Dr. Willem de Bruijn’s professional output

Anticipating Antiquity: Jean-Jacques Boissard’s ‘Topographia Urbis Romae’ and the Reworking of Rome

Article – Published 31st Dec 07

At the end of the sixteenth century Jean Jacques Boissard published in Frankfurt on the Main a multi-volume book, in Latin, titled Romanae urbis topographia et antiquitates (1597-1602), which describes and depicts all the antiquities of Rome that could be of interest to a foreigner at the time. The book contains several hundred engravings of marble statues, amphitheatres, obelisks and tombstones, of which many were reused in subsequent editions such as the German translation, titled Topographia urbis Romae (1681) or ‘Topography of Rome’. Topographia rearranges material gleaned from the first tomes in a single volume according to what could be seen and observed in the space of four days time by a Wandersmann walking through the city. But does Topographia also make it possible for a reader to experience such a journey in the book, independently from any reference to an existing city? I argue in this article that Boissard effectively reworked or rebuilt, statue-by-statue as it were, the cityscape of Rome in the space of the book, thereby producing what I call a ‘bookscape’. Reading Topographia today means animating the scene of this displacement (from cityscape to bookscape) in view of the realisation of a fantasy – the fantasy of an eternal city, composed of fragments dispersed in time as well as in space. The object of this dispersion can be known as the Rome-scape.

Publication details

Publication status Published
Refereed 1
Publication title International Journal of the Book
Publishers name Common Ground
Volume 4.3
Number of pages 13
Page range 45–56
ISSN 1447-9516