During the 18th century, so many British travelers flocked to Italy that lexicographer Samuel Johnson once remarked: "A man who has not been in Italy is always conscious of an inferiority."
The rich documentary record left by these 18th-century travelers -- their letters, diaries, guidebooks, drawings and sketches, and souvenirs -- will be on view in the exhibit "The Grand Tour" from Friday, Jan. 16, through the end of March at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
During the 1700s, travel was considered an essential part of a young man's education, and Italy, because of its association with classical learning and the history of Western art, was one of the principal destinations. The young scholars usually made their "Grand Tour" under the guidance of British "governors" or tutors, who were responsible for their welfare and education. Once in Italy, professional guides, called ciceroni, conducted the young men to local galleries, excavations and historical sites.
The Beinecke exhibit describes some of the Italian locales favored by these "Grand Tourists," including Rome, Naples and the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum (both of which were buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79 and had been partially excavated by the 18th century).
Among the well-known authors represented in the display is John Addision, whose "Remarks on Several Parts of Italy," published in 1705, was one of the foremost guides for British travelers. In fact, Addison's practice of comparing ruined sites with descriptions from ancient texts inspired an entire field of Grand Tour scholarship. Voltaire, who received hundreds of English tourists as they passed through Geneva on their way to Italy, is represented in the exhibit through his letters to Douglas George, the eighth duke of Hamilton, and his tutor,
Dr. John Moore.
"The Grand Tour" also includes the notes, letters and sketches of dozens of other lesser-known travelers -- from serious young scholars following their classical guide books, to young men seeking the best dance instructors, to young women, who joined the ranks of the Grand Tourists toward the end of the era.
Also on view are works by artists who visited the continent to learn from the model of Italian art. Among the best known of these is Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose autograph notes (1750-52) describe his daily activities and record his impressions of various art works.
The materials in "The Grand Tour" were drawn principally from the Beinecke Library's James M. and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection. The Yale Center for British Art and Yale's Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington, Connecticut, also contributed to the exhibit. The show was prepared by John Marciari, a graduate student in the history of art and a fellow at the American Academy in Rome.
To mark the opening of "The Grand Tour," the Yale Library Associates will sponsor a lecture by Professor Bruce Redford of Boston University. The talk, titled "Swagger and Seduction: Portraits from the Grand Tour," will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 15, at the Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St. The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow at the
The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, located at 121 Wall St., is open for exhibition viewing
8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday during January and February. For general information, call 432-2977 or visit the library's web site at www.library.yale.edu/beinecke/brblhome.htm.