Last week we were delighted to host a visit by the Italian Ambassador, Pasquale Terracciano, and his party to the University of Manchester to meet staff, students, and colleagues involved in research, teaching, and the promotion of Italian culture and collaboration across the institution. As part of the visit, we were happy to include a guided tour of the Merchants of Print exhibition currently running at the John Rylands Library.
Following a walk through the building, the exhibition curators guided the party through the exhibits explaining the significance of Venice as a centre of Renaissance printing to the educators and religious reformers of nineteenth-century Manchester and the extensive interest in collecting Aldines found across the city and region.
Subjects discussed covered the role of specialist libraries in light of the digital age, Aldus’s innovations as a printer of Greek texts, and the significance of scientific research to understanding more about the book as a material object. This latter subject was of particular interest to Roberto Amendolia, the Ambassador’s Senior Scientific Adviser, who is a geneticist and was struck by the work we’ve been doing as part of the ‘Books and Beasts’ project on animal species identification and the DNA of parchment.
Following the tour, the Ambassador’s party had a close-up session with our students who showcased the early Italian texts which are at the forefront of their UG and PG research. Several final year students following Guyda Armstrong’s ‘The Book and its Body’ unit presented their case-study texts including incunable and manuscript copies of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Sara Mansutti, an Erasmus trainee from the University of Udine who came to us on the recommendation of Neil Harris, presented an Aldine text from the collection gifted to the library by the well-known Mancunian collector and medic David Lloyd Roberts at the turn of the nineteenth century, whilst PhD student Oscar Seip from Amsterdam was able to show the unique Rylands manuscript he is studying which was collected by Richard Copley Christie and written by the sixteenth-century Italian polymath Giulio Camillo.
Fittingly, the final volume on display was an incunable from the Ambassador’s home town of Naples which caused much discussion. Prior to leaving, there was just time for the party to sign the Ryland’s historic visitors book which dates back to the library’s foundation.
After his visit, the Ambassador together with Karen Terracciano and the Italian Consul General, Massimiliano Mazzanti, moved on to the main campus to meet with more staff and students from the Department of Italian Studies followed by a formal meeting with the University’s President, Dame Nancy Rothwell, and an evening seminar with members of the Italian community in Manchester. A full programme and a programme full of books.