Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Buried Books of Herculaneum Part 4

Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero and friend of King Charles, became the first to attempt opening the papyrus scrolls as they emerged from within the villa. A self-proclaimed "gifted" and "extraordinary" alchemist, di Sangro used mercury in an effort to soften the charred, brittle papyrus. The mercury dissolved the scrolls, and many of them were lost...

Part 3 of this series continues the story of the excavations of Herculaneum, as we seek to unravel the answer to the mystery: Why was the Villa dei Papyri never fully excavated?

Here we continue this story.


Maria Amalia of Saxony, Public Domain
Four years after Charles succeeded to the throne, he married.  His father, King Philip V, had sought a French bride for his first born in a feeble effort to cling to the French throne. Queen Elisabetta’s wishes prevailed, however, and Charles married Prussian Princess Maria Amalia, who had grown up in the very Austrian palace containing the first statues excavated from Herculaneum - the three veiled females and the statue of Cleopatra.

Meanwhile, the second factor involved in bringing Herculaneum to light was the Enlightenment itself. The Grand Tour was in full swing, and the aristocratic travelers known to Italians as “milordi” – “my lords” – came from far and wide throughout Europe. Rome was a quintessential stopping point, and then Naples as well.

As rumors of the ancient treasures began making their way across Europe, increasing numbers of Grand Tourists became determined to see the ruins for themselves, as well as to purchase the multiple replicas of Herculaneum booty that were suddenly all the rage. Artists who could faithfully reproduce these coveted artifacts found abundant work in Naples.

One such artist was Camillo Paderni, who was both fascinated by the flawlessly frozen cross-sections of ancient Roman life and appalled that these cross-sections were being so brutally destroyed. As he toured the excavation sites, Paderni produced image upon image of the world formerly unbeknownst to the public. He also began writing letters of complaint about excavation leader Alcubierre.

Winckelmann, Public Domain
Another of Alcubierre’s critics was Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Antiquarian and well-respected writer, Winckelmann’s scathing commentaries brought the methods of Alcubierre into the light and into posterity, observing that Alcubierre knew “as much of antiquities as the moon knows of crabs.”

In 1750, Alcubierre was pulled to a different post and replaced by Karl Weber, who produced the first true maps of the Villa dei Papiri and its surroundings as well as the many tunnels now leading through the area. Approximately 1100 additional scrolls were found under Weber, and King Charles himself was fascinated with them, until the inevitable fate of monarchy politics intervened.

King Charles’ father Philip, the King of Spain and of the two Sicilies, had died in 1754. By 1759, Charles could no longer shirk his responsibility to the kingdom, and he reluctantly left for Spain. Governing in Naples in his stead was a temporary stand-in until Charles’ spoiled, eight-year-old son Ferdinand could come of age.  Excavations at Herculaneum were forcibly halted in favor of ongoing efforts at Pompeii, and so the secrets contained within the Villa would once again be forced to wait.

Charles’ mother Elisabetta, the woman who had first initiated the work, died.

Continued in Part 5 of The Buried Books of Herculaneum

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, a novel by Kristen Elise. Buy The Vesuvius Isotope on Amazon.

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.

Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope. She lives in San Diego, California. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Newsletter: The Murder, USA "Anthology"

September 9,2015


I have an awesome project to announce! I've been cooking this thing up for a while, along with a fantastic group of talented, fascinating authors, and it is now officially past the point of no return. So here it is: The Murder, USA anthology. Except is not a true anthology. Let me explain:

In contrast to a true anthology, which implies a collection of short stories, I am collating a collection of excerpts from somewhere between 20 and 30 full-length, published novels. Each of these novels falls somewhere in some form of crime fiction/mystery/thriller genre - from legal thriller, to cozy mystery, to action thriller, to romantic mystery, to paranormal thriller. There is something in here for everyone. It will be FREE, and as a subscriber to this mailing list, you'll be one of the first to get it. 

In addition to the common theme of genre, there is another common thread: Murder, USA is a travelogue. Each of these excerpts is set somewhere in the United States, and the setting plays a bit of a role in the story. My vision for this project is that the finished product is "a murder tour of the nation." I have now read many of the excerpts, and let me tell you... it's going to be awesome. We've got quite a diverse collection of talented authors and ... again... there is something in here for everyone. Find your next favorite author!

The table of contents will be organized by location and it will list the novel, author, location, and subgenre (cozy mystery, international thriller...,) so there are many ways for a reader to glance through the table of contents and pick out the excerpts of interest to him/her. And there will be links to the full-length novel for purchase at the end of each excerpt, so you'll have easy access to the rest of the story! 

Stay tuned as well for Murder, International - the international version. This one is a bit "behind" in terms of production, and the USA version will definitely be available first.

Last, but not least, I'd like to let my readers know that there's a promotion coming up for The Vesuvius Isotope. The ebook will be discounted to $0.99 from October 1-15. Please feel free to spread the word if you've got friends who might like the novel and be interested picking up a copy at a discount. Or, as always, they can just subscribe to this newsletter and get it for free!
If you were forwarded this newsletter and would like to subscribe, I'll send you a free e-copy of The Vesuvius Isotope.

Happy hunting,