Friday, June 27, 2014

Roman Rooms

George Ticknor 1807 was a professor of languages at both Harvard University and Smith College during the 19th century and amassed a formidable personal library during his many trips to Europe for both study and pleasure. In particular, his collection of Spanish and Portuguese literature was arguably the best of its kind in the United States during his lifetime. Rauner Library was given a significant portion of Ticknor's library by his estate as well as his library furniture, mantlepiece, and sculptures, all of which now reside just off Rauner's reading room in a room named after the family.

In addition to George's library, furniture, and artwork, Rauner also holds his personal papers and those of his wife Anna, which include personal travel diaries written during their travels abroad in the 1830s. The diaries are filled with interesting perspectives on the countries and places that they visit, and comparing the couple's entries on any given day is a fun exercise in seeing how different individual impressions and experiences can be. Anna's diary is written in a beautiful cursive hand and begins in May of 1835, when the Ticknors landed in England, and ends in September of 1837 near the Spl├╝gen Pass between Switzerland and Italy.

In the winter of 1836, The Ticknors took up residence in Rome on the third floor of a private house overlooking the city. Anna took it upon herself to draft in her diary a floor plan of the rooms, which is quite detailed and provides a fascinating example of the style in which wealthy families of the period were accustomed to traveling. The apartments include "six sleeping rooms, a sitting room and dining room, servants' eating room, kitchen and outer & inner antechambers." For Anna, however, the best quality of the rooms is that they are situated upon the side of one of Rome's many hills and are therefore provided a wonderful and constantly sunny view of the city. She also mentions that everything has been provided for them upon their arrival, and that this comprehensive service is possible because tourists of their stature are so common in Rome.

Anna's diaries can be found in her personal papers, MS-1249, while George's diaries are located in his papers, MS-983. The Ticknor Room at Rauner Library can be viewed any time that the reading room is open.

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