Cavagna was an Italian public official and a recognized authority on the local history of Lombardy and Piedmont. His library contained a great many books on genealogy, biography, and local history, including materials on municipal governments. The manuscripts especially reflect the study of local history; most relate to Italian cities and towns, institutions, societies and families.
All aspects of Italian history, from the Middle Ages to the first years of the twentieth century, are prominently represented in the Cavagna collection, as is literature on Italian art and architecture. Other topics which are heavily represented are law, economies, biography, archaeology, chivalry, and records of Italian universities and academies.
Among the books in the collection, mostly written in Italian are some incunabula, rare and early printed books, and first editions. Many of the historical documents are unique. In addition to books, pamphlets, and manuscripts, the Cavagna library includes several thousand maps, both ancient and modern.