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Using the Database

The Themed Collection database provides search tips on the dedicated Search page. For users new to the early modern period, the Italian Academies, and the various historical disciplines linked to, and underpinning the database, some examples of approaches to successful searching are given below.

Home Page and Simple Search

The Home/Main Page provides some brief information about what the catalogue contains, and gives access via simple keyword searching. Keywords may be truncated using * in order to achieve maximum results (see also Search page). Just to give one example: “amor* ” shows entries containing all forms of “amor, amore/i, amoroso/a/i/e” wherever such word forms are found – most probably as parts of book titles, but conceivably also as names, nicknames, parts of mottos, descriptions of emblems, and notes. Entering a term (e.g. amor*) in the search box leads to the Brief Display page which lists Academies, People and Books – the three principal divisions of the database. This can be refined by selecting to look only at one of these three – a useful function for discovering, for example, how many people were connected with a particular city. Click on Full to move on to the detailed record for that individual academy, person or book item.

Searching can be done through instructions in either English or Italian, but the records are only compiled in one language: to search for all English connections, enter “English” not “inglese”.

Advanced Search

The Advanced Search page is arranged in two axes : one, of three dialogue boxes – relating to: precise fields (City, Academy etc); motto and emblem; and short title; and on the left, a vertical index of keyword searchable items. This latter connects to alphabetical lists of the item selected: authors gives an alphabetical list of authors; printers of printers and so on. For searching using a dialogue box, select by the button the type of search and then proceed. The first box allows searching by a whole list starting with City and ending with Academician. The screen then prompts for some additional information, either via drop-down menu or via text box.

Example 1

In Advanced Search, select from the top box (Selection Type) the drop down menu; from the list (City, Academy, Printer etc) select a City, click Add and submit that as the search term. This will gives the Brief Display page which lists Academies in the selected city. By selecting Naples as the city – the Brief Display page will list 51 Academies operating in the city in the period 1525-1700 – several of which have come to light through the research for this project. Clicking on Full against the name of an Academy – e.g. Oziosi – takes the user to the Academy Full Display page, which lists the name of the academy, any alternative names (eg in other languages usually Latin), the dates of operation, the academy motto and emblem, with an illustration of the latter if available in a British Library volume. The role of the academy is normally given as dedicatee, a term which includes sponsor of publications. Then follows the list of printed books in the British Library with which that Academy was in some way connected. Then follow the names of the individual members with their individual nickname in brackets, where known. In this list of members of the Oziosi note: firstly that in many cases they seem not to have used punning nicknames, unlike their counterparts in other Academies (Gelati in Bologna for example); secondly the large number of important personages, both political and ecclesiastical, who were members of this Academy. Finally, as for every individual record, there is a Notes field, where information of a bibliographical and critical kind is recorded, and amplified as our researches continue.

Staying with the list of members, clicking on the name of an individual one passes to the Person Full Display page. By selecting Basile – a well-known author – the record shows his name and surname, his title (Count), any pseudonyms or anagrams of his name, his dates and nationality, his roles within the academies [all searchable terms] of which he was a member – in this case his roles included author, contributor and editor, and his portrait. Basile, it can be noted, belonged to no fewer than 4 academies – 2 in Naples, 1 in Venice and 1 in the ‘stato di mar’, in Crete. In his case this reflects his travels around Italy, but in many other cases, membership of more than one academy in different cities, did not imply movement around the peninsula, but rather is illustrative of the complex cultural, intellectual, political and personal links of members. Then follows the list of books with which Basile is linked, as far as the academies are concerned, and the British Library holdings of these. Choosing a book title connects to the Book Full Display page – so Le Avventurose Disaventure favola maritima di Gio. Battista Basile il pigro provides information about this publication, where we can note for example the details of the censors’ names, and the agreement to publish, and also the subject area of the volume and the name of the dedicatee. All these details are live search fields, and allow the researcher to follow any link or piece of information of interest, to discover new connections and items. It is also possible to use – for example the name of a dedicatee – as a search term. So clicking here on Carafa – takes the user to his Person Full Display, with the information about his links to Academies, his nicknameSolitario, and his involvement with the Rime Spirituali. Clicking on this leads to the volume and its long list of contributors, sparking another possible onward pathway, and the title page image – for research on printing. Returning to the list of members of the Oziosi, and selecting another member, Quevedo, reveals another topic of interest for southern academies – namely the Spanish connection. Quevedo spent some time at the viceregal court in Naples, where he became a member of the Oziosi, and the Person page offers us his portrait, and where he published a lovely volume – El Parnaso espagnol – on the Book Full page is transcribed the censors’ agreement, in Spanish, and dated from Madrid, and the superb autopromotion of the engraving of Quevedo and the Muses is included.

Example 2

Returning to the Advanced Search page, and still using the first dialogue box, select Academician from the first drop down menu. The screen then prompts with a series of text boxes – not all of which need to be completed for the search. This particular function has been added in order to allow for searches using only the pseudonym or nickname of a member of an Academy. One of the most problematic areas of Academy printings is the fact that many members – whether authors, contributors or dedicatees – are only referred to by their punning academy nickname. Linking nickname to real name is an extremely laborious process and often impossible by traditional catalogue methods; the Italian Academies database makes this very easy, and indeed it was one of the fundamental drivers behind the project. Using the facility will reveal not only the person behind the ‘mask’ but also, via the Person Full Page, other possible nicknames in other academies – thus permitting a researcher to link books apparently by several individuals to just one real author. It will also, conversely, show all the individuals who used a particular nickname – since there was no copyright in nicknames, and both academies, and members of different academies, at times used the same or similar nicknames. Entering, for example, “stordito” in the nickname line, the search produces 2 results: the well-known Alessandro Piccolomini, who had this nickname as a member of the Intronati in Siena (but no such name in his membership of the Paduan Infiammati) and Estonne Palermo, member of the Oziosi; “agitato” gives 3 results, for di Beinette, a member of the Desiosi in Rome; Giroldi, a member of the Unanimi in Bologna; and Livi, a member of the Rozzi minori of Siena, for whom are recorded both a personal motto and emblem – both searchable.

Example 3

The second dialogue box is equally fundamental in the conception of the database. Emblems and mottos frequently get separated from each other, and indeed from the parent volume or Academy, existing as independent printings extracted from the original publications, or used for decorative purposes on other artefacts. The emblems may or may not contain within themselves the name of the Academy; the motto almost certainly is based on some form of word play, which may be now very abstruse. The dialogue box here allows for entering minimal descriptive information of the emblem the researcher seeks to identify, and as little as a single word, for a motto similarly in need of identification. In Emblem enter the description “trees”, and the results show all those academies which include within their emblem one or more trees, as described in the column to the right. Click on Gelati – an academy with ample illustrative material – leads to the Academy Full Page display, which includes the digitised emblem, and reveals in addition that this was designed by Agostino Carracci. The Gelati is one of the most outstanding examples of an academy using the full range of punning elements, but was also clearly in the business of public relations. This is especially evident in the Memorie Imprese e Ritratti dei Signori academici dei Gelati (1672) with its beautiful frontispiece; and to the Prose dei Signori etc (1671), where after the details of all the various lectures contained in the volume, in the Notes field we have recorded, as a matter of historical interest, the fact that Montanari’s essay on astronomy was reviewed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society just one year after publication, in 1672.

Similarly for motto, if we enter the simple word: “non”, the search produces 20 Academies which contained a negative in the motto, with, again, in a column towards the right, the full motto of each.

Example 4

The third dialogue box, short title, functions like the simple keyword search, but permits a longer string – useful given the length of some titles in sixteenth and seventeenth century printings, and if you have only, say, the middle section.

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