In 1540 Antonio Lafreri, a native of Besançon transplanted to Rome, began publishing maps and other printed images that depicted major monuments and antiquities in Rome. These images were calculated to appeal to the taste for classical antiquity that fueled the cultural event we call the Renaissance. After Lafreri published a title page in the mid-1570s, collections of these prints came to be known as the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, the "Mirror of Roman Magnificence." Tourists and other collectors who bought prints from Lafreri made their own selections and had them individually bound. Over time, Lafreri's title page served as starting point for large and eclectic compilations, expanded and rearranged by generations of collectors.
The University of Chicago's Special Collections Research Center holds the largest Speculum collection. This group of 994 prints (engravings, etchings, and a few woodcuts) was brought together by a nineteenth-century collector; it is organized around a core of prints published by Lafreri but also includes many other related prints. This site provides scholars, students, and art lovers with access to this collection at a distance -- much as prints themselves originally afforded a view of Rome from afar.
The Speculum and related prints are presented here as zoomable, high-resolution digital images with searchable catalogue information. Virtual itineraries provide paths through selected prints from the collection based on a particular theme, location, or artist's work.
On November 2-3, 2007, The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome symposium was held at the University of Chicago. (more info.)
Catalogue information is still in the process of being updated, and we welcome contributions and corrections from scholars: please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.