Ultimo aggiornamento 4 July 2023
He was born in Aversa on March 24, 1890. He attended the Faculty of Letters in Naples where he graduated in 1912. He also enrolled in the faculty of medicine but did not get to the degree: these studies were however fundamental for his cultural formation and for his future activity. In 1919 he was admitted to the specialization course of the Paleography School of Florence where he was a pupil of Luigi Schiaparelli.
It was precisely the historical and palaeographic studies that led Alfonso Gallo to take an interest in the problems relating to the conservation and restoration of books and documents. From 1919 to 1923 he was a middle school teacher first in Avellino and then in Benevento and Spoleto.
In 1923 he became a free professor of palaeography and in 1926 he was appointed bibliographic superior inspector of the Directorate General of Libraries and at the same time he became professor of bibliography and librarianship at the University of Rome, a chair he held until 1949.
In the same years he deepened his studies on the alterations of the book and became aware of the need to precede the restoration operations by punctual scientific investigations on the chemical, biological and physical agents that caused damage to the library material. For this purpose, Gallo managed in 1929 to create a small laboratory at the abbey of Grottaferrata in which the collaboration of biologists and chemists was limited to the study of the most suitable techniques for tackling the different problems submitted to the restorers. Gallo sensed that research in this field needed to be broadened and deepened.
At the beginning of 1938 he presented to Bottai, then Minister of National Education, a project for the creation of an institution that would deal with the study of the book as a physical entity: the structure, the alterations and the prevention of damages.
Thus was born the Institute of book pathology that Alfonso Gallo directed until 1952, the year of his death.