazione Italiana di Aerotecnica and Società Astronomica Italiana.


Head of the Historical Archives:
Agnese Mandrino
INAF - Astronomical Observatory of Brera
tel. +39-0272320313 ; fax +39-0272001600
Astronomical Observatory of Brera

  • Mars surface
    Observations of Mars made by Schiaparelli, 10 september 1877
  • Saturn observations
    Observations of Saturn by Schiaparelli, 6 September 1875
  • Oriani Travel book
    Travel journal of Europe by Barnaba Oriani, 1786
  • Survey maps
    Survey maps by Oriani, 6 August 1804
  • eclisse
    Picture of the solar eclipse observed by Carlini, 18 July 1860
  • napoleone
    Letter by Napoleon Bonaparte to General Augereau, 12 August 1796

The Series

Project Status

    The archives has been completely rearranged. The inventory book is being written. The inventory of most of the older documents (1726-1917) is on-line. The documents recovered later are now part of the "Specola 2000" project.
    The computerized list of G. V. Schiaparelli correspondences is in progress; at present, 10,200 letters are filed.

  • credits


  • Battioni, G.; Locatelli, P. (a cura di), Catalogo della corrispondenza degli astronomi di Brera 1800-1809, Milano, 1991
  • Mandrino, A., G. V. Schiaparelli memoria storica dell'Osservatorio di Brera: breve nota, in: Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli La vita sul pianeta Marte a cura di P. Tucci, A. Mandrino e A. Testa, Milano, 1998
  • Mandrino, A., G. V. Schiaparelli archivista e l'archivio della Specola di Brera in: Giovanni Schiaparelli : storico dell'astronomia e uomo di cultura, a cura di A. Panaino e G. Pellegrini, Milano, 1999
  • Mandrino, A., L'archivio storico dell'Osservatorio astronomico di Brera, in: Atti del IV Congresso nazionale di Storia della fisica a cura di P. Tucci, Como, 1983
  • Mandrino, A.; Tagliaferri, G.; Tucci, P. (a cura di), Inventario di archivio dell'Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera 1726-1917, Milano, 1987
  • Mandrino, A.; Tagliaferri, G.; Tucci, P. (a cura di), Catalogo della corrispondenza degli astronomi di Brera 1726-1799, Milano, 1986
Text by Agnese Mandrino