On August 2, 1711 the Patriarch of Aquileia Dionisio Dolfin, renovated and expanded Udine patriarchal palace, where he arranged a monumental library which endowed it with 9000 volumes of various topics of all the sciences then cultivated. A cultured bibliophile, the patriarch in harmony with the general atmosphere of renewal, typical of the eighteenth century, picked up the legacy of his predecessor, his uncle Giovanni Delfino, and brother Mark Cardinal, Bishop of Brescia, and, as a century before the Cardinal Federico Borromeo in Milan with the Ambrosiana, he made available to scholars the treasures of his library along with the codices; all this was by Delfino considered ‘di molto decoro’ of the building and support valuable the training of clergy and laity. Dionisio Delfino for the preparation of the Library wanted to refer to the Ambrosiana canons, through the preparation of shelves arranged along the perimeter of the reading room and surmounted by a gallery.
From the beginning, the patriarchal library was conceived and strongly willed as a cultural institution open to the public and freely available; for this reason it was equipped with a separate access via a staircase. Together with the Library the patriarch founded the Academy of Sciences intending thereby animate and encourage the meeting of intellectuals and the discussion of different topics. That institution, which became extinct at the death of Patriarch Dionisio, found its continuation Ecclesiastical Academy, founded by the successor Daniele Delfino in 1745, but was only open to the clergy and was short lived. The first core of Delfiniana was formed by the personal collections of Dolfin, and more specifically that of his brother Marco, Bishop of Brescia (1653-1704) and his uncle Giovanni Dolfin (1657-1699), who was also the Patriarch of Aquileia; later it was the same Dionisio enriching precious printed editions and rare manuscripts; between personal acquisitions and donations the initial library collection should add up to about 7,000 editions, which were added a few units with its immediate successors Daniele Dolfin (1734-1762) and Bartolomeo Gradenigo (1762-1765). Among the major acquisitions was that of a part of the library of John Baptist Cornaro, father of the first woman graduate: Elena Lucrezia Cornaro. The printed heritage of the Archbishop’s Library had a significant increase and qualified thanks to personal contribution of Gian Girolamo Gradenigo, the first archbishop of Udine 1766-1786. Considered the true heir of Dionisio Dolfin, the Gradenigo, man cultured and passionate bibliophile, he added to the Library 5000 other volumes of great value and interest.