Giuseppe Renato Imperiali

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Giuseppe Renato Imperiali (May 1, 1651 – February 18, 1737) was an Italian cardinal, and known as an avid bibliophile.

Giuseppe Renato Imperiali


He was born in Francavilla Fontana in Apulia, in the Kingdom of Naples, into an aristocratic family which had come from Genoa. In 1662, he was sent to Rome with three brothers to live with his great uncle, Cardinal Lorenzo Imperiali (1612 - 1673). Lorenzo was a son of the Genoese nobleman Michele Imperiali.[1]

In Rome, Giuseppe studied at the Collegio Germanico-Ungarico, and in 1672 he was made referendary of the Segnatura.

In 1688, he entered a religious order.[specify] In 1684 he gained the lucrative post of Chierico della Camera Apostolica in the papal finance office; in 1688, he rose to become Treasurer General of the Holy Roman Church. In the Consistory of February 13, 1690, he was made a Cardinal by Pope Alexander VIII, and was assigned the Deaconry of San Giorgio in Velabro on April 10, 1690.[2] He was soon sent to Ferrara as papal legate and remained there for seven years.[3]

Back in Rome, during the Conclave of 1700 Imperiali was part of a group of cardinals who were trying to resist the pressure applied by foreign governments aiming to influence Papal elections, and they obtained the election of cardinal Giovanni Francesco Albani as Pope Clement XI.[4] Clement in turn, rewarded Imperiali in 1701 by appointing him to the powerful position of Prefect of the Congregation of Buon Governo. In this position, he controlled funding for public works projects in the Papal States.[5] Among these he commissioned the acqueduct of Benevento and the new façade of the Cathedral of Poggio Mirteto from Carlo Buratti.[6] Among his other endeavours was his attempt in 1720 to influence the Republic of Genoa to arrest Cardinal Giulio Alberoni.[7]

Upon the death of Benedict XIII in 1730, Cardinal Imperiali was touted as a candidate for the Papacy. In the Conclave of 1730, however, the opposition of the cardinals of the French and Spanish interest ensured that Imperiali failed to obtain the two-thirds required to be elected as pope, and instead Lorenzo Corsini was chosen and took the name Pope Clement XII. Imperiali continued to serve the Vatican in prominent roles[vague] until he died in Rome in 1737, at the age of 85.[8][9] He was buried in the church of Sant'Agostino.[10] His nephew, Cosimo Imperiali (1685-1764), also became a cardinal.

Formation of the Imperiali Library[edit]

Renato's grand-uncle, Cardinal Lorenzo Imperiali, had amassed the nucleus of a collection of books in his Palazzo della Casa di Loreto in Campo Marzio.[11] He also left money for its expansion and maintenance. In 1711, the catalogue of the library listed nearly 15,000 manuscripts, including large collections of books on law, philosophy, and literature. The palace also contained artworks by the painters Carlo Maratta, Domenico Maria Muratori, and Francesco Ferrandi.[12]

Under Renato, the library was moved to the Palazzo Nicolini del Bufalo. He enriched the library by buying collections from Jean Gautier de Sluse and monsignor Marcello Severoli in 1689-1690.

However, the library, though dispersed, is remembered because of the catalogue[13] prepared in 1711 by its librarian, Giusto Fontanini (1666-1736). This voluminous achievement was begun in 1697, and continued by his successor, Domenico Giorgi.[14] Unfortunately, the heirs of Imperiali were not able to keep the entire library together; portions have made their way into the National Library in Rome. By 1829, portions of the collection were selling in England, having been acquired in Rome by the Earl of Guilford.[15]


  1. ^ Figure e fatti intorno alla biblioteca del cardinale Imperiali, mecenate del '700, Flavia Cancedda, 1995, page 33.
  2. ^ S. Miranda, Biographical notes on Cardinal Imperiali. Retrieved: 2016-03-22.
  3. ^ Stefano Tabacchi, "Imperiali, Giuseppe Renato", Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Volume 62 (2004) [Treccani, in Italian].
  4. ^ Stefano Tabacchi, Treccani Encyclopedia entry.
  5. ^ Carlo Buratti: architettura tardo barocca tra Roma e Napoli, by Maria Gabriella Pezone, page 23.
  6. ^ Maria Gabriella Pezone page 23
  7. ^ Stefano Tabacchi, Treccani entry.
  8. ^ A Catalogue of Manuscripts, in Different Languages ... now selling (For Ready Money), by John Cochran, London, (1829), pp. 49-50.
  9. ^ Stefano Tabacchi, Treccani Encyclopedia entry.
  10. ^ V. Forcella, Inscrizioni delle chiese e d' altre edifici di Roma, dal secolo XI fino al secolo XVI Volume V (Roma: Fratelli Bencini, 1875), p. 103, no. 307.
  11. ^ F. Cancedda,page 33.
  12. ^ Stefano Tabacchi, "Imperiali, Giuseppe Renato", Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Volume 62 (2004) [Treccani, in Italian].
  13. ^ Bibliothecae Josephi Renati Imperialis: Sanctae romanae ecclesiae diaconi Cardinalis Sancti Georgii Catalogus secundum auctorum Cognomina, by Giusto Fontanini, Rome (1711) Ex Officina typographica Francisci Gonzagae in Via Lata.
  14. ^ Manus, Censimento dei manoscritti delle biblioteche italiane, entry on Fontanini.
  15. ^ Cochran, page 49-50.

Other sources[edit]

  • F. Cancedda, Figure e fatti intorno alla biblioteca del cardinale Imperiali, mecenate del '700, Roma, Bulzoni, 1995.
  • Bibliotheca Imperiali: Giusto Fontanini. Bibliothecae Josephi Renati Imperialis Catalogus, in A. Serrai, Storia della Bibliografia, Roma, Bulzoni, V (1993), pp. 659–665.
  • "I cataloghi delle biblioteche cardinalizie," in A. Serrai, Storia della Bibliografia, Roma, Bulzoni, VII (1997), pp. 603–819.