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Digital Humanities Projects

The Digital Piranesi

Giovanni Battista Piranesi was an innovative graphic artist most known for his architectural studies of Rome and imaginary prisons. “The Digital Piranesi” aims to make this rare material accessible in a complete digital collection and, in an interactive digital edition, to make it visible, legible, and searchable in ways that the original works are not. The scale and breadth of Piranesi’s works require innovative methods of presentation, discovery, and analysis. By digitally illuminating and enacting many of the graphic features of his designs, this project will provide new ways of seeing this unique historical material.

The University of South Carolina is one of fewer than ten institutions to hold a complete set of Piranesi’s posthumous Opere (1837-9), a set of twenty-nine elephant-folio volumes that assembles all of his individual publications (such as Views of Rome and Imaginary Prisons). Alternatively historical and imaginative, Piranesi’s representations of ruins are exercises in rigorous archeological investigation as much as they are fanciful experiments in urban imagination. “The Digital Piranesi” aspires to appeal to these two elements of Piranesi’s own works—the historical and the imaginative—and to explore the ways that

Piranesi’s works seem to predict many elements of digital design. His illustrations of ruins and crypts are immersive, his architectural studies often consist of multiple layered images, and his maps and ruins include detailed alphabetic keys. His indexed maps, annotated architectural studies, immersive interiors, and multi-image views push the limits of the printed page. While his earliest works were individual engravings of Roman ruins marketed towards visitors on the grand tour, he quickly began producing increasingly larger images and adding not only textual keys but also indices, prefaces, and dissertations. Pushing against the limits not only of the printed page but also of the bound book, his multi-plate engravings become elaborate foldouts in bound volumes, and the references in his maps and indices direct users through unnumbered pages and between different publications. His works are rare—his complete works are exceedingly so—and they constitute a colossal corpus with expansive pedagogical and scholarly potential lacking in any comprehensive searchable index. “The Digital Piranesi” aims to make the content and connections in this rich body of work easily accessible and searchable. 

Upcoming Presentations

Date

Topic

Speaker

Conference

March 2018 The Digital Piranesi: Image, Index, Hyperlink Jeanne Britton American Socieity for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Orlando, FL
June 2018 Piranesi's Views of Rome: Cartographic Measure and Referential Excess Jeanne Britton Interdiciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies International Conference, Rome, Italy 

Funded by an ASPIRE II grant (2017-2018)