Book Buying and the Grand Tour: The Italian Books at Belton House in Lincolnshire

Wednesday 28 November 2012, 18.00-19.30 

Book Buying and the Grand Tour: the Italian Books at Belton House in Lincolnshire

When English travellers went to Italy in the early modern period, they not only brought art objects and other tourist trophies  back with them, they also acquired books. This includes books bought in preparation for travel, books purchased in foreign cities, and those acquired once home again as a means of maintaining engagement with the other culture and language. The opportunity to map the passage of Italian texts across the English Channel enriches the picture of Italian cultural vibrancy after the Council of Trent, directed outwards towards Protestant nations despite the religious conflicts. It highlights related questions concerning the impact of Italian works within the English context, probing issues of acquisition, reception and dissemination of ‘Catholic’ models. The holdings of an early modern private library help to map the competing influences on that house and family, the works arriving from other contexts, their passage from reader to reader within the household and beyond it. Thus the library, more than simply a collection of books, becomes a repository of the social history of the place. More widely, the findings of this study, conducted in collaboration with the National Trust, engage with larger questions about English cultural permeability in the early modern period, facilitated through the exchange of books and ideas.

Abigail Brundin (University of Cambridge)