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Tag: copying

Imagining Delos

by doconversationsblog

This post is provided by Anne Marie Creighton, who joins us this year as a research fellow in the Dumbarton Oaks Library.

“‘Delos, would you want to be the abode of my son,
Phoibos Apollon, and to house him in a lavish temple?
For it cannot escape you that no other will touch you
since I think you shall never be rich in oxen or sheep
and shall never produce vintage nor grow an abundance of plants.
If you have a temple for Apollon who shoots from afar,
…you shall feed your dwellers
from the hand of strangers, since your soil is barren.’”

“Homeric Hymn to Apollo,” 51.60, in The Homeric Hymns, ed. and trans. Apostolos N. Athanassakis.

A scrappy bit of rock set in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean, the island of Delos overcame its barren soil and its size (less than 2 square miles!) to become one of the most important cult sites in classical antiquity. It was sacred to Apollo, the legend goes, because it sheltered his mother, Leto, when she needed to give birth. When Leto became pregnant with Zeus’s twins, Zeus’s wife Hera cursed her to be turned away from all the lands of the world. Luckily for Leto, Delos was a floating island and didn’t count as “land,” so she was able to give birth to her twins, Apollo and Artemis, upon it. Later, according to the Aeneid, its wandering stopped when “blessed Apollo chained it to Gyaros and the steep coast of Mykonos, and gave it to stable cultivation, and to spurn the winds” (3.75-77, translation mine). As a religious site, Delos flourished, both independently and under the control of Athens, from the 5th to the 1st centuries BCE.

In the first century BCE, however, the island’s fortunes turned. After a devastating raid during the First Mithradatic War in 88, followed by another blow by pirates in 69, Delos diminished to a shadow of its former glory. Although some inhabitants held on for a while, the island was deserted by the middle of the first millennium. The once-rich site lay abandoned for centuries.

Mt. Kynthos, the highest point on Delos, today. Photo by Deb Brown, the Librarian for Byzantine Studies. (July 2000)

Mt. Kynthos, the highest point on Delos, today. Photo by Deb Brown, the Librarian for Byzantine Studies. (July 2000)

In the seventeenth century CE, European travelers found this abandonment very convenient. Paired with the prominence of Delos in Greek and Roman myths and poetry, this convenience helped kindle their interest in the site. Beginning in the early 1600s, as I have been seeing in my work, an increasing number of western Christian travelers started making a point to stop in ancient Greek lands as they went about their business in the eastern Mediterranean. These travelers liked to collect antiquities, whether coins, statues, or pieces of architecture, taking them back home as souvenirs. As David Noy put it, generally, “the main problem lay in removing antiquities in the teeth of opposition from Ottoman authorities and local Greek populations” (375). These obstacles, however, “did not exist on uninhabited Delos” (Ibid.). In the seventeenth century, therefore, Delos provided a particularly attractive opportunity for acquiring ancient Greek objects, so it drew a disproportionate number of travelers with antiquarian interests.

Not everyone, however, could go to Delos. It was a long and expensive trip, beset with the risk of shipwreck or piracy. A market existed, however, to see Delos (and other Greek islands) from afar, which brings me to the images I wish to share with you.

The title page of Olfert Dapper's Description exacte des isles de l'archipel, et de quelques autres adjacentes, an encyclopedic treatment of many islands in the eastern Mediterranean, including Delos

The title page of the French translation of Olfert Dapper’s Naukerige Beschryving der Eilanden in de Archipel, an encyclopedic treatment of many islands in the eastern Mediterranean. Aphrodite and Poseidon are in the foreground, while the figure on the right represents the Colossus of Rhodes. The figure on the left may represent Apollo, to whom Delos was sacred.

To help their readers imagine the far-flung locales through which they passed, early modern travel writers, like travel writers today, would usually include some illustrations. As the circulation of printed books expanded, it had never been easier for European readers to get a glimpse of life elsewhere. At the same time, these images were often fantastical or exaggerated, and to make things more difficult, we often don’t know where they come from. Sometimes artists traveled abroad, like Guillame-Joseph Grelot or Cornelis de Bruijn, whose accounts were illustrated with engravings based on drawings they themselves had made, or an author could hire an artist to journey with them. Even in these cases, the quality of images could vary, if the artist was in a hurry, or was poorly trained, or if he saw just what he wanted to see. In other cases, however, the artist behind a travelogue’s engravings was himself an armchair artist, relying on some combination of imagination, text, and previously published images, which he might just copy. If the artist did copy an earlier image, it wasn’t common to attribute it, so we often can’t tell an image’s original source.

Olfert Dapper’s voluminous Naukeurige Beschryving der Eilanden in de Archipel der Middelantsche Zee, a 1688 Dutch encylcopedia of the Mediterranean islands, was among those books whose information and illustrations were both compiled from secondary sources. Dapper (1636-1689) was born in Amsterdam and never traveled farther from it than Utrecht. C. Decker, the engraver whose name appears on Dapper’s two images of Delos, also seems unlikely to have visited the Greek islands. It was an expensive trip! So where did Decker get his images of Delos? Nobody has studied where Dapper got his images from in this volume, but the sources of Decker’s two engravings of Delos, at least, are clear. An 1893 article revealed the source of Dapper’s second illustration of the island, while last week, I discovered the source of the first.

The statue of Apollo on Delos, at p. 368 of the translation of Dapper’s work into French. Corresponds with the engraving at p. 174 in the Dutch original. (The Dutch pagination restarts several times.) See Decker’s name in one of the stones on the bottom left.

The statue of Apollo on Delos, at p. 368 of the translation of Dapper’s work into French. Corresponds with the engraving at p. 174 in the Dutch original. (The Dutch pagination restarts several times.) See Decker’s name in one of the stones on the bottom left.

This strikingly beautiful image from Dapper’s Description exacte des isles de l’archipel, et de quelques autres adjacentes, the 1703 French translation of his Naukeurige Beschryving der Eilanden that shares all the same images in order, down to the artist’s name on the plates, may not be very accurate. (I’ve been working with the French translation because that’s the copy available at Dumbarton Oaks.)

Dapper’s source, as identified by Salomon Reinach in 1893, seems to have been the image below, which was created in the seventeenth century by an “unknown artist” (129). Unfortunately, I have not been able to track this image any earlier than Reinach’s article, since all the bibliographic information he gives about it is that he found it in the “Bibliothèque Impériale de Vienne” in 1891. (This is now the the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, or the Austrian National Library.)

Reinach, 652, Plates V and VI. The upper plate is the image in question.

Reinach, 652, Plates V and VI. The upper plate is the image in question.

Without a precise date for this engraving, it could have been taken from Decker’s work, or Decker could have copied it. Although both of images exaggerate the height of Mt. Kynthos (see Deb’s photo for comparison), Reinach believed that Decker’s had more “fantastical details,” like “the kind of out-of-place contruction [on the right],” and that the anonymous engraving was therefore Decker’s source (139-140). I am inclined to agree with Reinach, although it could go either way.

Dapper’s Kynthos, p. 372 of the French edition and p. 167 of the original Dutch.

Dapper’s Kynthos, p. 372 of the French edition and p. 167 of the original Dutch.

As I was turning the pages of Dapper’s book and came upon this image, I stopped, because I knew that I had seen it before. It came from Wheler’s A Journey into Greece, I thought, which had come out in 1682. After looking up the page number in my earlier notes, I was able to turn to Wheler’s rendering of Mt. Kynthos, which follows.

Wheler's Kynthos, p. 58

Wheler’s Kynthos, p. 58

George Wheler and Jacob Spon traveled together in the eastern Mediterranean in the mid 1670s, and Wheler published his account of the journey in 1682. (Spon published a travelogue in 1676, but it did not share this image). Decker’s engraving is dated from 1684, as you can see on the bottom left, so it was based on an image published just two years earlier! While Dapper may not have traveled himself, this image shows that his work draws on the latest contemporary sources. We don’t know what all of Dapper’s sources were, but we now know one more than we did last week.

The two images, side by side.

The two images, side by side


Bruneau, Philippe, and Jean Ducat. Guide de Délos. Third edition. Paris: École Française d’Athènes, 1983.

Dapper, Olfert. Description exacte des isles de l’archipel, et de quelques autres adjacentes. Translation. Amsterdam: G. Gallet, 1703.

Dapper, Olfert. Naukeurige beschryving der eilanden, in de archipel der Middelantsche zee. Amsterdam: Voor Wolfgangh, Waesbergen, Boom, Someren en Goethals, 1688.

The Homeric Hymns. Edited and translated by Apostolos N. Athanassakis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

Noy, David. “Dreams inspired by Phoebus: Western visitors to Delos from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 18, no. 3 (2011): 372-392.

Reinach, Salomon. “Le colosse d’Apollon à Délos.” Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 17 (1893): 129-144.

Vergil. Bucolics, Aeneid, and Georgics of Vergil. Edited by J. B. Greenough. Boston: Ginn & Co. 1900.

Wills, Jr., John E. “Author, Publisher, Patron, World: A Case Study of Old Books and Global Consciousness.” Journal of Early Modern History 13, no. 5 (2009): 375-433.

Sketches from the fairest objects of science

by sarahkburke

It is March 25. This is what it looks like at Dumbarton Oaks today:

photo 1The winter jasmine is covered in snow. Daffodils that had dared to bloom now droop toward the ground. My colleagues are shoveling and salting the walkways, again. Today, the best place to look for flowers is in the Rare Book Collection. One slim volume is particularly heartwarming on a chilly day, inasmuch as it was a handmade gift for a relation. Dated July 1789, bound in marbled paper, cataloged as Watercolors of flowers and butterflies, the manuscript was prepared for a Mrs. Whyte “by her obliged relation R. B. F.”

"Monsonia--Cape of Good Hope"

“Monsonia–Cape of Good Hope”

R. B. F. calls them “sketches from the fairest objects of a Science she [Mrs. Whyte] so much approves.” The paintings show flowers, some native to England but many from South Africa and the Americas. Three of the fourteen flowers are accompanied by insects: a bee moth, a cream-spot tiger moth, and a red admiral butterfly. But they were not all drawn from nature.

"Cream-spot tyger-moth, & Vinca major-Periwinkle -- England"

“Cream-spot tyger-moth, & Vinca major-Periwinkle — England”

In fact, several images in the book seem to derive from plants included in the first volumes of William Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, or, Flower-garden Displayed, the first volume of which appeared in 1787. See, for example, the image of Passiflora alata (winged-stem passion flower) from Curtis beside the image of the same from the R. B. F. manuscript.

Left: William Curtis. The Botanical Magazine, or, Flower-garden Displayed.  Plate 66.  Right: "Passiflora alata-winged passion flower--West India"

Left: William Curtis. The Botanical Magazine, or, Flower-garden Displayed. Plate 66. Right: “Passiflora alata-winged passion flower–West India”

Curtis’s magazine which, after several title changes, is still published today, made botany and botanical art available to a wider audience than had previously had access to such work.  This manuscript is a fascinating example of the presence of such knowledge in domestic contexts, the re-use of published images, and of the interest in botanical illustration among non-specialist audiences at the end of the eighteenth century. It vibrates with life: brightly-colored flowers accompanied by winged insects, images copied carefully as a gesture of affection.


“While I contrived to dedicate myself to the study of Botany”

by sarahkburke

The newest online exhibit from Dumbarton Oaks explores the Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century. One of the featured items in this exhibit is an eighteenth-century manuscript copy of Paolo Boccone’s Museo de Piante rare (1697). The manuscript was prepared by Aloysio Cabrini.  Based on his interest in medicinal plants, it seems possible that Cabrini may have been a pharmacist.

This 1791 manuscript consists of hand-drawn copies of nearly every engraving from Boccone’s 1697 Museo. Many of the illustrations are accompanied by Linnaean names, reflecting eighteenth-century developments that revolutionized the study of natural history. In addition, the volume has at least sixteen original images of plants that had not been included in the earlier publication.

Hypericum crispum in Boccone (left) and Cabrini (right)

Hypericum crispum in Boccone (left) and Cabrini (right)

Some of the plants Cabrini adds are common Mediterranean flowers such as the Calendula officinalis (or marigold) and the Rosa gallica. To others, such as Aristolochia longa vera officinarum, Cabrini ascribes medical uses. He recommends Assarum officinarum as a substitute for Ipecachuana [sic] succedanea, an emetic.  He recommends both Uva ursi and Vita-Idaea (perhaps Vaccinium vitis-idaea, or lingonberry) for cases of “stone.”

Cabrini’s manuscript copies only the printed tables from the Museo, omitting Boccone’s text. The addition of classification information to the images, as well as the occasional addition of new morphological details—often the flower or the calyx—required more space, so that the plants from one printed plate can easily occupy several leaves in Cabrini’s manuscript. The new details are significant given the prominent use of flowers and sepals in eighteenth-century systems of plant identification.

Approximate area of Cabrini's botanical study

Approximate area of Cabrini’s botanical study

Cabrini’s region seems to have been the area east of the Appenine Mountains, between Ancona and Pescara on Italy’s east coast, perhaps based in the city of Macerata. In his preface Cabrini mentions that he borrowed a copy of Boccone’s Museo from a doctor. He believed that he could improve it by introducing information from Linnaeus.

The following images show Cabrini’s handwritten preface:

preface, page 1

preface, page 2

A transcription of the Latin follows:

Praefatio & Operis ratio.

Dum me ad Botanicae studium dedicare, voluptatem haud paucam et utilem mihi afferre excogitabam; tot tantorum hominum illustrium vestigia sequutus, non labori, non sudoribus, neque impensis peperci ad incommodas per accliviores Appeninos montes peregrinationes suscipiendas, nec non diuturnas intra patriam herborisationes.  Tum classicorum Autorum opera reconsulebam, inter quae ea cl. Linnaei frequentius. In speciebus recognoscendis Musei Petr. Bocconi panormitani Ill. Vir magni faciebat.  Quidam medicus amicus illud mihi rarum opus  gratie mutuabat.  Hoc restituto hinc quanti esse faciendum et quam mihi fare necessarium praevidebam.  Optimum ideo duxi ruditer ab eo imitare tabulas, hisce praeter sua Linnaei generica nec non specifica nomina frasesque inscribere, ullas Ill. Halleri notas ad lumen revocare; hinc demum in colligando opus sexdecim alteras addere icones, quae, nesciendo ubi eas inserere in botanices oblectamentis mihi specimen dabant, et sunt: (1) Jacea-Intybacea, idest Centaurea-nudicaulis Linnaei, quae ex cel. Scopoli sententia, quum sit planta adhuc in propria specie obscura, ideo ipsius Linnaei herbarium a cl. Smithio Londini possessum esset consulendum ut ad quam ex duobus iconibus pertineat decideremus. (2) Campanula-Erinus Linn. lecta in peculiari viridario Maceratae atque abbunde in Piceni peregrinationibus reperta; etiam Viola-grandiflora, que videtur confondere cum sequenti (3) Viola-calcarata prope Nursiae appenninos passim collecta ambae Violae-Tricoloris L. progenies.  (4) Thea-Bohea L. species in mensae deliciis vera, et admodum diversa a Thee-Sinensium, sive Tsia-Japonica in hocce Bocconis Museo tab. 94 exculpta. (5) Coffea-arabica Linn. Coffeae-occidentalis exquisitior. (6) Aristolochia-longa vera officinarum regni neapolitani incola, quam plurimi pharmacopoei certe ignorant inscienterque Clematite pro longa Aristolochia utuntur et venditant. (7) Assarum-officinarum, cuius radices majori datae dosi exoticae Ipecachuanae succedaneae ex cel. Amico medico mihi ordinatae multoties suppeditavi. (8) Uva ursi officinarum herba in calculosis tam praestantior ne mihi cum (9) Vite-Idaea confunderetur libentius comparata (10) Croton-tinctorium primus credo inter botanicae peregrinatores Italiae Appeninorum incolam invenisse romani agri vinetis etiam familiarem; quam optandum Itali ad instar Belgii, Palli &c. pro re tinctoria adhiberent. (11) Comunissimum Solanum-nigrum, (12) Calendula-officinalis, (13) Prunus-spinosa, (14) Ageratum-officinarum, (15) Rosa-gallica, (16) Geranium-malacoides Linn; quae moenia Piceni urbium passim inhabitat, quarum conplurimas Florae Piceni catalogus, ac Prodromus iam incohatus enumerabat.  At optimorum mecenatum deficientia fataque adversa prohibuerunt.

Enjoy working through some of Cabrini’s Latin composition!  (The description of Jacea-Intybacea in particular has prompted a fair amount of head-scratching.)

Cabrini concludes his introduction with a lament about his lack of a patron as well as his “fata adversa.” If he was indeed based in Macerata, he was at a significant distance from the Italian hubs of botanical research, such as Pisa and Padua. Perhaps he had hoped to publish his additions to Boccone’s book, but found himself stymied by the complicated systems of scientific publication and patronage in eighteenth-century Europe.

Vitis Idaea Officinarum

Vitis Idaea Officinarum