The Library was founded in 1850 by Filippo Corridi, who transferred there the technical-scientific publications of the Academy of Fine Arts. It was then enriched with duplicate volumes coming from the Biblioteca Magliabechiana that Giuseppe Molino, who had been assigned to consolidate the library collections of the Grand Duchy in Florence, put on sale. There were numerous donations by eminent scientists: not just from Tuscany, but also from the Grand Duchy and from the French and English governments. Between 1870 and 1888, more than 15,000 books were acquired with the intention of setting up a supplementary library for teachers. The library’s patrimony continued to increase until the years immediately following the First World War.
The Fondo Antico represents the original nucleus of the library. It consisted of 272 publications, for a total of about 600 volumes. It was collected at the wish of Filippo Corridi, over a period of time lasting from when the Istituto was set up (1850) until 1859, the year that he resigned as its Director: “They [the volumes] were acquired at the expense of the Institute, or were donated by various people or bodies such as the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, the British Ministry of Trade, the English Statistical Society, various French Ministers, and above all by the Department of Fine Arts of the Ministry of State; by a certain M. Vattemare of Paris, and by exchanges of duplicate books with the Biblioteca Magliabechiana (Relazione spettante alle varie collezioni scientifiche e tecniche ritrovate al R. Istituto Tecnico Toscano di Firenze, compilate dal Commissari del Governo, 1860).
From the moment that it originated, the Library took on a genuinely scientific-technical character, even if literary works, classics, and books on national history were not lacking from its shelves.
Between 1870 and 1888, the consistency of the patrimony of books grew considerably, with the acquisition of more than 15,000 volumes. In this way, a library was organised that could respond to the supplementary needs of teachers and, in its organisation, reproduced – in ten sections – the classes of subject matter being studied and taught at the Istituto. In fact, the Library was affected both by the transformations in the Italian school system and also by the influences of various European countries, in particular of France (up until the 1870s) and of Germany (in the last part of the 19th century and in the early years of the 20th century).
Even in the presence of a conspicuous number of literary and economic works, the Library maintained its original scientific-technical character: physics, chemistry, and their applications and technologies were the disciplines represented in the collection, as demonstrated by the fact that it contained the works of almost all the classical writers of 19th-century physics. In addition to books, a valuable collection of Italian and foreign periodicals began to be accumulated, almost as a testimony to the Istituto’s cosmopolitan culture.