Joannes Gennadius formed one of the best collections in the world of travel accounts on Greece and its neighboring countries. The collection includes the accounts of travelers who visited Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean and left their impressions for later generations to read. Many of the travelers, particularly in the Middle Ages, were pilgrims visiting the Holy Land and the various places associated with the Bible. These are supplemented by the accounts of merchants and sailors and, beginning largely in the sixteenth century, by a growing number of scholars and tourists who came to visit the places of classical antiquity. About 3,000 historical maps and many engravings complement the collection.
These travelers’ accounts are interesting in their own right, as they describe the pleasures and perils of travel in an age when movement was slow and frequently dangerous. The accounts also shed light on past customs and institutions, and they frequently describe or illustrate monuments and archeological sites that have perished or been seriously damaged. These works are therefore important historical documents. The Library’s collections include the first edition of excerpts from the notes of Cyriacus of Ancona and a manuscript book of islands by the Florentine Cristoforo Buondelmonti who traveled through the Eastern Mediterranean in the first half of the fifteenth century, the important account of the Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi (1611-1679) and those of the English travelers Spon and Wheeler. Many of these journals are illustrated.
Among the fine private archival collections, we should mention the collection of Jean Denis Barbier du Bocage (1760-1825), a French geographer and philologist, as well part of the collection of Baron Frederic Francois Guillaume de Vaundoncourt (1772-1845), a French General.
An invaluable catalog of the travelers’ accounts in the Gennadeion has been published by Shirley H. Weber (2 vols. Princeton, 1952-53).
The Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation and the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens present TravelTrails: Travels and Explorations in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1500-1830 (traveltrails.gr).
TravelTrails is an innovative website which systematically documents texts of European travelers who have been traveling around or being on missions in areas of the Ottoman Empire and areas of Greek territory under Venetian domination.
The innovative element of the TravelTrails website is that the richness of the travelers’ accounts is presented to the general public organized into thematic sections, geographic criteria and related tags. The user is offered the possibility to do general or specialized searches, combining one or more search criteria, approaching and identifying places, monuments, faces, groups, professions, customs and other subjects.
The TravelTrails website includes 471 accounts in their original language and 11,000 entries, which will be presented to the public progressively. Today, the first phase of the project has been completed and the 16th century is being delivered for use.
TravelTrails aim to facilitate research on a wide range of issues in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin and to become a repository of information for a period not so well known to the general public.