TravelTrails is a database which serves to gather, organize and highlight the wealth of information contained in literature produced by travelers to the Eastern Mediterranean from the 16th century until 1830. Observing above all notable differences from their own culture, these European travelers – artists, antiquarians, archaeologists, diplomats, generals, merchants, collectors, naturalists, clergymen, and adventurers – roamed the Eastern Mediterranean individually or as parts of networks, to explore its cosmopolitan world, encountering new ideas, goods and people. The format of travel literature varies: letters to beloved persons or memos to superiors, personal diaries, works geared to a limited readership as well as monumental editions, peppered with artistic views of cities, landscapes, monuments and people.
The rich collection of rare travel books that Joannes Gennadius collected in London forms a pillar of the Gennadius Library. A database classifying all the historical information contained in the books of travelers began many years ago by historian Aliki Asvesta and was originally intended for patrons of the library. The need for remote access and enhancement of this material has been recently undertaken in partnership with the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation. The rich Historical Library of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation, and its expertise in similar projects through the scholarship of historian Dr. Konstantinos Thanasakis, have contributed to the restructuring of the original Gennadius travel literature database. In tune with the needs of the modern researcher, TravelTrails allows the effortless retrieval of information from a variety of sources.
Βased on each book, the indexing follows geographical criteria incorporating all the stops of a particular traveler in the areas of modern Greece and Turkey. TravelTrails offers the possibility of simple or advanced search by place name, thematic category and keyword (tag). The results point to a specific digitized page of the text, which is also available in its entirety in pdf format. The information maps the physical space of the Eastern Mediterranean, focusing on architecture, antiquities, populations, agricultural resources (agriculture, olive-oil production, viticulture, apiculture), pre-industrial technology and material culture, economic and daily life, religions, culture, health, the public sphere, and travel conditions. The database’s most important contribution is the combination of general and specific information within a specific book.
At this point, TravelTrails contains the travel literature of the 16th century and primarily British and French travelers, who are representative of the genre both in terms of number and wealth of information. The works by German, Italian and Dutch travelers of the 16th century will soon be available as well. These will be followed by travels of the 17th and 18th centuries. The indexing stops in 1830 as new networks and travel dynamics emerged in the Balkans after the founding of the Greek State.
TravelTrails is based on resources from the Gennadius Library and the Historical Library of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation. The digitized versions of the texts are all open source freely available for personal and research use from libraries in Western Europe and America. Any commercial use is prohibited.