People, Place, and Power in Eighteenth-Century Ghent

The Festival Book: Narrative, Image, and Remembrance

On October 16, 1717, the city of Ghent prepared to receive Charles VI, known as "His Sacred Majesty, Imperial and Catholic Charles VI, Always August Emperor of the Romans, and Third So-named King of the Spanish." 

Two years later, a book, entitled:
Celebrée à GAND Ville Capitale de la Province, le XVIII Octobre 1717

was published celebrating the festival that took place in Ghent on that and the following days. As in many books of the Festival Book genre, the King's visit was described in lavish detail, featuring a text printed in multiple fonts with decorated capitals throughout, accompanied by beautiful engravings printed on expensive pull-out pages. The emperor's name appears on nearly every page, the central figure of the story.
And yet. Not all was as it seemed.

Among those listed in the book were the most exalted of Ghent society, including members of the nobility, ecclesiastics, and other local dignitaries. The book listed the names and ranks of those who attended, described where they were placed in the processions and assemblies, and even noted those who were invited but did not attend - sometimes with an excuse for their absence.

For those in attendance, the events were a sumptuous display of sight and sound. Crowds assembled in the town's streets and squares during the day, and were delighted by a sky illuminated by lanterns and fireworks at night.

On the day of the event, the guest of honor never arrived. Instead, his representative Hercule Joseph Louis Turinetti made the trip and took his place in the day's events. 

The book, though it describes a grand municipal performance with Charles at its center, is a performance in itself, a fictional account of how the day should have occurred instead of how it actually occurred. This project examines aims to come to terms with the textul fiction this and other festival books represent, which make explicit the vision of the events as the planners and the authors wished them to be, not as they were. Fact and fiction were conflated in both the vision put forth in the text of Les Relations. and in the book's execution. 


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