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Mount Athos

The Athos penisula attracts the attentions of scholars and geographers together with the Greek islands with “Liber Insularum Archipelagi” by Cr. Buοndelmonti, a pioneering early 15th century cartographic work in manuscript. Buondelmonti’s work became a model for the isolaria that followed, such as those by  B. dalli Sonetti (1485) and B. Bordone (1547).  Sonetti's maps are accompanied by commentaries in verse, while Bordone notes information on the monastic community of Mount Athos and other data on his idiosyncratic maps. 

In M. Boschini’s edition, a small beautiful sample of Venetian engraving of the mid-17th century, the maps of Mount Athos (and all other locations) are accompanied by an explanatory text with historical and geographical information. The isolario of Fr. Piacenza (1688) includes superbly engraved maps and a wealth of material on the Aegean islands, Mount Athos, Cyprus and the Peloponnese. The editions by J. Enderlin include copies of engravings found in earlier or nearly contemporary popular works (1686).

The first thorough description of Mount Athos is found in the travel chronicle by P. Belon (1553). The work includes the first depictions of local flora and a rare map (found only in the 1588 reedition of the work), which charts the sea around Mount Athos.

A very interesting map of Mount Athos is included in the monumental work of M.G.F.A. Choiseul-Gouffier, which expressed the love of antiquity and the philhellenism of the era in new and original fashion, establishing at the same time image as opposed to text, that is, graphic representation,  as a primary feature of travel chronicles. Although most of the plates in  Ed. D. Clarke's work (1816) are mainly of archaeological interest, these engravings are also very valuable for the recomposition of the locations' recent history and the uncommon subjects which they show, such as, in this case, the view of Mount Athos from the sea. The plans and drawings of one of the major works of W. M. Leake (1825, photomechanical reprint 1967) show how meticulously and systematically the spaces and monuments were recorded by the passionate archaeologist and topographer.

In the 19th century, visitors come to Mount Athos, “the ark of Christianity in the East”, often concealing under their traveller's cloak their involvement in the emerging nationalistic confrontations in Southeasten Europe on behalf of the Great Powers. Mount Athos thus constitutes a necessary destination. This state of affairs provided us with travel accounts rich in information on life and art, accompanied by illustrations of monastic life, buildings, murals, holy vessels or even flora of the land (W. Fr. Ainsworth, 1870, Μ. de Vogüe, 1887 και R. Curzon, 1897). Of special interest are the subjects included in Mary Adelaide Walker's remarkable work (1864). The few photographs which illustrate the work of J.Fr. Abbott (1903), which in contrast is very rich in written information, are of considerable interest as images from Northen Greece during that period are quite uncommon. Photos of Mount Athos are included in the edition by Ed. Reisinger (1923) as well.

The Album of 1984 includes rare and very interesting wood engravings taken from the  pioneering weekly review  “The Illustrated London News” (1842-1885) and the similarly themed magazine “The Graphic” (1869-1885). The plates depict locations, people and events (political, social and military), from 1842 to 1885. The prolific Irish scholar J.P. Mahaffy wrote an account of his tour of Greece (1890), illustrated with exquisite wood engravings. The plates were etched from pencil drawings, which in their turn were based on imaginary representations and photographs.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou