Louis van Delft
Université Paris X
I had the privilege of being awarded a Friends Research
Fellowship for a project entitled "Theatrum mundi revisited".
I had originally planned to spend three weeks at Princeton. However,
as work progressed, I decided to stay the full month of October 2000
(completing the $2,000 award with personal funds).
Combining the remarkable resources of Rare Books and Special
Collections, Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology and of course Firestone
Main catalog, I started by closely examining the various works mentioned
in my application and which I knew were available in the Special Collections
(either at Firestone or at Marquand). To name a few: Amman, Jost, Gynaeceum,
sive Theatrum mulierum., 1586; Cartari, Vincenzo, Theatrum
ethnico idolatrieum politico historicum., 1699; Placcius, Vincent,
Theatrum anonymorum., 1708; Verstegen, Richard, Theatrum crudelitatum
haereticorum nostri temporis., 1587.
After some time, my research took a turn I had not foreseen.
Benefitting of the first-rate access to computerized catalogs (and
in particular the RLIN Eureka which seems to have restricted [intranet]
access) I decided, after about three weeks, to establish a Bibliography
of most works published in the XVIth, XVIIth, XVIIIth centuries, the
titles of which include the word Theatrum, or Theater,
Theatre, Teatro. Not being a professional bibliographer,
but rather a historian of ideas, this offspring of my original project
was not intended to produce an absolutely complete listing of those
works: that would at any rate be a vue de l'esprit, those titles
having become at the time a real fad.
Rather, I considered this bibliographical inquiry the
basis for a study of the very notion of theatrum during the three
centuries under consideration. For example, many of the books in question,
especially the Latin and German ones, are encyclopedias and thus have
an obvious relation to the art of memory. Others retain a distinct connection
with a true theatrical performance, and by means of emblemas or other
engravings deal with their topics in a moste figurative way.
It therefore appears that the very words Theatre,
Théâtre, Theater., as we use them currently
or even in the fields of literary criticism, history of ideas, etc.
to-day, have lost a great part of their original and even Renaissance
and Baroque meaning.
I must confess that I had little knowledge of the electronic
book shelves upon arriving at Princeton, as our systems in France are
generally less sophisticated, less easily accessible and more costly
for the user (in particular regarding print-outs). However, learning
somewhat experimentally, but greatly benefitting from hints received
from reference librarians, I believe I developed a reasonably fair ability
to surf on the worldwide catalogs. I was thus in the position of producing
in ten days a Bibliography which I feel would have demanded several
weeks of labouring if based on traditional methods or even on a computerized
system of lesser quality and output.
I moreover greatly benefitted not only from the supplementary
iconographical material consulted at Marquand Library, but also from
the photoduplication facilities offered at the Department of Rare Books
and Special Collections itself.
The first results of my research are to be presented in
an important conference here in Paris in March 2001 ("Jeux et enjeux
des théâtres classiques aux XIXe et XXe siècles").
I consider the month spent in the Princeton libraries of vital importance
for my research. Moreover, having worked in many libraries in Europe
and North-America, I do not remember having felt so well in any of them!
Many thanks to the Friends and no less to the entire staff who contributed
so much to this true humanistic experience by always creating a warm,
stimulating and productive environment.