Global Eyes

Ambon, Maluku Islands, detail from one of the city views on exhibit in Florence as part of ‘The Global Eye‘ (line-and-wash drawing on canvas-backed paper, attributed to Johannes Vingboons, Amsterdam 1665-68)

Two beautiful exhibits are bringing to light hidden treasures from Florence historical libraries, and tracing the circulation of geographical knowledge during the early modern era in a global perspective.

The Global Eye: Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese Maps in the Collections of the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici at the Medicea Library – info at this link – includes a number of XVII-century maps and drawings of ports, cities, and coasts from “East and West Indies”, including the coasts of the North and South America, Africa, the Indian Ocean, the seas of South East Asia, Japan, the Strait of Malacca.

These hand-painted materials were purchased by prince Cosimo III de’ Medici (1642‐1723) during a visit to the Netherlands, between 1667 and 1668, and in Lisbon 1669. Today the exhibit and the thorough-researched catalogue allow us to get a good sense of how geographical and proto-ethnographical knowledge circulated during the early modern era, exploring Cosimo III’s networks, and the role of various cultural brokers.

The scientific project is curated by Angelo Cattaneo and Sabrina Corbellini and has the scientific patronage of a number of institutions, including GLOBHIS – Network for Global History directed by Rolando Minuti.

Here’s a nifty digitalisation project at the University of Groningen:

Encounters at Sea: People, Paper and Objects in motion at the Riccardiana Library, is an exhibition curated by José María Pérez Fernández and Giovanni Tarantino – info at this link – as part of COST Action People in Motion: Entangled Histories of Displacement across the Mediterranean, 1492-1923 (PIMo), chaired by Tarantino.

With sections devoted to geographical, nautical, proto-ethnographical knowledge circulating in (and through) Florence during the early modern era (and a fascinating one on early utopian novels and fantastic travels), Encounters at Sea works for the visitor as a time machine: some 1600s-editions look just fresh out of print, and the Riccardiana exhibits hall (1780s ca.) offers a remarkable setting, that would well deserve a tour per se. The perspicuous critical explanations accompanying books and illustrations will bring the visitor back to the present day, where a catalogue is expected to be out soon.

Encounters at Sea: People, Paper and Objects in motion exhibition at the Riccardiana Library (exhibits hall)


Photo credits: Giulia Iannuzzi


Cite this blog post
Giulia Iannuzzi (2020, February 25). Global Eyes. Geographies of Time. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

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