Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CAPRI - THE ISLAND REVISITED

This book came about because of a chance visit to an old library in a 14th-century building in the centre of Capri.
My attention was caught by a title called simply ‘Capri’ by John Clay MacKowen, published in Naples, in English, in 1884.  A frail little book – now apparently unobtainable even via antiquarian websites – was duly brought and I began to read.  It turned out to be a compelling account of just about everything to do with the island – its prehistory, geology and palaeontology, its grottoes and spectacular landscape, the splendour of its residence for twenty years as the seat of the Emperor Tiberius, the richness of its archaeology, its turbulent political years during the Middle Ages and start of the modern era, and on through to the later part of the nineteenth century when Capri became a magnet for travellers, writers and scholars, holding them all with the magic that still brings its visitors back year after year.
I’m a publisher by trade and felt that there could be other people who would be equally pleased to read this informative and spirited story. The new chapters [ that take the original material up to the present day ] are illustrated and fully referenced, and the book is completed by a bibliography and a detailed index.
But how much was known about John Clay MacKowen?  Our efforts to find out more led to some interesting seams of unexpected information. It was correctly known that he had fought in the American Civil War and that he had come to Capri in later life, making his home in an old Aragonese tower in Anacapri on the western side of the island.

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