Great cities of Italy

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These engravings embody the general European admiration of Italian architecture and culture. Their vivid images of the Italian cities capture the splendour that filled the imagination of a host of English writers from Chaucer to Shakespeare. The de Beer collection is rich in such books, especially on Rome, and they make a fitting starting point on a journey through European travel writing.


The Nuremberg Chronicle, The Book of Chronicles from the Beginning of the World, is a pictorial history of the earth from creation through the fifteenth century. Revised text would read: Composed in Latin by Hartmann Schedel and translated into German by George Alt, both versions were planned together, with the Latin edition published 12 July 1493, followed by the German edition on 23 December 1493. The Chronicle is the first instance of partnerships shown between artists and patrons and is the most famous illustrated printed book of the 15th century. German and Italian cities are each presented in profile, taking in the whole city; quite an impressive feat of visual creativity in an era before aerial photography. Rome, as the centre of the Empire and the seat of the Papacy, was naturally given a prominent entry and has continued to fascinate visitors ever since.
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Pisa image available

Although the tower of Pisa was already leaning by its completion date in 1370, not all seventeenth-century pictures show the slant as clearly as this one. From a family of booksellers, engravers, typographers and cartographers, Pietro Bertelli drew upon the inherited skills and knowledge of his entire family in creating this impressive survey of Italian cities.
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Milan image available

Not to be outdone by Venice, Pisa and Rome, Milan found her own historian in Carlo Torre. This engraving shows one of the oldest surviving Roman colonnades in the city, but does not lavish too much detail on the surroundings, consigning them to a lighter gray background against which the significant ruin stands out prominently. Nonetheless, the artist could not resist touches of daily life in late seventeenth-century Milan, with sightseers apparently reclining opposite the colonnade to appreciate its artistry.
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Florence image available

As a historian of his birthplace, Migliore celebrates the grandeur of Florence in this elegant guidebook.
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Published in Paris, in French, Silvestre's book is the only guidebook in the case clearly intended for a foreign audience. Drawing upon knowledge gained from several trips to Italy, he published engravings of the highlights and thus embarked on a most successful career as an illustrator of travel, issuing later collections on Paris, French sea ports, and chateaus. This particular volume is his second set of Italian engravings.
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Detail: Venice. Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493. de Beer Gd/1493/S

Detail: Venice. Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493.
de Beer Gd/1493/S
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