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Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, A125, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Virtual Itineraries Through the Speculum Romanae

The University of Chicago Library takes a cue from nearly 500-year-old publishing practices to curate personalized, “individually bound” introductions to their digital collection of the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae:

In 1540 Antonio Lafreri, a native of Besançon transplanted to Rome, began publishing maps and other printed images that depicted major monuments and antiquities in Rome. These images were calculated to appeal to the taste for classical antiquity that fueled the cultural event we call the Renaissance. After Lafreri published a title page in the mid-1570s, collections of these prints came to be known as the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, the “Mirror of Roman Magnificence.” Tourists and other collectors who bought prints from Lafreri made their own selections and had them individually bound. Over time, Lafreri’s title page served as starting point for large and eclectic compilations, expanded and rearranged by generations of collectors.

The University of Chicago Library has curated their collection of 994 prints—the largest Speculum collection—by creating miniature exhibitions based on theme, place, or an artist. Visitors can choose a “virtual itinerary to explore the collection” with a specialist in the field as their guide. Professor Evelyn Lincoln, who recently visited UC Davis as one of our invited speakers, is one of the expert guides to the collection. She focuses on “Prints and Ritual in Renaissance Rome” and discusses her selection through this lens.

Other “tours” through the archive include “Love and the Gods” led by James Grantham Turner (University of California, Berkeley), “Viewing Ruins” led by Christopher P. Heuer (Princeton University), and “The Eternal City: Maps of Rome in the Speculum” led by Jessica Maier (Mount Holyoke College). The virtual itineraries “allow for a more specialized, but still lively and accessible, introduction to selected works from the collection, draw attention to particular intellectual questions associated with these prints, and serve as a new mode of scholarly publishing.”

I highly recommend extended trips into these curated archives. You will be rewarded richly.

Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, A152, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.




Innovating Communication in Scholarship (ICIS)