Featured Fellow: Rossella Baldi (2017-2018 Isaac Comly Martindale Fund Fellow)

Each year, the Library at the American Philosophical Society hosts a rich intellectual community of scholars working on a wide-range of projects in fields including early American history, history of science and technology, and Native American and Indigenous Studies, among others. Read on to learn more about our fellows and their work at the APS. Additional information about our fellowship programming and other funding opportunities can be found here.

Project: “Auguste-Denis Fougeroux de Bondaroy”

Rossella Baldi photo

Briefly describe your research project.

My research project focused on the travel accounts of Fougeroux de Bondaroy’s journey to Italy (1763). I will analyze them in one of the chapters of my Ph.D. Dissertation, which studies French travelers visiting Italy in the second half of the 18th century in order to collect technical and scientific knowledge.

What collections did you use while working at the APS?

I mainly focused on the Duhamel de Monceau and Fougeroux de Bondaroy (fantastic!) Papers. However, I also came across some very interesting material in other APS collections that was more connected to my other research fields and horology in particular. Therefore, I read Benjamin Vuillamy’s letters and Baron von Zach’s letters.

I also looked at the anonymous Voyage en Angleterre, but attributed to Malesherbes. I am still trying to figure out the true identity of the author and I am sure I will soon manage to find the answer.

Description of a plant sent from Louisiana
Auguste Fougeroux of Bondaroy, Description of a plant sent from Louisiana, n.d., Duhamel of the Monceau / Fougeroux of Bondaroy papers, 1716-1789, APS Library.

What’s the most interesting or most exciting thing you found in the collections?

Actually, I found too many things! But I must confess that I was really impressed by the richness and variety of the Duhamel du Monceau and Fougeroux de Bondaroy’s Papers. This collection is really amazing for the study of the history of scientific books in the 18th century. I almost regretted not having known before coming to the APS about the real content of the collection because I would have certainly asked to stay for a longer period in order to study it more deeply.

I do really hope that the APS will find a way to promote these incredible papers.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for future fellows or researchers?

SEARCH THE CATALOG! The APS collections are so incredibly rich!!!! And I would add two more things: first, don’t hesitate to get in contact with Librarians and Archivists, because the Library staff is so great, kind and competent. Second, don’t hesitate to meet the other fellows, because their research projects are of interest too and very inspiring.

Any suggestions for must-see places or things to do in Philadelphia?

As an European scholar specializing in 18th-century topics, I enjoyed discovering more about 18th-century American history. Benjamin Franklin was such an interesting character.

I also enjoyed Philadelphia’s museums and, very simply, Philadelphia’s streets. The City Center is full of splendid buildings.

Rossella Baldi was born in Lugano (Switzerland) in 1980. She completed her master’s degree in Art History, Italian Literature and Anthropology at the University of Neuchâtel. Her current doctoral project continues her master’s thesis on the Lettres écrites de Suisse, d’Italie, de Sicile et de Malthe (1780) by Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière, which in 2008 received the Eugène-Ferdinand Piccard Award. Her research examines the relationship between the Grand Tour and the quest for technological information that French travelers developed in Italy in the second half of the 18th century.

As a doctoral student, she took part in a research project at the University of Neuchâtel, which focused on the Jaquet-Droz Company, the famous Swiss watchmakers whose androids inspired the Maillardet Automaton of the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia. In 2013-2014, she was in Paris and Clermont-Ferrand (Centre de recherches sur la littérature de voyage) thanks to a ‘Doc.Mobility’ Fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation. The following year she became associate curator of the International Museum of Horology in La Chaux-de-Fonds. In this position, she was in charge of the collections of the library (the most renowned European collection for the horological history and technology) and of the study center. She quit the position at the end of 2016 and worked on a research project on the relationship between botany and French poetry in the 18th and 19th century.

As 18th-century Swiss and French clock and watch-making count among her research interests, she belongs to the annotators team of the ENCCRE project, the critical edition online of the Encyclopédie by Diderot and d’Alembert lead by the Académie des sciences in Paris; for the project, she coordinates the annotations of the horological articles. Her research work also concerns Enlightenment natural history collections; it was rewarded in 2013 with the Premio Lazzaro Spallanzani (Centro studi Lazzaro Spallanzani, Scandiano, Italy).

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