Jerusalem Delivered

La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem delivered) is a verse epic by the late-Renaissance Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544–95). Written in the eight-line stanzas common to Italian Renaissance poetry, Tasso’s masterpiece is known for the beauty of its language, profound expressions of emotion, and concern for historical accuracy. The subject of the poem is the First Crusade of 1096–99 and the quest by the Frankish knight Godfrey of Bouillon to liberate the sepulcher of Jesus Christ. Tasso was born in Sorrento, in the Kingdom of Naples, and his interest in the Crusades probably was kindled by the sacking of Sorrento in 1558 by the Turkish Ottomans and the ongoing struggle between Muslim and Christian powers for control of the Mediterranean. He completed the work in 1575 but spent several years revising the text before it was published in 1581. Tasso’s reputation as a poet and man of genius was well established in 17th-century Italy and throughout Europe by the 18th century. This monumental, two-volume edition of his most important work was completed in 1745 by the Venetian publisher and journalist Giovanni Battista Albrizzi (1698–1777), a member of a family active in the Venice book trade for some 150 years. The illustrations are by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (also called Giambatista Piazzetta; 1682–1754), a Venetian-born painter who was the first president of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia. The frontispiece is printed in red and black with a copperplate engraving of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (1717–80), to whom the work is dedicated.

Antiquities of Samarkand. Madrasah of Bibi Khanym. Minaret on the Northwest Corner

This photograph of the northwest minaret at the Bibi Khanym Mosque ensemble in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) is from the archeological part of Turkestan Album. The six-volume photographic survey was produced in 1871-72, under the patronage of General Konstantin P. von Kaufman, the first governor-general (1867-82) of Turkestan, as the Russian Empire's Central Asian territories were called. The album devotes special attention to Samarkand’s Islamic architecture, such as 14th- and 15th-century monuments from the reign of Timur (Tamerlane) and his successors. Built in 1399-1405 with the spoils of Timur’s victorious campaign in India (fall of 1398 to January 1399), the ensemble was designated the city’s main mosque. It is also traditionally named in homage to Timur’s senior wife, Sarai Mulk Khanym (bibi meaning “lady” or “mother”). Intended to be one of the largest mosques in the Islamic world, the ensemble contained a madrasah, a mausoleum, and an entrance structure to the courtyard, all of which suffered major damage from seismic activity over the centuries. The complex also included four minarets (only one of which survived at the time of the Russian conquest). The northwest minaret shown here is missing its uppermost structure, but its monumental design is still evident, with a decoration of tiles forming block Kufic letters that signify words such as “Allah.”