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Contours of the Premodern World

The Travels of Adam Olearius: Introducing a StoryMap by Emmey Harris

By March 4, 2024No Comments

Introduced by Anne Good, Assistant Curator of the James Ford Bell Library

One of the best parts of working at the James Ford Bell Library is seeing the fruits of student research in the collection. This blog post is devoted to a particularly excellent project completed by Emmey Harris in the Fall of 2023: “The Travels of Adam Olearius: A Gateway to Globalization in the Seventeenth Century.” The project combines historical research and digital StoryMap technology to help with visualizing the past and making it come alive.

Photo of Emmey Harris

Emmey Harris is a senior student in the Honors Program at the University of Minnesota, majoring in History, with three minors in German, Museum & Curatorial Studies, and Computer Science. She has worked in the Elmer L. Andersen Library with the Immigration History Research Center Archive for most of her time as an undergraduate, and is planning to pursue a Master’s degree in Library Science after she graduates.

Emmey has a particular interest in early modern history, and this, combined with her language skills, led her to this project on Adam Olearius and his extensive travels in the 17th century. She had a grant from UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) in Summer 2023, which allowed her the time to do the research and create the StoryMap for this project. Her faculty mentor was professor Howard Louthan (History), who often brings his classes to the Bell and encourages students to engage in original research with the collection.

Emmey’s project details the life of Adam Olearius (1599-1671), his travels, cultural exchange in the 17th century, and the impact of the published accounts of his journeys. This link: “The Travels of Adam Olearius” will take you to the StoryMap, and I encourage you to spend some time with it, as it is fascinating.

Since Emmey could not include every image in her StoryMap, below are a few more illustrations to give a sense of just how popular Olearius’s narrative was in the 17th century. There are at least 11 editions and translations of Olearius’s book in the Bell collection.

Title page, printed in red and black, of a later German edition of Olearius's travels, with additions.

Title page of a later edition of Olearius’s travels, which proclaims that he is “world famous.” Des Welt-berühmten Adami Olearii colligirte und viel vermehrte Reise-Beschreibungen bestehend in der nach Musskau und Persien, wie auch Johann Albrechts von Mandelslo morgenländischen, und Jürg. Andersens und Volq. Yversens orientalischen Reise (Hamburg, 1696). Bell Call # 1696 fOl. This folio volume includes Olearius’s translation of the Persian poetry of Sa’adi (or also, Sadi).

Small, brown book resting on a hand.

One of the Dutch versions of Olearius’s travels would fit in a large pocket. Adam Olearius, Beschrijvingh vande nieuwe Parciaensche, ofte orientaelsche reyse, welck door gelegentheyt van een Holsteynsche Ambassade, aen den Koningh in Persien geschiet is… (Amsterdam, 1651). Bell Call # 1651 Ol.

Small title page in Dutch, showing two men gesturing towards a map.

The title page of the small, Dutch translation of Olearius’s travels (above).

Landscape tableau with Olearius taking notes in the foreground; mountain and walled city in the background.

One of my favorite illustrations shows Olearius visiting a military cemetery at the foot of Mount Barmach, near the Caspian Sea. Olearius, in the foreground at the lower right hand corner, takes notes while his guide gestures to the scene. From Adam Olearius, Vermehrte newe Beschreibung der muscowitischen und persischen Reyse : so durch Gelegenheit einer holsteinischen Gesandschafft an den russischen Zaar und König in Persien geschehen… (Schlesswig, 1656). Bell Call #1656 fOl.

Seated man writing; standing man gesturing.

Close-up of Olearius taking notes and perhaps sketching. (The slight blurriness is the way the plate looks rather than a fault of the camera.)

Portraits of men in 17th-century garb.

Portraits of Olearius (lower left), his patron (the Duke of Holstein; center), and fellow travelers – from the English translation of Olearius’s travels: The voyages and travells of the ambassadors sent by Frederick Duke of Holstein, to the Great Duke of Muscovy, and the king of Persia (London, 1669). Bell Call # 1669 fOl.

And, finally, who could resist one more photo of Emmey! Many thanks, Emmey, for letting me post your project on Contours.

Emmey Harris and Mayim Bialik on the set of Jeopardy!

Emmey represented the University of Minnesota at the Jeopardy! National College Championship when she was a sophomore in 2022.

Anne Good

Author Anne Good

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