The Digital Piranesi


From this "Volumes" page, users can navigate through Piranesi's works as they are arranged in the posthumously-published Opere (Works). This set of twenty-nine elephant-folio volumes was published in Paris between 1837 and 1839 using Piranesi's original copper plates.  The volumes were produced by Firmin Didot, a publication company known for its editions of western classics. While acquisition details have been difficult to trace, these volumes have almost certainly been at the University of South Carolina, formerly South Carolina College, since the 1870s. There are of course both subtle and significant differences between Piranesi's original eighteenth-century publications and those assembled and republished in Didot's Opere.  Some dedications, historiated initials and tailpieces crafted by Piranesi, as well as printer's ornaments are missing; in some instances, keys are separated from their respective maps and included elsewhere in a volume. These and other changes are features of Piranesi's early reception history, and particularly the shifting approaches to his combinations of word and image. In addition to illustrating this early stage of the artist's reception history, the value of the Opere lies, quite simply, in its completeness. Piranesi's works are annotated and cross-referenced in systems of interconnections that are virtually impossible to see. Access to this complete set and the extensive work carried out in University Libraries' Digital Collections and the Center for Digital Humanities allow those print networks to be rendered as digital networks. 
High-resolution scans are gradually being added to the pages below.  When Piranesi's images contain annotations--keys or captions on the same page or following pages--the letters or numbers in his images are highlighted and, when hovered over, a pop-up box appears with a transcription of Piranesi's annotations. In many cases, these annotations contain objective historical or architectural detail; in others, they contain discussions about the significance of art or the construction of knowledge. In his views, the annotations tend to be restricted to a single page; in his maps, though, his keys refer readers to images in other volumes.  We understand these pages as part of an enhanced digital edition, which is distinct from the digital collection that reproduces, without annotation or other digital reinterpretations, the twenty-nine volumes.

Currently, Roman Antiquities (vol 1), City of Paestum (vol 15), and Views of Rome (vol 16, 17) contain annotated pages of the views (vedute). During Spring 2021, staff are adding, annotating, and some cases animating images from other volumes of Roman Antiquities (vol 2, 3, 4), On the Magnificence and Architecture of the Romans (vol 7), Architecture and Perspective (vol 8), Imaginary Prisons (vol 8), and Campus Martius (vol 10). Annotations appear in Piranesi's original Italian, and translations can be found in "Additional metadata." Brief scholarly essays on each image in the Views of Rome appear in vol 17 and will, by September 2021, be added to vol 16 as well. As the project continues, we hope to invite contributions of a similar nature on Piranesi's other works. 

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