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Claudio Tolomei’s Letter of 1542

erstellt von Kulawik zuletzt verändert: 05.06.2019 21:22
Description of The Publishing Program of the Roman «Accademia de lo Studio de l’Architettura» (c. 1535–1555)

1  Introduction

In 1547 the Sienese humanist, philologist, politician, and—later—bishop Claudio Tolomei published a letter he had written to count Agostino de’Landi in 1542.[Tolomei 1547, 81r-85r] It contains a vast program of twenty-four books to be published by a network of learned men in Rome dealing with ancient Roman architecture, its theory, its contexts and meanings.1

Tolomei’s collection of letters including this one has been published more than 10 times in the 16th century alone. It has also bee reprinted several times by modern research since the 1970s. And it has been referenced much more often in the scholarly literature. So, it can be said, that this letter is very well known at least among scholars of Italian Renaissance antiquarianism, but also of Renaissance architecture. Therefore, it is very astonishing that the letter has almost never been read carefully, and that Tolomei’s words never have been taken for being worth to study them carefully. This seems to be the main reason why the project described in the letter has always been regarded as a phantasy and far too ambitious to have led to any results worth mentioning. For instance, Tolomei claims that the entire program could be finished in less than three years. However, modern research has accepted only one book and two groups of archaeological drawings after tombstones and sarcophagi as resulting from the work of Tolomei’s network of scholars and practitioners.

Recent research instead suggests that Tolomei was right and that not only can large numbers of still understudied sources be traced to his network but also many of the famous early printed books on Roman antiquity can be as well. Following the systematic order of Tolomei’s letter, this text will give a preliminary overview of those sources and books which can be attributed—even if still somewhat hypothetically—to Tolomei’s network of artists and scholars, given that they fit so well into the program’s descriptions. They should therefore be seen as concrete results of the project’s realization. While it would take much more interdisciplinary research and, accordingly, a much longer book to confirm or reject the connections of all these sources to the project, the existence of known personal connections among their authors and their subjects closely resembling those of the books described by Tolomei strongly suggests that they contributed to the realization of his program. If this hypothetical reconstruction is correct, Tolomei’s project would no longer need to be regarded as unfinished but rather as almost finished. Indeed, due to the importance and influence of many of its results, we may even consider it complete and successful.