The free event - open to the public - begins at noon in the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room, Room 220, Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street SE, Washington, DC. Tickets are not required, but seating is limited. The program is sponsored by the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division and the European Division.
Between 1615 and 1620, Benedetto Blanis (c.1580-c.1647), a Jewish scholar and businessman in the Florentine ghetto, sent 196 letters to Don Giovanni dei Medici (1567-1621), an influential member of the ruling family.Edward Goldberg holds a Ph.D. in modern history (Oxford University, 1979) and taught in Harvard University's Department of Fine Arts (1981-87). He has published widely in the course of 30 years of archival research in Florence. In 1995, Goldberg founded the Medici Archive Project to provide worldwide public access to the historical data in the Medici Granducal Archive through a fully searchable database at www.medici.org .
Blanis served Don Giovanni as palace librarian—organizing and cataloging the library’s contents, acquiring books from various sources and sharing his patron’s most esoteric interests. Together they ventured into dangerous and often forbidden territory—astrology, alchemy and the Kabbalah.
Discovered nearly four centuries later by art historian Edward Goldberg during his research in the Medici Granducal Archive, Blanis’ letters provide a portrait of a man struggling to survive in a strange no-man’s land between the Jewish ghetto and the Medici court. The letters also reveal the bond between two figures who strove to explain the world through the language of magical power.
Established by Grand Duke Cosimo I in 1569, the archive of the Medici Grand Dukes offers the most complete record of any princely regime in Renaissance and Baroque Europe. The 3 million letters contained in more than 6,000 volumes richly documenting more than 200 years of human history (1537-1743).