*The Foundation wishes to express thanks to Andrea Paoli for his contribution to this biographical profile.
Anna Saitta Revignas was born in Buje, Istria, in Northeast Italy, on August 18, 1905. Initially a teacher, she became a librarian in 1933, beginning her career at the Marciana Library in Venice. In 1938 she relocated to the National Central Library of Florence, where, following the illness of its director Antonio Boselli, she was named Regent Director in 1941. The role also included serving as Superintendent of all libraries for the region of Tuscany. During her tenure, she was responsible for verifying, via routine inspections, the condition of rare books across Tuscan libraries–1173 cases of books that had been recovered from the Abbey of Passignano, in Tavernelle Val di Pesa, starting in 1940.
With the arrival of the war front, and considering the German weapons deposit that had been established near Passignano, Saitta Revignas, along with the director of the Marucelliana Library Enrico Jahier, decided to dismantle the site and relocate all rare materials to Florence. The operation, conducted in 1943, was completed via numerous trips so as to avoid rousing German suspicion. The books were secured in the basement of the National Central Library of Florence, as well as the crypt of the Medici Chapels.
In 1944, through legal manoeuvring, Saitta Revignas was able to prevent the dispersion and sale of several book collections belonging to Jewish citizens and the Rabbinical College of Florence; the books had been sequestered by the Italian Social Republic to be finally returned to their rightful owners following the liberation of Florence.
On July 29, 1944, as the Allies reached Florence, German forces ordered the immediate evacuation of the city’s areas overlooking the Arno River, which included the national library, situated directly on the riverbank. Saitta Revignas chose to ignore the order, risking her life to guard the library alongside its custodian Raffaello Bagnoli. On August 5, German patrols occupied the building, catching Saitta Revignas by surprise in its basement. Without losing her nerve, she explained to the patrol’s commander her reasons for staying behind, and with this was able to ensure that the books would remain untouched by German troops. She returned to the library on August 11 immediately following the German retreat; despite sporadic acts of vandalism, the books, as well as rare texts hidden in the basement, had been spared. Captain R.H. Ellis, who arrived in Florence on August 12 of that same year, observed her work in the library. In a report dated August 24, 1944, Ellis wrote that the books “could not be better housed until all danger is past.” The national library reopened to the public on September 15, 1944.
Following the war, Saitta Revignas worked as a library inspector from 1956 to 1970.
She died in Rome on November 21, 1973.