This path was created by Avery Freeman.  The last update was by Jeanne Britton.

The Digital Piranesi

Roman Antiquities (1 of 4)

Digital art history, word-image studies, architectural history, and book history meet in The Digital Piranesi, a developing digital humanities project devoted to the complete works of Giambattista Piranesi. With funding from the Kress Foundation, six collaborators will be invited to contribute to the project. Following an introductory in-person workshop in Columbia, SC, in Summer 2023, regular virtual meetings continuing through Summer 2024 will be dedicated to writing brief, impactful scholarly essays about each image in the first volume of his Roman Antiquities. Travel and accommodation will be supported by grant funds. All images from the first volume of Piranesi’s Roman Antiquities appear below with original annotations rendered as hyperlinks that display Italian text; transcriptions and English translations are available below the image under the “Additional Metadata” tab.

The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of South Carolina is one of fewer than ten institutions to hold a complete set of Piranesi’s posthumous Opere (1835-9), a set of twenty-nine elephant-folio volumes that assemble all of his individual publications. The Digital Piranesi includes a digital collection, where each of the volumes is presented in its original form, and the digital humanities project, where his images are presented using digital elements that his works seem to anticipate: hyperlinks and animation. Additionally, the project aims to produce scholarly discussions of each of his images. Completed essays for each of his large-scale Views of Rome, written by project PI Jeanne Britton and postdoctoral fellow Zoe Langer with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, appear here and here.

Piranesi’s first volume of Roman Antiquities is a hybrid work of archaeology, antiquarianism, cartography, and hydrology that expands the practices of encyclopedism developing in the eighteenth century and exploits the printed page and the bound book as vehicles for the visual display and organization of information. The volume’s images and organization stand to benefit from consideration through the lenses of information display, book history, visual analysis, and word-image relationships. Scholars, curators, and students at all career stages working in the fields of archaeology, the history of art and architecture, classics, digital humanities, eighteenth-century studies, history, Italian studies, and print culture would be welcome.

This collaborative writing project, led by PI Jeanne Britton and co-PI Zoe Langer, is conceived as follows. Participants will attend an in-person workshop, during which they will study this volume and others in detail, receive training in the open-source platform Scalar, and discuss plans for dividing the volume’s contents. A reading list of secondary works will be shared in advance. Over the course of the next twelve months (through Summer 2024), participants will draft, circulate, revise, and edit brief essays about each image in the volume and attend seven virtual meetings. Before the second (virtual) workshop, participants will circulate near-final drafts of their essays, which all contributors will read. This workshop, which will be held near the end of the cycle, will be dedicated to discussion and collaborative revision of each brief essay. Essays will be uploaded to the project site within one month of the workshop’s conclusion. 

Through first-hand experience with the project’s printed materials and digital elements, this collaboration is intended to serve as a laboratory for the development of new methods and forms of digital art historical scholarship. Please send a cv and one-page statement detailing qualifications, experience, and interest to PI Jeanne Britton by March 1, 2023. Inquiries are very welcome.


Date: likely June 2023, TBD

Location: Hollings Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Accommodation: Inn at USC (four nights), funded by the Kress Foundation.

Travel: Columbia’s airport (CAE) has regular flights to Charlotte, NC (CLT), and Atlanta, GA (ATL). Funds from the Kress Foundation are allocated for each participant.

Language: Reading knowledge of Italian is desired but not required.

Digital skills: No digital skills or training is required

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