All roads lead to Rome


In the 1890s Berlin bookseller S. Calvary and Co. sold William Rainey Harper 994 engravings of Rome and Roman antiquities, all published using a title page produced by 16th-century printer Antonio Lafreri: Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae ("Mirror of Roman Magnificence"). Each collection of prints was different—Renaissance-era tourists and other collectors gathered and bound groups of individual images depicting such monuments as the Pantheon, the Colosseum, or the Capitoline Wolf, a bronze statue of a female wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, Rome's mythical founders. The University's collection, now part of the Special Collections Research Center, was first shown on campus in 1966 as part of an exhibit focusing on ancient Roman architectural monuments.

The current show, titled The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome: Printing and Collecting the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, is curated by art-history professor Rebecca Zorach, AM'94, PhD'99, and grad students Ingrid Greenfield; Kristine Hess; Iva Olah; Ann Patnaude, AM'06; and Rainbow Porthé, AM'05. It leads viewers through a timeline of 16th-century printmaking methods, such as woodblock printing and copper engraving, and explores how Renaissance Roman tastes for ancient architecture and art shaped image production.

As part of a larger project to digitize the collection, Special Collections has organized high-resolution Speculum images into different online itineraries, "mini-exhibitions designed by scholars" like Zorach and Yale University Art Gallery curator, Suzanne Boorsch, "that allow you to travel through the collection along a particular path based on a theme, location, collection, or artist." The physical exhibit refers to particular itineraries, giving the viewer the opportunity to revisit at home, for example, the Renaissance maps of ancient Rome displayed in the Library.

The Virtual Tourist closes February 11, 2008.


Photos: Top: Map of Rome. Etching, 1597. Theodor de Bry (1528-1598), etcher, after Ambrogio Brambilla. Theodor de Bry, publisher. Chicago Speculum Number: B287; bottom: View of the Colosseum. Etching, 1551. Hieronymus Cock (ca.1510-1570), etcher. Hieronymus Cock, publisher. Chicago Speculum Number: B212.

Photos courtesy Special Collections Research Center.

December 3, 2007