From its foundation, UNIDROIT set as one of its priorities the creation of an international legal documentation centre to assist it in the research and studies it was about to undertake. Initially designed as a simple tool in support of the Institute’s scientific and legislative activities, over the years the Library has grown into one of the foremost legal documentation centres in Europe and beyond.
The holdings of the UNIDROIT Library currently consist of over 260,000 volumes and some 450 current legal periodicals from a wide range of countries, covering the main areas of private law and, albeit to a lesser extent, other branches of the law (intellectual property law, public international law, economic law, as well as Roman and Canon law). It is particularly well-endowed in sources relating to the topics that have formed the subject of UNIDROIT legislative activities, both past and present. These topics cover: the unification of law (universal, regional and internal), international commercial transactions: contracts in general (e.g. the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts) and specific contracts (sales, factoring, leasing, franchising, agency, secured transactions etc.), transport law, tourism law, civil liability, family law, dispute settlements, cultural property law, private international law and law of international civil procedure and international capital markets.
The Library also offers access to a great many international and national legal bibliographies. Special attention has been given to the collection of the legislation and case law - particularly as regards private law - of the European countries as well as the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and many Latin American, Asian and African countries.
Besides a complete set of UNIDROIT documents, the Library also contains the documentation of other international organisations including, among others, the League of Nations, the International Labour Organisation, the International Maritime Organisation, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States, the Nordic Council and the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Furthermore, the UNIDROIT Library is a depository library for United Nations official records and sales publications.
Online catalogue, databases and cyberspace
The Library catalogue is accessible on internet. A list of current periodicals as well as lists of recent acquisitions are available on the Library Intranet homepage.
The Library provides access to various legal information sources and other databases, including electronic information sources such as Westlaw, Hein-on-Line, Eur-lex, etc. Other important sources for reference materials are the UNILEX database for the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods and the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts, as well as a consolidated Uniform Law Bibliography as published in Uniform Law Review as of 1994-1995.
The Gorla Collection
In 1987, Professor Gino Gorla, formerly a Professor of Comparative Law at the University of Rome "La Sapienza", donated to the UNIDROIT Library the collection of antique volumes he had built up to serve as support for his research on case law in Europe from the 17th to the early 19th century. This collection of over 550 titles (comprising about 900 volumes) is made up of treatises, commentaries, collections of decisions, resolutions, consilia, responsa, allegationes and controversiae forenses. Most of these volumes were published in Italy, although a good number come from France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, England and the United States of America. Professor Gorla's collection also comprises several 17th to early 19th century volumes dealing specifically with commercial law and maritime law.
Independent visiting researchers
The UNIDROIT Library is not only a prominent research centre serving both those involved in the legislative activities of UNIDROIT and visiting researchers but also a meeting-point for lawyers from the five continents, who benefit greatly from exposure to the legislative drafting work undertaken by UNIDROIT over the last 75 years, in the unique setting that is Villa Aldobrandini, right in the heart of Rome.
Government officials and other members of the legal profession, including academics and practitioners but also students from all over the world, are welcome to conduct individual research in the Library upon acceptance of a formal request to the Head of the Library. The institute's formal acceptance may also be used by applicants with a view to obtaining financial sponsorship from outside donors or from their own institutions of origin for the duration of their stay in Rome. Special consideration is given to research projects that focus on past or current legislative activities of UNIDROIT.