A 1574 set of drawings from Constantinople in the Freshfield album

One of the great delights of our day is the digitisation of manuscript collections.  This brings to light treasures hardly seen before.

Trinity College Cambridge are the possessors of a collection of 20 colour drawings of monuments in Constantinople, made in 1574 by an unknown artist.  This item, known as the Freshfield album, came into the hands of the college a century ago, by means of a bequest from an old student.  Background information is on the college blog here.

Fortunate indeed is an institution whose old students both possess such treasures, and are well-disposed towards their old alma mater.

The college has digitised the manuscript, and it is online here.  And what a treasure it is!  For instance there is this view of the Hippodrome, before the heads of the serpent column were removed.

Sadly the images cannot be downloaded.  But there is a full-screen mode, which is something.

There is an image of the serpent column alone.  Here is the top, which once supported a tripod and dish:

Let’s zoom in on the heads:

And another:

For the upper portion of one of the heads is preserved in the museum in Istanbul, so these drawings make sense of it.  Here’s one of the images from the excellent collection at Livius.org:

There are many more photos of the head here.

So the Freshfield album gives us some very detailed ideas of the vanished portions.  Similarly there is this image of the porphyry column of Constantine, which still stands, but with an extra bit on the top:

Can anyone make out the Greek text of the inscription?

There are likewise in the album detailed drawings of the now vanished column of Arcadius, which resembled Trajan’s column, but was already cracking and perhaps ready to fall.



5 thoughts on “A 1574 set of drawings from Constantinople in the Freshfield album

  1. Ich bin Altphilologe, aber bein Byzantologe, und daher mit der byzantinischen Schrift nicht vertraut.
    Den Text verstehe ich versuchsweise so:
    Das göttliche Werk (to theion ergon) dort (enthade) zerstört (phtharèn) [hat] (jetzt? chróno) neu der fromme Selbstherrscher (Kaiser) Manuel [erneuert]
    Dr. Jürgen Schmidt

  2. he Greek inscription you asked about in the post on the Freshfield album:

    to theion ergon enthade phtharon chrono
    neoixxx manouel eusebes autocrator

    this present divine work ruined by time
    Manouel blessed emperor (restored it)

    I don’t know how to expand the abbreviation neoij bur it must be a verb meaning restored.

    chrono: is a dative (of the agent) with the iota subscript not written. it goes with phtharen: destroyed/ruined by time

  3. This one got accidentally deleted!

    Sergey Kim (@kimsergeys)

    Just read your post – so interesting! Here is my reading

    τὸ θεῖον ἔργον ἐνθάδε φθαρὲν χρόνῳ
    νεοῖ Μανουὴλ εὐσεβὴς αὐτοκράτωρ
    “Manuel, the pious emperor, is restoring the present work ruined by time”

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