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Atlas of Renaissance Antiquarianism

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ATRA (Atlas of Renaissance Antiquarianism)

Reporting period: 2019-08-01 to 2020-07-31

The purpose of my Atlas of Renaissance Antiquarianism (ATRA), a digital system that maps the circulation of antiquarian learning in sixteenth-century Europe, is to contribute to the promotion of new knowledge on antiquarian studies in the Renaissance and demonstrate how the antiquarian approach played a primary role in the evolution of the entire cultural/intellectual life of Early Modern times. The ATRA database collects, confronts and interconnects published and unpublished letters of humanists and scholars who participated in spreading the antiquarian method throughout Europe. The content of each letter is recorded and studied; issues and debates of the time investigated and reconstructed. The materials considered are those written in Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, German and English collected from all regions of Europe. The assortment provides in-depth coverage of all aspects of Renaissance antiquarian learning and fills the present gap with a complete analysis on the subject.
Antiquarian erudition is by nature a crossroad of disciplines.
The challenge of this project is to develop an advanced online database that links all of this information in one single coordinated system. I worked on the interconnection of antiquarian data drawn from Renaissance epistolary exchanges in the attempt to the surface issues unpublished and original research. This enabled the discovery of new cultural itineraries and convergences in Renaissance scholarship; traced the paths to uncover new trends of thought that can help us better understand the evolution of European civilization and spirit. Innovative interpretative pathways came to light, conferring a renewed awareness of the concept of Renaissance antiquarianism and offering to the entire academic community further instruments to investigate the History of Ideas.
The overall objective is to empower the understanding of Early Modern antiquarian studies and promote new knowledge and research in the History of Ideas and Culture of the Renaissance with the creation of an up-to-date database - accessible to the entire academic community.
I have achived all the objectives established at the beginning of the project.
- Develop of ATRA as an online database. I worked in close conjunction with: ITER–Gateway to Middle Ages and Renaissance, a non-profit partnership based at University of Toronto, dedicated to the advancement of learning in the study and teaching of Middle Ages & Renaissance through the development and distribution of online resources. ATRA acquired the form of an online database according to specific directives given by these institutions. Together with computer scientists at University of Toronto and at Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia (ASIT), I programed, set up and upgraded the database preparing it for public access and use. The online system has been developed by the Digital Humanities research center of Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia. Publication date: 02 April 2020. The database, available at URL
- Collect and analyze entries, search, collect and analyze published and unpublished letters of European Renaissance scholars, fractioning selectively all antiquarian aspects, cataloguing them according to the research string categories. The collection of entries was implemented along the entire duration of the fellowship, and it will continue afterwards. Current number of entries: ca. 6000. The great variety of manuscript epistolary sources merged into ATRA from various European libraries and archives. This work is still in progress; its real impact will be measured on a 10-year basis.
- Identify core groups of letters, process their content and arrange them for publication in coherent and independent collections. Collections of manuscript letters have been edited and published in several academic context.
- Carry out advanced search forms generated by the database, producing useful structured and unstructured qualitative data that will serve to gain new insight in deep-rooted and first-hand issues. This has developed and will develop further the understanding of antiquarian thought and debates concerning the Renaissance political and civil life in general. Publications on all discoveries and findings took place at this stage. In fact, by analyzing the data stored, I produced new information on the antiquarian debates that took place during the Renaissance – such as ecclesiastical historiography, iconographic sources, translations, numismatics, philological techniques, methods of research. The achievement of this specific object is proven by several academic publications.
ATRA modified and is currently modifying the concept of antiquarian erudition of Renaissance Europe. In fact, from a first analysis of the manuscripts so far gathered, it emerges that ATRA contributed to prove that the antiquarian method had a pivotal role within the cultural breakthrough of Humanism: without the spread of antiquarian culture, the European Renaissance could not have been possible. Furthermore, the thematic-multidisciplinary approach of ATRA allows for the combination of different data belonging to the same area of interest, which, interconnected with other fields, opens unexpected and potentially unlimited research paths for future scholarship and inquiry.
However, the concept of Renaissance antiquarianism per se was not yet been com-pletely and fully defined before ATRA: one can say that this remains very much a work in progress which deserves a thorough multi-disciplinary examination of the phenomenon from a transnational perspective. The very nature of Renaissance antiquarianism means it cannot be reduced to a simple formulation, nor can it be encapsulated in a single history: antiquarianism during the Renaissance is in fact represented by a multitude of coexisting formulations that are expressed through a plurality of histories. Therefore, Renaissance antiquarianism could be defined as a cultural phenomenon aiming at interpreting the past by cross-referencing heterogeneous sources thanks to accumulation and collection. This implied the use of new investigative techniques which involved the combination of literary sources and material findings in order to provide a reliable foundation for the idea of history. Renaissance antiquarianism must not be reduced to the mere collecting, nor can it be condensed to an intellectual interest or a general fascination with antiquity. It is reasonable to assume that Renaissance antiquarianism first emerged from the study of the classical world, but it eventually evolved beyond these boundaries to become a method of approaching an object of study rather than simply a discipline. Since the universality of the method became potentially applicable to all fields and times, its essence was manifested in the methodological pathway and perspective applied. In fact, the broadening of the sources from which it was possible to obtain historical data triggered the development of competencies and interpretative instruments, which allowed the identification of evidence from an array of objects of study. From this, it can be seen that Renaissance antiquarianism represented a methodological perspective, the purpose of which was to rethink the way the past was viewed through a critical analysis of sources, producing a renewed approach towards history, which stimulated the interaction of disciplines and influenced the intellectual life of the time.