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Architectures of the Text:

An Inquiry Into the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili
A symposium to celebrate the acquisition of the second edition of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1545) by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries
  • Program
Couple walking through an arbor, detail of page 75r, building elevation, page 103r, and Illustration of ruins and text from page 123v from Hypnerotomachia
Couple walking through an arbor, detail of page 75r, building elevation, page 103r, and Illustration of ruins and text from page 123v from Hypnerotomachia

Saturday, February 11, 2012

In April 2011, the University of Pennsylvania Libraries acquired a copy of the uncommon second edition of Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Venice 1545).¹  Since the appearance of the first edition in 1499, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili has been heralded as the most beautiful book to appear in the Italian Renaissance. Printed in Venice by Aldus Manutius, “The Dream of Poliphily” was admired by Aldus’s contemporaries for its scholarship and value as an architectural treatise. Forty-six years after the publication of the first edition, Aldus’s heirs printed a second edition in 1545. This second edition suggests a renewed interest in the work, within Italy and beyond, for within a year a French translation appeared, followed by an English translation in 1592. Celebrated for its typographical design and illustrations, the Hypnerotomachia continues to attract the interest of scholars, typophiles, and collectors; it remains available in modern scholarly editions in both print and electronic format.

The University of Pennsylvania Libraries' acquisition came at the suggestion of John Dixon Hunt, Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture at the University. Funds for its purchase came from the G. Holmes Perkins Books and Archives Fund, established by G. Holmes Perkins, Professor of Architecture and Urbanism and former dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts (now the School of Design). The Libraries and the School of Design administer this fund jointly.

On February 11, 2012, the Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the School of Design will collaborate on a one-day symposium to celebrate the acquisition of the Hypnerotomachia. The symposium will give faculty, students, scholars, and the public the opportunity to explore the beauty, meaning, and mysteries contained within the book's text and images and to share observations and findings with Penn colleagues and the scholarly community. Topics to be addressed include the publishing history of the book; gardens and landscape architecture in the book and in Renaissance Italy; classical inscriptions and ruins; the language of the text and its sources; and the continuing influence of the Hypnerotomachia on graphic design.

¹ Francesco Colonna, La Hypnerotomachia di Poliphilo : cioè pugna d'amore in sogno, dou'egli mostra, che tutte le cose humane non sono altro che sogno, & doue narra molt'altre cose degne di cognitione (In Venetia: In Casa de' Figliuoli di Aldo, MDXXXXV [1545]).

The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
University of Pennsylvania Libraries
University of Pennsylvania School of Design
Center for Italian Studies - Italian Section, University of Pennsylvania
Department of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

We are also grateful to the Department of Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College, for additional assistance with the conference.


Lynne Farrington, University of Pennsylvania, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Landscape Architecture
John Dixon Hunt, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Landscape Architecture
William Keller, University of Pennsylvania, Fisher Fine Arts Library
Victoria Kirkham, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Romance Languages
David Leatherbarrow, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Architecture
David McKnight, University of Pennsylvania, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Ann Moyer, University of Pennsylvania, Department of History
Chris Nygren, University of Pennsylvania, Department of History of Art
Eric Pumroy, Bryn Mawr College, Department of Special Collections
Larry Silver, University of Pennsylvania, Department of History of Art
Ian White, Independent scholar and translator of the Hypnerotomachia
Shushi Yoshinaga, Drexel University, Westphal College of Media Arts and Design

  • Saturday, February 11, 2012

    10:00am: Registration, light breakfast, and book display
    2nd floor lobby; Class of '55 room, 2nd floor

    10:30am-11:30am Movement 1: Books and Histories
    Class of '55 room

    Welcome: David McKnight
    William B. Keller
    , Hypnerotomachia Joins the Perkins Library: Collecting to Support Persuasion in Architectural Design and History
    Eric Pumroy, Remarks on the 1499 Hypnerotomachia Poliphili at Bryn Mawr Special Collections
    John Dixon Hunt, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: A Child's Guide to the Story Line and a Look at its Afterlives
    Lynne Farrington, 'Though I could lead a quiet and peaceful life, I have chosen one full of toil and trouble': Aldus Manutius and the Printing History of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili

    11:30am-1:00pm Movement 2: Words and Interpretations
    Class of '55 room

    Victoria Kirkham, Hypno What? A Dreamer's Vision and the Reader's Nightmare
    Ann Moyer, The Wanderings of Poliphilo through Renaissance Studies
    Ian White, Multiple Words, Multiple Meanings in the Hypnerotomachia

    1:00pm-2:00pm: Lunch break (on your own) and book exhibition
    Meyerson Conference room, 2nd floor

    2:00pm-3:00pm Movement 3: Art and Illustration
    Class of '55 room

    Chris Nygren, The Hypnerotomachia and Italian Art Circa 1500
    Larry Silver, Not Hypnerotomachia: Venice's Other Early Woodcut Illustrations

    3:00pm-4:30pm Movement 4: Imagined Architectures
    Class of '55 room

    Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto, 'Not before either known or dreamt of': The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and the Craft of Wonder
    David Leatherbarrow, What Fragments are to Desire, Elements are to Design
    Ian White, Mathematical Design in Poliphilo's Imaginary Building, The Temple of Venus

    4:30pm-5:00pm Break and Interlude
    Meyerson Conference Room
    Shushi Yoshinaga, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: A Modern Heritage: a display of objects and images

    5:00pm-6:00pm Movement 5: Contemporary Resonances and Final Observations
    Class of '55 room

    David McKnight, "Frivolous Fortune: Aldus, The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and the Future of Typography"
    John Dixon Hunt, Did Ian Hamilton Finlay know the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, and even if not, does that help us?

    Audience Discussion

    6:00pm-7:00pm Reception
    2nd floor lobby