The E. J. Finopoulos Collection of history and travel books is one of the most important collections of its kind, not only in Greece but also worldwide. The acquisition of the material that comprises the collection, a lifetime endeavour on the part of the collector, started in 1963 with purchases from the burrows of book dealer George Jeffery in Farringdon Road, London. The greatest part of the collection was acquired abroad through second-hand dealers and auction houses. Due to the breadth and wealth of the collection many Greek and international researchers, of various disciplines, consult the collection regularly. The E. J. Finopoulos Collection was donated to the Benaki Museum on June 13, 2013 and operates, ever since, under the umbrella of the museum and the guidance of the collector.
CHRONOLOGICAL AND THEMATIC FRAMEWORKS
Chronologically the Collection is concerned with the period from the end of the 15th century up to the end of the 19th and specialises in travel literature in the broader Hellenic world. Another area of interest is the bibliographic and iconographic study of the phenomenon of Philhellenism. Due to reasons related to the historical formation of the Greek state, the term ‘broader Hellenic world’ is used so as to include geographical areas such as the Balkans, European Turkey, Cyprus, Asia Minor, as well as international communities of Hellenism e.g. Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai.
The wealth of the collection enables the study of many aspects of the intellectual, social, financial, religious and cultural life of the Hellenic world under foreign occupation (Ottoman, Venetian as well as the British protection of the Ionian islands), at certain pivotal moments in the history of Greece (the Greek Revolution, the Crimean War etc.) and the study of emblematic figures such as Lord Byron.
Besides the abundance of information on the abovementioned themes, travel writing allows us to examine the foreign gaze of travellers at various historic periods. The study of Philhellenism is enabled through textual material as well as through prints, maps, watercolours and broadsheets.
In short, the Collection provides a wealth of material on the following themes:
i. History of Greece and the Hellenic World
ii. The passion for travelling and the ‘Grand tourists’
iii. Travel literature and art
v. Ottoman history and history of the peoples under Ottoman rule
vi. History of Books and printing
In addition, the Collection holds a large number of reference books, such as dictionaries, collection catalogues, biographies, bibliographies, encyclopaedias, exhibition catalogues, auction catalogues etc.
BOOK AND ARCHIVAL HOLDINGS
The Collection holds today around 20.000 volumes of books and 5.000 maps and prints. The profusion of visual material includes examples of the scenery of Greece, of architectural monuments and of ethnographic material (customs, costumes et al.) and provides, along with the writings of travelers, a rich and diverse picture of the Hellenic World from the end of the 15th to the end of the 19th century. The Collection is continuously enriched, mainly through the internet, by downloading rare books in digital format.
UNIQUENESS OF THE COLLECTION
A singular feature of the Collection is the acquisition of variations of the same title. Researchers can study different impressions, subsequent editions or translations in other languages of the same book. Comparative examination of the variations allows not only the accumulation of supplementary information but also allows the tracing of the history of a particular book, since alternate editions usually portray differences in textual and visual material.
DETAILED CATALOGUING & RESEARCH
The wealth of the material led to the idea of developing a detailed cataloguing format and creating thematic indexes. Emphasis is placed on the itinerary of the travellers, the timeframe of their travels, their biographical details, their motives for travelling and so on.
The combination of thematic indexing together with the detailed description of the books resulted in a complex database, which will be uploaded on the internet once it is completed, for the use of the international research community. Moreover, the detailed description of the books is complemented by the digitization of the title-pages and the illustrative material of each book that displays Greek or Ottoman interest. The database will contribute significantly to the study of travel literature and the history of the Hellenic World.
Maria Xenariou, Mirka Palioura, Konstantinos Stefanis
The Collection is open to the public by appointment from Monday to Friday between 12:00 to 18:00.
Telephone: 210 3632356