Traineeship Historical Guide Books in Rome: The Pollak Collection

The library of the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR) hosts a rich collection of travel guides and topographical descriptions focused on Italy and Rome in particular, featuring volumes dating from the sixteenth century onwards. This collection partly originated as the private library of Oskar Pollak (1883-1915), a famous Czech art historian who worked in Vienna and Rome, and who was an intimate friend of Franz Kafka. As an art historian, Pollak was mainly interested in the Renaissance and the baroque building style. From 1910, he taught at the University of Vienna, and in 1913 he became art historic secretary at the Austrian Historical Institute and moved to Rome. When the First World War started, Pollak volunteered for the army. He fell on June 11, 1915. Many of his publications are present in the KNIR library. Part of his private library was a large collection of topographical descriptions of and guidebooks to Rome, on which Ludwig Schudt based his seminal bibliography Le Guide di Roma, published in 1930.

Pollak’s collection of early modern guidebooks was the basis of his art historical publications, and parts of this are preserved in the KNIR library and in the collection of its partner institution in Rome, the Biblioteca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History. The aim of this research project, developed at the KNIR in the Autumn of 2016, is the reconstruction and valorization of the Pollak collection from the perspectives of book history, Roman topography and the historiography of art history. The project has as its primary goal to make an updated inventory, catalogue and description of the Pollak collection both at KNIR and in other collections. It entails the study of the collection at KNIR and at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, and other archives and collections in Rome.

3 trainees worked in this project under supervision of Arno Witte:

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