This platform comprises the digital edition of a corpus of some 430 letters sent to the Roman nobleman Ottavio Falconieri between 1655 and 1675, the large majority of which were written by the Florentine prince and cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici. The letters are still unknown to scholars and the general public: they have always been in the hands of private owners and until now no one has had the opportunity to study them or even to see them. The Falconieri Project is generously funded by the Medici Archive Project’s board member Dr Howard C. Yang. Since 2015 the letters are housed in his private library, the Fengjiang Library in Shanghai.
Ottavio Falconieri, Leopoldo de’ Medici and their correspondence
Ottavio Falconieri (1636-1675), man of culture, churchman and diplomat, spent nearly all of his life in Rome, where he was in close contact with popes, cardinals, men of letters, artists and scientists. Falconieri served as agent in Rome for Leopoldo de’ Medici (1617-1675), who had a deep interest in literature, art, and science and was one of the founders of the Accademia del Cimento, inspired by Galileo’s ideas. As a result, the letters that the two men exchanged provide a priceless testimony of Florentine and Roman history in the Baroque period. This interdisciplinary work combines cultural history, ecclesiastical history, art history, book history, and history of science. The topics discussed in the letters range from astronomy to scientific curiosities, drawings, antiquities, numismatics, and literature. Most importantly, this correspondence offers a vivid glimpse of seventeenth-century society and daily life.
An essential theme is book circulation and book culture, as Leopoldo was tirelessly involved in searching and reading of books; promoted their production and distribution; and discussed their reception. Another important motif is the observation of the sky with special reference to planets, stars, eclipses, comets, and the building and use of telescopes, which both Leopoldo and Falconieri were keenly interested in. Many of the pivotal historical characters of the time are mentioned: not only popes, cardinals and queens, but leaders in the fields of culture, art and science such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Pietro da Cortona, Francesco Redi, and Lorenzo Magalotti.
The Online Database
This project lies at the intersection of history and digital humanities. The transcriptions of the letters are being entered into a customized version of the MIA Platform, which is accessible to scholars and the general public around the world. Every letter has a database record including not only the transcription of the text but also all the relevant metadata related to the document: sender, recipient, date, synopsis, relevant people, places, and topics. Every document record also includes one or more digitized images of the document. The database is also provided with biographical records for all the people mentioned in the documents.
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