Book Series Histories in Motion, vol. 1

Travelling Matters across the Mediterranean

Rereading, Reshaping, Reusing Objects (10th–20th centuries)

Beatrice Falcucci, Emanuele Giusti, Davide Trentacoste (eds)

  • Pages: approx. 275 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:30 col., 2 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2024

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-61005-4
  • Hardback
  • Forthcoming (Nov/24)
Open Access

Focusing on how things were reshaped and repurposed, this volume explores objects and their ever-changing meanings in motion across the Mediterranean Sea in a multi-layered historical perspective. Studies include: Byzantine imperial silks and bronze doors from southern Italy, eastern luxuries in Istanbul and African bolsas from the Canary Islands, Arabic geographies and Hebrew religious texts travelling from shore to shore and from manuscript to the press, the ‘dead’ bodies of holy women and men.


Material artefacts are not just exemplars of connectivity. Travelling Matters across the Mediterranean shows how material objects actively shaped the space of the Mediterranean over time. Everyday things and luxuries, as well as objects of knowledge, relics and human remains travelled, were exchanged or were mobilised in court cases. In the process, they were physically reshaped and their meanings re-articulated. In this innovative and creative book, which covers the period from the Byzantine Empire to the present day, nine chapters explore the displacement and repurposing and the making and remaking of objects to rethink the temporal and spatial contours of the Mediterranean.

Prof. Giorgio Riello, European University Institute


Beatrice Falcucci has a PhD from the University of Florence. She was Italian fellow at the American Academy in Rome and was granted a scholarship by Fondazione Einaudi. Currently, she is a post-doc researcher at the University of L’Aquila. Her works revolve around colonial culture in Italy, the construction of Italian national identity, and Italian and European colonial museology.

Emanuele Giusti obtained a dual PhD in 2021 from the University of Florence and the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. He is now a post-doc researcher at the University of Florence. He specialises in the transnational history of Orientalism. His first monograph, dealing with the reception of Iranian monuments in eighteenth-century European culture from an intellectual history perspective, is scheduled for 2023.

Davide Trentacoste obtained a dual PhD on diplomatic relations between Medici Tuscany and Safavid Persia in the seventeenth century from the University of Teramo and the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3. His research interests mainly concern Mediterranean history and diplomacy in the modern age and the relationship between Europe and the Levant, on which he has published several articles.


In the last two decades, objects have become increasingly relevant to historical studies as the primary focus of research discussing cross-cultural relations. Objects are produced, used, modified, preserved, and destroyed according to historically specific political and cultural settings, thus providing researchers with information and insights about their original background. However, they can also throw light on a large array of cross-cultural encounters when their mobility is put to the fore. Objects can move by being bought, gifted, bartered, and sold, borrowed or stolen, collected and dispersed, just as they can be modified, repaired, reshaped, repurposed, and destroyed in the process.

The Mediterranean, as a barrier and as a meeting place for different polities and communities, and as the setting of conflicted experiences of cultural, political, economic, and social transformation, easily lends itself to this kind of historical analysis. Featuring articles on Byzantine imperial silks and bronze doors from southern Italy, eastern luxuries in Istanbul and African bolsas from the Canary Islands, Arabic geographies and Hebrew religious texts travelling from shore to shore and from manuscript to the press, and the ‘dead’ bodies of holy women and men, this volume intends to tackle objects as sources and subjects of the history of cross-cultural encounters in innovative ways: focusing on the ‘second-handedness’ of displaced objects across the Mediterranean, the volume intersects different chronologies — from antiquity to the present-day — and varying scales, from the individual objects to the much larger one of the histories of their reinterpretation and repurposing.


Introduction: Rereading, Reshaping, Repurposing Objects in Motion across the Mediterranean
Beatrice Falcucci, Emanuele Giusti, Davide Trentacoste

(Re)using Byzantine Textiles: Adapting and Reinventing Material Identities through the Connected Mediterranean, Seventh–Twelfth Centuries
Anna Kelley

Travelling Doors: Medieval Bronze Doors in the Mediterranean
Judith Utz

Arabic Geography and Sixteenth-Century Cartography: Guillaume Postel and the History of Abū al-Fidāʾ’s Manuscript
Maria Vittoria Comacchi

From Africa to the Canary Islands: The Double Lives of Objects (Sixteenth–Eighteenth Centuries)
Claudia Geremia

Manuscripts from Western Europe, Printer from the Land of Israel: Movement between Cultural Spaces in Hebrew Printing in the Eighteenth Century
Oded Cohen

Dazzling Objects and Ottoman Enthusiasts: Travelling Luxuries Across the Mediterranean and Beyond
Tülay Artan

‘A stone called pourcellaine’: Chinese Porcelain and Early Modern Natural History
Matthew Martin

Life and Afterlife of Religious Bodies: From Organic Matters to Devotional Objects. Corpses on Display in Late Modern Italy (c. 1800–1950)
Leonardo Rossi

The Journey of Prehistoric Remains: Re-reading the Case of Scoglio del Tonno, Taranto (1899–1950s)
Fedra Pizzato