The Topics on Preservation Series (TOPS) is an ongoing lecture series organized by the Preservation Directorate. You can find past lectures and recordings here.
The Library of Congress holds, within the collections of the Geography and Map (G&M) Division, the Hâcı Ahmed Representation of the Whole World in Its Entirety (translated). This extraordinary heart-shaped map is only one of eleven extant copies and is comprised of ten oversized paper sheets collaged together. The map was printed in 1795 from wood blocks carved in the 16th century. The map depicts the world in an unusual heart-like shape along with three celestial spheres. It is also covered in very fine Ottoman Turkish text thought to describe the journey of Hâcı Ahmed across the Mediterranean. However, the paper that this map is printed on has its own story to tell: who made the paper, when, and for what purpose.
The work done to identify old paper is much like a good detective story. The detective, or conservator in this case, finds a clue such as a watermark and follows the trail. A mystery watermark can be compared to other contemporary papers and databases, and maybe, the conservator will get lucky and the case will be solved. But many times the search has to continue down a rabbit hole of documents and archival records; everything from regulatory laws, registers, scraps of an order form, or company invoices. Sometimes there are even colorful characters and petty disputes. Finding the paper mill or paper maker can answer immediate questions about the time and place of the paper’s origin but it can also open up scholarship on related aspects such as trade, travel, economy, and the intended market or audience of the content on the paper.
On Monday, January 9, the Preservation Division will be hosting a webinar on the 18th century paper mills in the Toscolano district of Italy, once part of the Venetian Republic. The paper mills in this area created a variety of papers for both domestic and export markets, the Middle-Eastern market in particular. The paper used to print the Hâcı Ahmed map came from this area. Dr. Silvia Pugliese, conservator at the Marciana National Library in Venice, will give a presentation on her research into the history and technique of papermaking in the Venetian Republic, and how she traced the identity of the mill that supplied the paper for the Hâcı Ahmed map. Carissa Pastuch, reference librarian in G&M, will follow Dr. Pugliese’s presentation with information about the content and context of the map, as well as why the Library’s copy of the map is significant to the collections. If you would like to join us, please click the link below.
Speakers: Dr. Silvia Pugliese, Head of Preservation and Conservation, Marciana National Library & Carissa Pastuch, Reference Librarian, Geography & Map Division, Library of Congress
Please request ADA accommodations at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].