The Paper Museum (‘Museo Cartaceo’) is a collection of some 10,000 drawings and prints assembled during the seventeenth century by the Roman patron and collector, Cassiano dal Pozzo, and his younger brother, Carlo Antonio. It represents one of the most significant attempts before the age of photography to embrace human knowledge in visual form, documenting ancient art and culture, architecture and topography, natural history and social customs.
The 160 drawings catalogued in this volume are derived from five ancient manuscripts: the famous Vatican Vergil, the so-called ‘Roman’ Vergil, the Vatican Terence, and the less well-known Palatine Agrimensores, all in the Vatican Library, and from a fifth codex, now lost, known as the Chronography or Calendar of the year 354.
The bulk of the drawings were copied for Cassiano between 1632 and 1634 for the purpose of studying both the characters depicted and the allied evidence of ancient costume and artefacts. By the later seventeenth century, when Pietro Santi Bartoli executed the last group of drawings in the present volume for Carlo Antonio, manuscript illustrations had come to be cherished as much for their rarity as examples of ancient painting as for their documentary value.
Introductory essays provide an overview of the dal Pozzo commissions, the manuscripts and their history down to Cassiano’s day, as well as their study in the wider context of classical scholarship through to the eighteenth century. All the drawings are reproduced in colour at full page, with accompanying descriptions of the subjects or relevant ancient verses in modern translation and brief commentaries.
"In addition to being a catalogue of serious scholarship, the book is a beautiful item in its own right, with very high quality reproductions of the work of Dal Pozzo’s artists, and seems to be designed to work as a monograph in its own right to a certain extent. (...) A valuable and even enjoyable work, which will be of benefit to library collections with a focus on the history of the study of classical manuscripts." (Anna James, in: Rare Books Newsletter, Issue 96, December 2013, p. 20-21)
"Le Museo Cartaceo de Cassiano dal Pozzo (...) est un des projets intellectuels les plus hardis et significatifs de son temps. La publication en cours de ce « Musée de papier » est une réalisation éditoriale majeure qu’il faut saluer sans réserve (...). Ces volumes vont être, pour des décennies, des outils essentiels pour de nombreuses disciplines historiques et littéraires, comme pour les naturalistes. (...) Les analyses sont d’une rigueur et d’une érudition impeccables (...) Au final, nous disposons d’un volume majeur, pour une collection qui ne l’est pas moins." (Christian Heck, dans: Bulletin Monumental, 173-3, 2015, p. 292-296)