The Vatican Secret Archives is famous all over the world not only for the antiquity, quantity and typology of its documents (some even dating back to the 8th century AD), but also for the bulk of some of them.
The entirety of documents (nearly 630 archive fonds) treasured by the Vatican Archives is extremely important in reconstructing the political, religious and social history of cities, nations and continents. One of these fonds, belonging to the Borghese family, was donated to the Vatican Secret Archives in 1932 by virtue of the strong link that the Borgheses had always had with the Papacy (pope Paul V, the Archive’s founder, was a Borghese), but also due to the higher degree of preservation that the Holy See could offer in those years compared that of the “younger” Italian State. The quantity of items from the vast family archive is in the range of nine thousand bundles, registers or parchments.
Within such great quantity of documents, which offer an evocative slice of early modern and modern Italian and European history, one finds various account books, technically called Libri mastri, volumes bearing the whole administrative life of an institution or, in this case, of a noble Roman family, whose business amount was greater than that of a modern-day large business.
Apart from containing precious information regarding the finances, wealth and administration of the Borghese household and its numerous feuds, one of these libri mastri, (certainly showy due to its red leather binding and wooden “cover”!) is also particularly interesting because of its bulk. The volume, numbered 8590 in the Vatican Secret Archives, is 40 cm large, 55 cm tall and 37 cm thick. It weighs more than 60 kilograms! It is so large and heavy that it takes two to carry it from the underground bunker of the Vatican Secret Archives to the study rooms. Sometimes, speaking about the weight of knowledge, is not just an euphemism.< CURIOSITIES