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 These works are therefore important historical documents.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).