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Publishing in the Republic of Letters:Behind the Scenes of Pieter van der Aa’s Thesaurus antiquitatum et historiarum Italiae (Leiden, 1704-25)*

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Abstract The Thesaurus antiquitatum et historiarum Italiae is a collection of accounts on Italian history and antiquities that was published in Leiden at the beginning of the eighteenth century by the Dutch publisher Pieter van der Aa. This publication offers a splendid opportunity to shed light on the ‘behind the scenes’ dynamics of what turned out to be a rather cumbersome undertaking. Drawing on epistolary material, this paper investigates the obstacles that Van der Aa encountered in gathering the material and concentrates in particular on the involvement of the Italian scholars that the Dutch publisher contacted to obtain advice and sources. Inexplicably at first glance, they hold contradictory opinions about Van der Aa’s initiative, from praise to open opposition. The sources presented here demonstrate that this situation was caused by the existence of similar ongoing Italian projects in competition with the Dutch collection on Italian history and antiquities. Particularly telling is the attitude of the famous Italian historian Lodovico Antonio Muratori, who felt a growing antagonism towards Van der Aa’s project, since he matured his plans to publish the Rerum Italicarum scriptores that partially overlapped with the Thesaurus.

Affiliations: 1: Leiden University


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