Visiting Research Fellow Emily Monty discusses her work with the Fagel Collection
January 26, 2023 - From September to November 2022, Dr Emily Monty joined the Trinity Long Room Hub as the Fagel Collection Visiting Research Fellow, in association with the Library of Trinity College Dublin and Dr Ann-Marie Hansen. Emily’s research aims to understand how the Fagel family, who successively held high offices in the Dutch Republic throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth century, built up a picture of the Americas through collecting various types of printed media. Emily’s project, “Composite Chorography: Collecting the Americas in the Fagel Collection in the Library of Trinity College Dublin” is part of “Unlocking the Fagel Collection,” supported by the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
We spoke with Emily about working with Trinity’s Fagel collection and her experience as a Visiting Research Fellow in the Hub.
What drew you to your current research project?
As an art historian, I focus on the history of print in the early modern world. I am interested in how prints circulated and created networks of viewers and publishers throughout space and time. After learning about the Fagel collection at the annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in Dublin in March 2022, I became interested in the extraordinary opportunity to study this eighteenth-century collection acquired by Trinity in 1802. Since we know the provenance, or previous ownership, of the books in the Fagel library, we can study relationships among items in the collection. Why, for example, does the collection contain a travel narrative about the Caribbean (Nouveau voyage aux isles de l'Amerique. The Hague, 1724) and a selection of individual illustrations from that same publication? Why are 43 identical impressions of an engraved portrait of Baron Philipp von Stosch kept in a portfolio alongside the map collection? Documenting and analysing these kinds of relationships provides an exciting opportunity to learn about the history of collecting prints and books in the Dutch Republic.
Why do you believe it’s important to study the Fagel Collection?
In addition to preserving an important piece of Dutch cultural heritage, the Fagel collection holds something for everyone—from political history to travel narratives, antiquities to architecture, marine charts to sea views. The collections of maps and pamphlets are extraordinary because they contain ephemera, originally meant for short-term or practical use. Unlike the luxury books in the library, most pamphlets were not meant to be preserved and cared for over generations. Yet, the Fagels gathered and bound stacks of pamphlets to keep in their library. As a result, many of the pamphlets at Trinity are the only known examples of their kind. Moreover, many of the maps retain material evidence of their use. Having been cut, pasted, and pinned to walls, these maps offer precious insight into how prints were used.
What have you learned from seeing and studying the collection in person?
Before the digital age, reading was an embodied experience. Working with an oversized publication like an elephant folio requires a different kind of attention than a small duodecimo volume, where the paper was folded 12 times to create a gathering of pages. Working in the reading room for early printed books and manuscripts at Trinity, I could examine how books were constructed, hold paper up to the light to examine a water mark, or feel if pages were soft from wear or crisp and barely handled. I got to know the collection as I examined the books and prints, learning to expect a diamond-shaped sticker indicating the lot number from the 1802 sale, getting to know familiar binding styles, and becoming increasingly frustrated with the generally pristine interiors of the books, which yield little information about historic use. I consulted diverse materials to get a broad sense of the collection. One of the more interesting things I found was a multi-sheet wall map showing water infrastructure around a branch of the Rhine river in the Netherlands (Fag A.1.61). Though maps like these were made to be assembled and pasted onto a fabric backing, they could also be bound as books, as is the case with the Fagel example. When I opened the cover, I found a loose map of a section of land that had been drained and settled in the Western Netherlands. I also found a plate attached to the flyleaf of the book with a straight pin giving names of the noblemen in the area shown in the loose map. This collection of printed materials, bound, folded, and pinned into a portable object, shows how information was stored and contextualized in the eighteenth century.
What was your experience like working in the Trinity Long Room Hub?
It was a joy to go to work every day in a space as comfortable and inviting as the Hub. It is a lively environment with abundant opportunities to talk about research, allowing friendships and academic collaborations to grow. The Hub was an immensely stimulating and collaborative environment. There was always an opportunity to hear a talk in the Neill Lecture Theatre or to listen to a presentation by a colleague As a scholar interested in the Dutch and Spanish colonial empires, I enjoyed learning from colleagues working on the Irish colonial context, and I began thinking more intensively about the comparative study of empires. During coffee mornings, I was challenged to describe my research in a few short sentences, and I often shared what had caught my attention in the library that week. Having space to discuss my work in the early stages of this project pushed me to ask different questions and gain new insights in conversation with colleagues in History, English, French, Theatre, and Law.
Emily Monty is an art historian specializing in the history of print and the history of the book in the early modern period. She received her PhD from Brown University in 2021. Her research and teaching focus on the artistic culture of the Spanish Empire and the role of print in the exchange of images and ideas throughout the Atlantic world. Emily's research has been supported by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, Publishing and the Rare Book School, the Fulbright Program, the Kress Foundation, and the Bibliotheca Hertziana.
Robert Mackenzie, Communications Officer | Trinity Long Room Hub | email@example.com | 01 896 3895