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Corfu Through the Ages

A French souvenir photo album recently added to the Villanova Digital Library offers views of the Greek island of Corfu (or Kerkyra) from the early twentieth century.

A particularly significant landmark depicted on the album is the Achilleion (Αχίλλειον), a palace named after the hero of Homer’s Iliad. It was built in the nineteenth century for Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898). Since then, the palace has served as a military hospital for WWI troops, an orphanage for Armenian children leaving Turkey, an Axis-held military base, a conference hall, a museum, and even a casino, featured in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981) starring Roger Moore (1927-2017).

Achilleion patio in the 1910/1920s. Page [27]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

A 1907 issue of the Saturday Globe, published not long before the souvenir album, features a photograph of the palace patio and announces the building’s conversion into “a hotel and sanitorium” by a “German-Swiss syndicate.” In the early twentieth century, Corfu also received attention in Italian publications, which is not surprising, as the island was under Venetian rule for centuries and the Italian influence is evident in much of the island’s architecture. The fourth issue of the Italian dime novel series Petrosino (the “Italian Sherlock Holmes”), originally published in 1909, features a story titled “Un covo di delinquenti a Corfù” (“A den of criminals in Corfu”).

Achilleion patio. Page 6. Saturday Globe, v. 26, no. 50, Saturday, April 27, 1907.

Cover. Un covo di delinquenti a Corfù. 1948 Reprint.














The souvenir photo album makes for some nice comparisons to photographs from more recent decades. The following photographs of my grandparents on the Achilleion grounds were taken in the late 1970s, while the palace was both a casino and a museum.

Pigi Giannea-Filiou at Achilleion in the late 1970s.

Pigi Giannea-Filiou and Miltiades Filios at Achilleion in the late 1970s.











The following three photographs, two of them pulled from personal/family collections, depict the same statue of the dying Achilles in the early twentieth century, in 1994-1995, and in 2021. Note the deterioration of the color on the statue over time.

“Dying Achilles” statue (marble, Ernst Herter, 1884) at Achilleion in the 1910s/1920s. Page [31]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

My dad, Yiannis Sassaris, with “Dying Achilles” statue (marble, Ernst Herter, 1884) at Achilleion in the early 1990s.

My girlfriend, Samantha Walsh, with “Dying Achilles” statue (marble, Ernst Herter, 1884) at Achilleion in 2021.


Similarly, the following three photographs depict the front of the palace during the same three periods.

Achilleion entrance in the 1910s/1920s. Page [31]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

Achilleion entrance in the early 1990s.

Achilleion entrance in 2020.


Another significant landmark whose history may be charted throughout the past century is the Old Fortress, which was built by Venetians on top of an earlier Byzantine structure.

Old Fortress of Corfu in the 1910/1920s. Page [5]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

My mom, Dimitra Filiou, at the Old Fortress of Corfu in the early 1990s.

Old Fortress of Corfu in 2021.


The following 2020 photograph of Arseniou Street in the city of Corfu, compared to a similar shot in the French album, demonstrates that some of the same buildings still stand a century later.

Arseniou Street in the city of Corfu. Page [3]. Souvenir de Corfou / A. Farrucia editeur.

Arseniou Street in Corfu in 2020.


Corfu is an island rich with history, where various cultures have intersected across many centuries. These layers of history are evident in structures all throughout the island. Corfu has inspired the likes of Jules Verne, who used the island as a prominent setting in his 1884 novel about the Greek War of Independence, The Archipelago on Fire (L’Archipel en feu). The Villanova Digital Library initiative preserves the unique histories of places like Corfu by digitizing rare publications such as the French souvenir album. As the above comparison of historical materials and personal/family archives indicates, the Digital Library also allows users to historically contextualize their own lives.


Early Printed Books Recently Added to the Villanova Digital Library

Three early printed books were recently added to the Villanova Digital Library.

De antiquitate Judaica, [I, verso]

The first is a 1499 Latin edition of Flavius Josephus’ De antiquitate Judaica, or The Antiquities of the Jews. This history book, originally written around AD 93-94 in koine Greek under the tile Ἰουδαϊκὴ ἀρχαιολογία (Ioudaikē archaiologia), chronicles the history of the Jewish people, from the events of the Hebrew Bible to the First Jewish–Roman War, AD 66-73. Villanova’s copy was printed in Venice by Albertinus Vercellensis for Octavianus Scotus. Its printing date of 1499 makes this copy an incunable (or incunabulum), a book printed during the first 50 or so years after Johannes Gutenberg introduced the movable-type printing press to Europe. Interestingly, Villanova’s copy includes extensive inscriptions on the margins (or marginalia), made by a reader deeply engaged with the text.

Supplementum, Frontispiece

The second is another history book, Supplementum: supplementi de le chroniche vulcare. This Latin and Italian book was written by medieval historian and Augustinian monk Jacomo Filippo Foresti and first published in 1483 by Bernardino Benali. Villanova’s copy was printed in Venice in 1520 by Georgio di Rusconi. Interestingly, this book is illustrative of several book conservation practices, as is evident in the repaired page [i]. Another notable feature of the book is the list of year numbers that are included on the side of the text block closest to the “gutter” (the middle part where the two facing pages meet when the book rests open). The year numbers correspond to the events chronicled on the nearby text block and are divided into two categories: “Anno del Mondo” (years of the world) and “Anno de Xpo” (years according to Christian history). These year numbers not only allow us to compare two different conceptions of time; they are also indicative of the practical challenges in scanning such a book. Because of how the book was printed and bound, the year numbers are sometimes nearly lost inside the gutter; several times, we had to reposition the book on the scanner and experiment with various angles in order to capture the full contents of each page, including the year numbers.

Respublica, Frontispiece

The third and final book is the 1630 Respublica: sive statvs regni Scotiæ et Hiberniæ. A part of our Joseph McGarrity Collection of Irish and Irish-American books and other materials, the Respublica is significant not only for its historical content, but also for its size. Measuring at only 12 x 7 cm., the book is among the smallest hardcovers in our collection. The book’s size, combined with its somewhat uneven binding, posed a different kind of scanning challenge than the 1520 Supplementum. However, centering the text block rather than the binding, and using bone folders to ensure the book remained open at an appropriate angle, resulted in a comfortably readable digitized edition.

The Villanova Digital Library is regularly updated with newly digitized materials from our Distinctive Collections.


New Exhibit on Illustrated and Military Maps

Low, David, Caricature of Post-War Europe. [London]: Picture Post, 1952, SMITH VII-49.

Maps do far more than showing us the locations of places. They can persuade viewers and shape their perceptions of the world. They can also offer critical insight that leads to world-changing decisions, especially in times of war.

Art of War: Illustrated and Military Maps of the Twentieth Century, an upcoming exhibition co-curated by Rebecca Oviedo, Distinctive Collections Archivist, and Christoforos Sassaris, Distinctive Collections Coordinator, explores the creation and various uses of illustrated and military maps in the twentieth century. The maps are drawn mainly from the most recent addition of items generously donated to the John F. Smith, III and Susan B. Smith Antique Maps Collection. Several maps from this extensive collection have been digitized and can be viewed on Falvey’s Digital Library. You may also access an audio tour in which Mr. Smith comments on the maps’ significance.

Situation Map to Accompany Subj 5303/3. Münster. Central Europe 1:100,000. G.S.G.S. 4416 Published by War Office 1944. Revised, drawn and photolithographed at O.S. Army Map Service, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C., 1944. Reproduced at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College, 1947. SMITH VII-50.

The maps on view will range from strategic situation maps used by the US military to pictorial maps that implement satire and caricature to influence public perception of ongoing conflicts. Together, these maps shed light on how the spread of information—both textual and visual—took part in shaping major conflicts of the twentieth century.

Art of War: Illustrated and Military Maps of the Twentieth Century is co-hosted by Falvey Memorial Library and the Office of Veterans and Military Service Members, and will be viewable on both the first floor of Falvey Memorial Library and in the Prince Family Veterans Resource Center starting on September 8th through the remainder of the fall semester.

We hope to see you there!

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Last Modified: August 4, 2022