Recently, the publishing house of the ASTRA Museum Sibiu brought out an important book, namely the 12th volume of the series Contribuţii privind istoria oraşelor [Contributions to the History of Towns], edited by the Romanian Commission of Historic Towns. The work is based on the PhD thesis of the author, Anda-Lucia Spânu, senior researcher at the Institute for Social Studies and the Humanities Sibiu of the Romanian Academy, who defended it in December 2007 at the „Lucian Blaga“ University of Sibiu (coordinator Prof. dr. Paul Niedermaier, correspondent member of the Romanian Academy). In the aftermath the dissertation remained unpublished, but Anda-Lucia Spânu continued her research work on the same topic. Later, thanks to a post doctoral fellowship, she had the chance to travel abroad and to do research in libraries and archives, thus completing her work.

With the book Old Graphic Representations of the Romanian Cities a research gap in Romanian historiography is closed. Researchers became aware of the fact that old images, analyzed in the social, political and cultural context they appeared, are valuable sources of information for specialists from various research fields. Therefore they started inventorying and publishing them. Unfortunately, the Romanian historiography had not known a synthesis referring to old graphic images of cities from the whole territory of nowadays Romania, but works in which the topic was approached from particular points of view. From this standpoint, Anda-Lucia Spânu’s book has to be welcomed as it is the only one to introduce a holistic vision. The definition the author has given to “Graphic representations of cities” is the following: “the documentary graphic (or the visual historic source) that depicts partial or overall images of cities, including drawings, mono- or polychrome engravings (no matter of support), water-colours, different genres of painting”. The work analyses graphic works from about four centuries, namely from the appearance of woodcuts until the spread of photography in the last quarter of the 19th century. While in the PhD thesis the city historian discussed only 575 images, in the book the number is almost doubled. Further research will probably bring to light more of them and increase the extant number.

The “Introduction” of the book is followed by a chapter in which the Old Graphic Representations of the Romanian Cities are broken down statistically. The reader is taught that the 1.110 images catalogued, represent 86 cities. 435 of the images represent 33 cities from Wallachia, 134 represent 10 Moldavian ones, while 541 represent 43 Transylvanian cities. Having in mind the chronological criterion, 37 images were produced in the 16th century, 132 in the 17th, 158 in the 18th and 783 date back from the 19th.

Dr. Spânu also introduces the criterion of accuracy, stressing that 286 city views aroused from the imagination of their producer. There also exists an intermediary category, combining imagination with identifiable elements, while a third category comprises realistic views. As expected, most of the images represent the two capital cities of the Romanian Principalities, Walachia and Moldavia, as well as the city of Sibiu, temporary capital of Transylvania. Most of the images were produced by foreigners. Transylvanian Saxons and Hungarians had a significant contribution, while Romanian artists created only four of them.

The pages 32 to 52 encompass the specialist literature dr. Spânu had used during a decennium of research work, while pages 53-68 comprise an inventory of the 200 images reproduced (pages 69 to 212) in colour or black and white. A list of books in which images from cities belonging to nowadays Romania were published, indicates the interest others have shown to this part of Europe (pages 215-225). The general repertory (pages 236-546) encompasses 1110 entries, corresponding to the totality of analyzed works. Each entry is provided with a record card including the following categories of information: name of the depicted city, artist, date, title of the work, reproduced in, technique, dimensions, partial or overall representation, realized from imagination or corresponding to reality, institution it is stored, shelf mark, and bibliography – an abundance of information, which make the work an important reference book, useful for historians, art historians, sociologists, ethnographers and others. I highly recommend it to people interested in historic representations of cities, irrespective of their qualification.

Gudrun-Liane ITTU

About Anda-Lucia Spânu