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The Genesis of the Italian Academies Project

The genesis of this large, collaborative project lies in the relatively new discipline of book history and the sociology of the printed text. It initially arose out of the shared research interests, of Everson and Reidy, in the history of the book in Italy, and has subsequently been extended more broadly, to the engagement of all the participants in the history of various forms of cultural activities, including the role of the Academies within Renaissance culture. In our attempts to conduct research in this broad field (and indeed to teach an MA option on it) it rapidly became apparent that, although critical studies on individual Academies existed – one thinks for example of the Accademia della Crusca in Florence, the Lincei in Rome and the Galileana in Padua – and some, including now some very recent ones – on academies in particular cities1, it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find studies on academies overall, their impact on the culture, society, scientific enquiry, publishing and other ‘industries’ of the period. This lack of research, it became clear, was closely related to the difficulty scholars faced in trying to locate the primary materials, that is the proceedings, publications, membership lists and associated documentation of the academies, whether singly, regionally or across the whole Italian peninsula. This problem derives, in part, possibly in large part, from the way in which library catalogues have traditionally been compiled. Catalogues have normally been constructed on an author/title basis, and sometimes additionally with a generic subject basis. In such models, whether or not the name of an Academy, or the association of an individual or a text with an Academy figure in a catalogue entry is a very haphazard affair. Moreover, in spite of the additional possibilities presented by electronic catalogues, mention of this kind of supplementary information remains very variable and frequently invisible. In our experience in dealing with the catalogue of the British Library only around one fifth of relevant items come up through traditional catalogue searching, even when using sophisticated electronic general catalogues. All sorts of information about Academies, their members, publications, activities, and emblems remain hidden from view, only discoverable by trial and effort, serendipity and inspired guess work. All of this constrains research on the cultural phenomenon of the Academies. It was this situation which we set out to address with the compilation of the Themed Collection database.


1 See for example I Rozzi di Siena 1531-2001, ed. Giuliano Catoni and Mario De Gregorio (Siena, 2001); L'Accademia in biblioteca, ed. Paolo Maggiolo-L. Viganò (Padua, 2004) (on the Ricovrati in Padua); Girolamo De Miranda, Una quiete operosa : forma e pratiche dell'Accademia napoletana degli Oziosi, 1611- 1645, (Naples : Fridericiana Editrice Universitaria, 2000).

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