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Evolutionary Biology Collection

  • The Collection
  • Consultation
  • Conservation and Cataloguing
  • Promotion
  • Studies and Research Projects

Image: Frank E. Beddard, Animal coloration.
An account of the principal facts and theories relating
to the colours and markings of animals
, London, S. Sonnenschein & Co.; New York, Macmillan & Co., 1892 (Chemistry and Biology Library of Santa Maria delle Grazie, ARMADIO 3 107)

The collection began in 1945 as the library of the Ex-Zoology Institute, at the time housed in the Via de Pisis Building, seat of the Civic Museum of Natural History. The collection was created by the first director of the Zoology Institute, Professor M. F. Canella, a skilled protistologist with a vast knowledge of the natural world and a great interest in the problems debated in the first quarter of the 20th century, which are periodically re-addressed.

The collection contains over 200 pieces and includes fundamental works from the 18th-19th centuries regarding zoology, protistology and evolution. Among the 18th-century volumes are studies from the most famous naturalists, including Vallisneri and Linnaeus, and a special mention goes to the Neapolitan edition (1778) in seven volumes of the Works of Francesco Redi, a doctor, naturalist and poet, who debunked the theory of spontaneous generation and laid the groundwork for the field of helminthology. The publications from the 19th century with reference to zoology include, among others, works by Buffon, Lamarck and Haeckel. Among the authors who wrote about evolution are Russell Wallace and Darwin, the works on malacology include writing from Bucquoy, Deutzenberg and Dollfuss, and the contributions to protistology include works by Balbiani and Gruber.

The collection is found in the Chemistry and Biology Library of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in theEx-Convent of S. Maria delle Grazie.


To find out more


The collection is kept at the Chemistry and Biology Library of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

The volumes that make up the collection are ineligible for external loans, but it is possible to consult them in the library, upon request, made by telephone (+39 0532 455301), email or through the online catalogue.

Rules for consultation

The collection was kept at the university's Biology Department until its transfer to the Chemistry and Biology Library of Santa Maria delle Grazie, opened as a centralised inter-departmental library in June 2005.

The cataloguing of the collection in the SBN (National Library Service) was carried out in the years following the collection's transfer to the library where it is still kept today.

The volumes are located in the sections ARMADIO 1, ARMADIO 2 and ARMADIO 3 of the library where they are kept.

With the Art Bonus, you can support projects for ancient book restoration at the University of Ferrara.


2020 - The historical collections. Chemistry and Biology Library of Santa Maria delle Grazie (length: 2 minutes and 12 seconds)

Video in Italian Sign Language (LIS) made thanks to collaboration from the Equal Opportunities and Disability Policy Coordination, the E-Learning and Multimedia Services Office and AIDUS (Association for the Inclusion of Hearing and Deaf People).


Guided tours

Giovanni Bisi, The Biology of Mario Canella: Science, Politics, and Racism in the Age of Italian Fascism, Thesis (M.A.), advisor: Sander Gliboff, Indiana University, Department of History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine, July 2021.

To recommend studies or research projects on the collection or pieces from it, please write to