On 19th April 1784 Monsignor Benedetto Passionei bequeathed his library to Fossombrone in behalf of the young fond of studying.
He was born in Fossombrone in 1719, he became priest and studied law in Padua: he had several appointments in Rome and he was often in contact with scholars and cultivated people who went to his uncle’s court, Bishop Domenico Passionei.
The quantity and quality of the bequeathed books is uncertain as the original catalogue has been lost and the library underwent many wastes during the Republic in the last years of the 18th century. It included books of all genres: Latin, Greek, French and Italian literature, archeology, history, geography, theology, moral and biblical doctrine, the study of Early Christian teachings, civil and church legislation and sciences.
His donation was completed by a good number of manuscripts belonging to his uncle which is particularly interesting for the civil and religious Italian and European history in the 17th and 18th centuries. Among these works there are also letters and autograph writings by important people of that time. Monsignor Passionei shared the same passion for erudition and for the preservation of books and rare manuscripts as his uncle.
After his uncle’s death he long negotiated for the selling of the library and for the transfer of some manuscripts to the Vatican library. Nevertheless he succeeded in keeping some books marked by “P” ( Passionei”) which were the most part of them and also mainly precious, as well as other manuscripts: letters, rough drafts of diplomatic documents or drafts of erudite works. In 1776 the books sent from Rome to Fossombrone were about 6,000, many of which were elegant and valuable works, with French-fold and double Dutch fold binding. It was considered a prince’s gift in Fossombrone, not a simple priest’s gift.
Since 1895 the library ‘s seat has been the former convent of Franciscan friars. In 1944, due to the bomb attacks which struck the building and caused the loss of part of the bibliographical heritage the ancient section was moved to the Upper Court of Fossombrone whereas the modern section remained in the same building. In 1977 the whole collection of books was gathered in the new rooms of the library. At present the museum covers 550 square metres. The Reading and Study Room and the small room with the manuscripts can seat 35 people.