All Rare Books Lead to Rome

In 2020, the yearly Practicum Mining Library Treasures, organized by the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (or: KNIR), was postponed (due to COVID-19 restrictions) to 23-30 August 2021. Bachelor and master students from the University of Groningen, Utrecht University, the University of Amsterdam and Leiden University, specialized in different fields, ranging from ancient Near Eastern studies to historical Dutch literature, travelled to Rome to study the KNIR’s Special Collections, focusing this year on their rarest books. Their efforts resulted in a digital exhibition, which you can explore on this website using our interactive map to discover where the KNIR’s different rare books were originally published, which will show that “all rare books lead to Rome”.

For this exhibition, Sterre Berentzen and Janneke van Es focused on early modern travel guides, which are coincidentally bound together. Sterre’s travel guide contains a special language tool of Dutch-Italian dialogues. Janneke’s book differs from other copies of the same travel guide for the last section of the book is still original; this section has been renewed in other editions. Karin Sprang chose a pamphlet containing a public notice. Her pamphlet is especially rare because pamphlets were usually destroyed after they had served their purpose. Amber Souleymane studied a book that misses a few pages. While many copies of this book have survived the test of time, the KNIR’s copy, surprisingly, has been altered. Paradoxically, a few pages – some containing detailed images – have been added to the rare book which Cathérine Frissen studied. Ivette de Vries examined a book by celebrated Flemish painter, poet and art historian Karel van Mander; Jacqueline Abrahamse focused on a book by the University of Groningen’s first rector magnificus. The book Thijs Scherjon chose to highlight provides its readers with insights on a once well-known polemist and his view as a Catholic in the early modern Netherlands. Finally, Eva Lamers’s book inspired a genre of guidebooks, with its description of a single Roman church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

We are grateful to Eva van Kemenade, Maria Urban, Janet Mente and Diana Giofrè for organizing this insightful practicum, for their guidance and for sharing their wisdom with us. And, of course, a special thanks to the KNIR for making this all possible.

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