Overcoming the barrier of the Alps. Silk and intellectual legacy of Mathieu Bonafous between Lyon and Turin

Claudio Zanier


This essay deals with the role played by Matthieu Bonafous (Lyon 1793-Paris 1852), Director for decades of the Turin (Piedmont) Botanical Gardens, in fostering agronomical research at a European level particularly with regard to sericulture, and in tracing down his former Library and Archive. Bonafous' family had been active since early eighteenth century as forwarding agents for huge quantities of Italian silk products collected in Turin and sent via Alpine roads to Lyon and elsewhere. Bonafous’ father was instrumental in planning and building a cartable road through the Alps that eased transit between Italy and France. A few years after his sudden demise in 1852 the whole library of Matthieu Bonafous, including thousands of rare and precious books and scores of folders of his personal research archive, were donated by his brothers to Lyon, constituting for several years a specialised and much appreciated section of the town's public library. In the early twentieth century an unfortunate reorganization of Lyon's Municipal Library dispersed the whole “Donation Bonafous” within the mass of Lyon's Library books. The catalogue of the “Donation” disappeared too. A painstaking research undertaken since the early 1980s has begun bringing to light some of the main elements of the Bonafous’ Archive. A few samples of his research papers are here illustrated.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/Cromohs-13643

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