From the Library: Five Books to Inspire Your Travels

Written by Louisa McKenzie |
Illustration showing the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, Florence, from Ferdinando Leopoldo del Migliore, Firenze città nobi

Summer is rapidly approaching, and thoughts are likely turning to taking a break. Whether a staycation is on the cards or you’re heading further afield, the Library's collections might just provide the perfect inspiration for your summer adventures.

From the principal monuments of Florence to the historic buildings of Paris, Louisa McKenzie shares five books to help inspire your travels:


Ferdinando Leopoldo del Migliore, Firenze città nobilissima illustrata, Florence 1684

Title page. Ferdinando Leopoldo del Migliore, Firenze città nobilissima illustrata, Florence 1684.

Tuscany, with its art, culture, good food and stunning landscapes is always a popular destination. Get to know the Tuscan capital, Florence, a little better in Fernando Leopoldo del Migliore’s seventeenth-century guide, Firenze città nobilissima illustrata.

Touring the city area by area, Del Migliore gives detailed descriptions of its principal monuments. Some subsequent scholars of Florence have, however, doubted the accuracy of some of Del Migliore’s sources, and, therefore, the claims made based on them. Despite this, the work is a key resource for historians and art historians of the period – providing a snapshot of the city and the disposition of many of its artworks when the work was first published in 1684 – providing they proceed with the necessary caution! Browse the Library’s copy of the first edition of the work at classmark CNH 2310.F36, or using the digitised version.

C. Fregnac, Belles demeures de Paris : 16e – 19e siècle, Paris 1977

All eyes will be on Paris this August as the city hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics. Sport not your thing? Then let the sumptuously illustrated Belles demeures de Paris guide you through some of the most important and elaborate hôtels particuliers in Paris as they were in 1977.

Page showing a room from the Hôtel de Luzy, from C. Fregnac, Belles demeures de Paris : 16e – 19e siècle, Paris 1977.

Dividing Paris into areas, the book includes historically significant buildings such as the Palais de l’Elysée. The home of the French president since 1848, the palace’s illustrious – and notorious – former inhabitants include Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s influential mistress, and Joachim Murat, the French army officer who would become King of Naples under Napoleon. Take a peek over the palace walls in this volume. Many of the homes under discussion were preserved in their original, or, at least, historical state. Some, however, such as the Hôtel de Luzy (nestled near the church of Saint Sulpice in the 6th arrondissement), had been updated by their owners. Built at the end of the 17th century, it fell into disrepair following the Second World War. Belles demeures catches the mansion in its second act – just after its restoration by Pierre Schlumberger, the American oil-industry tycoon, and his socialite wife, São. The couple were prolific art collectors, and the home was designed to be a mix of the classic and the modern. Works by Andy Warhol (including four portraits of São) and Picasso hang above 17th-century furniture. Discover more secrets from behind closed doors at classmark CPB 6400.

Frontispiece. Francesco Sansovino, Venetia, città nobilissima, et singolare descritta in XIIII. Libri, Venice 1663.

Francesco Sansovino, Venetia, città nobilissima, et singolare descritta in XIIII. Libri, Venice 1663

Although he wrote a comprehensive guide to Venice, Francesco Sansovino was actually born in Rome. He was the son of sculptor and architect Jacopo Sansovino, who was responsible for transforming the architecture of Venice in the early sixteenth century. Among the works for which Sansovino père was responsible are the Zecca and the Biblioteca Marciana. It is perhaps fitting, therefore, that his son’s most famous written work was a celebration of all things Venice. As well as describing the city’s geography and monuments, Sansovino’s text also explores its history and customs, as well as details such as the types of clothes its inhabitants wore. Find the Library’s copy from 1663, with its ornate frontispiece (pictured here) at classmark CNH 2025 or browse the digitised version.


Nikolaus Pevsner, South Devon, Harmondsworth 1952

Map. Nikolaus Pevsner, South Devon, Harmondsworth 1952.

For a certain period of time in the mid-20th century, the name Pevsner was synonymous with visiting England. The German-born art historian produced his monumental 46-volume survey of English architecture, beloved of many a traveller and historian alike, across four series and nearly 25 years. Revised editions of the work continue to be published. This volume, detailing South Devon, is one of the original run. Taking in the English Riviera, a popular summer destination for many, this work covers the whole width of the county and as far north as Tiverton. Aimed at both specialist and general audiences, the guides abound with miniscule detail. At the church of St Blaise in Haccombe, Pevsner muses, “The most curious feature of the church is the arms and hands sticking out in various places. What were they there for? To hold banners? Or torches?”. Find out all you need to know for a staycation at classmark CPM 120, where you will find our holdings of Pevsner’s guides for counties across England.

Title page. National Gallery of Scotland, Concise Catalogue of Paintings, Edinburgh 1997.

National Gallery of Scotland, Concise Catalogue of Paintings, Edinburgh 1997

Heading to Edinburgh for the festival this August? Why not take a detour to the National Gallery of Scotland. To get a sneak peek of the works you might see, head to classmark CPM 4240, where you will find a selection of the Gallery’s catalogues – including this, the Concise Catalogue of Paintings from 1997. You can find more collection catalogues from museums and galleries around the world in our holdings. Just search the library catalogue using a keyword for the museum or gallery you are looking for e.g. Louvre or Uffizi. We also hold a large selection of exhibition catalogues. These are classified according to the subject of the exhibition.




Louisa McKenzie is an art historian, writer, and library professional. Specialising in late medieval and early Renaissance art and material culture, she researches conjunctions between material, meaning and function, as well as issues pertaining to workshop practice. Her book on wax sculpture in 14th and 15th-century Florence is forthcoming, and she contributes regularly to The Times on arts and history topics. She is one of the convenors of the A Material World lecture series at the Warburg Institute.