Archaeological Guidebooks from the Libraries of the Operosi and Their Circle Housed in the Seminary Library in Ljubljana

  • Luka Vidmar Inštitut za slovensko literaturo in literarne vede ZRC SAZU, Novi trg 2, 1000 Ljubljana
Keywords: archaeological guidebooks, Operosi, libraries, Slovenia, Seminary library


Ljubljana's Academia Operosorum, which helped to regenerate scientific, cultural and artistic activities in the Carniola of the late 17th/early 18th century by introducing the influence of Baroque Italy, was deeply interested in researching and understanding the material and spiritual heritage of Roman antiquity. The Operosi believed that the memory of Emona, the ancient predecessor of Ljubljana, promised a successful development of the modern city, since it symbolically connected Ljubljana with the historical and artistic centre of Europe, the city of Rome. On the one hand, such views on the ancient past were reinforced by Carniolan historians of the previous generation, Janez Ludvik Schönleben and Janez Vajkard Valvasor; on the other, they stemmed from their own observation of Roman monuments, based on their journeys to Italy undertaken immediately after their studies or during their service, and on reading specialised books, bought either on these occasions or in Ljubljana. Many of these books are now housed in the Seminary Library in Ljubljana, as several Operosi donated their private libraries to this new public library, which they helped to establish in 1701. Janez Gregor Dolničar (1655-1719), a Ljubljana lawyer and historian, as well as one of the most prominent members of the Academia Operosorum, owned at least three guidebooks to Rome, written by Pietro Martire Felini and Matteo Mayer and containing detailed descriptions of mainly ancient monuments. His private library also included the architectural treatise by Vitruvius and the hydraulic treatise by Frontinus. Moreover, a few chapters of Dolničar's book on the history of Trieste, written by Father Ireneo della Croce, are devoted to the monuments of ancient Tergeste. Janez Anton Dolničar (1662-1714), the Dean of Ljubljana's Cathedral, owned a guide to Naples, written by Giuseppe Mormile and dealing mostly with ancient ruins in the countryside. Janez Krstnik Preseren (1656-1704), the Provost of Ljubljana's Cathedral and the first President of the Academy, used the archaeological guide to Rome by Matteo Mayer and the thesaurus Antiquitatum Romanarum corpus absolutissimum. Bishop Žiga Krištof Herberstein (1644-1716) owned Ritratto di Roma antica, a guide to Roman ruins by Pompilio Totti. The Cathedral's Canon Karel Jožef Apfaltrer (died ca. 1708) likewise bought and read a guide to ancient Rome, Roma avanti e doppo Romolo by Pietro de' Sebastiani. In mid-18th century, three guides to Rome and one to Naples, furnished with many descriptions of ancient monuments, were brought from the library of the Bishop's Palace in Ljubljana. The oldest among them are Libri quattro dell'antichità della città di Roma, published in Venice in 1565 by Bernardo Gamucci. The Seminary Library also houses a book of unknown provenance, namely a copy of the influential Renaissance treatise De origine et amplitudine civitatis Veronae, published by Torello Sarayna in 1540. In mid-18th century, librarian Frančišek Jožef Thallmainer (1698-1768) enriched the collection of literature on ancient Rome with three additional books.
The books discussed prove that the Operosi and their Carniolan contemporaries were mainly interested in the ancient monuments of the city of Rome, which continued to represent the most important destination of educational travel. The glorious past of the Eternal City was one of the chief reasons why the Operosi saw Rome as the main centre of European culture and art and believed that modern Ljubljana should follow its example.


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How to Cite
Vidmar, Luka. 2005. “Archaeological Guidebooks from the Libraries of the Operosi and Their Circle Housed in the Seminary Library in Ljubljana”. Keria: Studia Latina Et Graeca 7 (2), 35-56.
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