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Roma antiqua et moderna: The guidebook as a genre through the centuries

Journal article
Authors Anna Blennow
S. F. Rota
F. Whitling
Published in Scandia: Tidsskrift för historisk forskning
Volume 81
Issue 2S
Pages 90-106
ISSN 0036-5483
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 90-106
Language en
Keywords Genre, Guidebooks, Pilgrimage, Rome, Travel
Subject categories Cultural Studies, Archaeology, Specific Languages, Latin language, Classical philology


This article discusses the premises and preliminary results of the project "Topos and Topography: Rome as the guidebook city", in relation to the panel discussion on premodernity which took place at Svenska historikermotet (2014). The objectives of the project aie to trace the origins and development of the guidebook genre, focusing on the city of Rome, and to define the elements, functions and strategies that shape the identities of the guidebook author, the traveller and the place itself. The wide range of material examined (guidebooks as well as ancicnt and medieval material such as inscriptions, geographical maps, pilgrim itineraries, liturgical guides and martyr calendars) invite a diachronic and interdisciplinary approach. This article deals with three of the seven sub-projects which constitute "Topos and Topography" and demonstrate different approaches to the problematic terminology of "premodern" and "modern". Hie manuscript no. 326 (8th-9th century) in the Einsiedeln monaster)', Switzerland, is to be regarded as one of the most important "proto-guidc- books" of the Middle Ages. It contains ten itineraries through Rome, with monuments as landmarks along the way, a collection of Latin inscriptions, and a description of the city walls. Fioravante Martinelli's Roma rkercata nel suo sito (1644) was published in at least thirty editions during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This success resulted from its publication together with two accounts of the organization and rites of the papal court, thus meeting the need of foreign travellers to acquire social, historiqd and artistic knowledge about Rome. The two-volume work Rom. En vandringgenotn leklerna (part 11912, part II1914, parts I-II1923) by Henrik Schuck, was successful and influential in Sweden, with an impact on the "popular" understanding of Roman topography and cultural history. Its popularity led to the commission of a new edition after the war (part 11949, part II1956). This new edition, revised by Erik Sjoqvist (part I) and Sjoqvist in collaboration with Torgil Magnuson (part II) is studied in relation to Schiick's original. These three examples show how the primary function of guiding in guidebook material manifests itself in different ways in a genre that has developed over a remarkably long period. The guidebooks analysed in the article reveal how textual elements and functions are essentially the same today as in "premodern" periods. It is rather the motives, conditions, logistics and possibilities of travel that change over time. The project thus illustrates some of the difficulties of applying general concepts like "premodern" to specific case studies.

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