The Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation participated in the exhibition “Alpha Beta. Apprendere il greco in Italia. 1360-1860” (Alpha beta. Learning Greek in Italy. 1360-1860), organized at the National Library of Brera in Milan from September 29 2023 to January 9, 2024, lending four rare works from the Historical Library.
The exhibition presented, through 70 important documents, the history of learning ancient Greek in Italy, in an uninterrupted course of 500 years: from humanist Florence in the mid-14th century to the Milan of Romanticism in the 19th century. Printing plays an important role, with Italy being the center of the publishing production of Greek texts for most of this period.
The documents included language manuals, translations and pictorial aids, while highlighting the constant interaction of handwritten and printed tradition. Particular emphasis is placed on the personal relationship of students with their books, with handwritten notes, underlines, and even sketches that they once abstractly left on them.
The exhibition, following some of the most important milestones in the cultural history of the place, was divided into six sections: from Byzantium to Italy, from manuscript to print, the sixteenth century, the influence of the Jesuits, the enlightenment, the passage into the vernacular. The last section includes four items from the collections of the Historical Library of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation:
- The Thesaurus of the Encyclopaedic Base quadrilingual (Venice: Nikolaos Glykys, 1784) and the Karamanlidiko Lexicon Turkish and Graikikon (Kamous yane lexicon Turktza ve Rumza) by Zacharias Agioritis (Venice: Michael Glykys, 1805) from the collection of K. Th. Dimaras,
- the Grammar on the Syntax of Alexandros Mavrokordatos of Secrets (Venice: Nikolaos Glykys, 1745) from the collection of Georgios Dolianitis,
- and Benoit Credo’s Greco-Roman Grammar (Verona: Heirs of Karattonos, 1782) from the Philip Iliou collection.
The items were selected to highlight the continued production of Greek publications in Italy until the 18th and early 19th centuries, with the additional particularity that they are examples of publications intended not for the Western public, but for the Greek-speaking public of the Turkish-occupied Greek area. They also bear interesting signs of use.
The remaining exhibits came from the most important Italian libraries, including the National Library of Brera in Milan, the Ambrosian Library in Milan, the National Central Library in Florence and the Marcian Library in Venice. Among them are some of the oldest and most difficult to find Greek editions, as well as the only surviving manuscript from the hand of Aldus Manutius.
The exhibition was hosted in the Maria Teresa room of the National Library of Brera. Admission was free for the public, while guided tours, workshops and several parallel events took place. The exhibition was curated by Geri Della Rocca de Candal, Paolo Sachet and Marina Zetti.