Anyone who has been to Rome knows how vital water is to the city’s landscape: among the must-see tourist destinations are the Tiber River, Rome’s aqueducts, and its many public fountains, including the Trevi Fountain, Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona, and the Fontanone on the Janiculum Hill. Few tour guides or travel books are able to explain the extent to which these water systems are related, or indeed how Rome’s aqueducts, fountains, and drainage systems transformed the city from a struggling medieval town to the epicenter of the Baroque world. Fortunately, Katherine Wentworth Rinne’s The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City tells this fascinating story, detailing the complex public and private hydraulic infrastructure of Rome through archival plans and illustrations of the Baroque period, as well as Rinne’s own extensive field research.
An interactive bonus to Rinne’s publication can be found in the form of a G.I.S. timeline map of Rome’s waters, which Rinne developed in an earlier stage of research as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) at the University of Virginia. The timeline covers a much greater span of time than the book (753 BC through the 17th century), but it can be manipulated to reflect different hydraulic typologies over different periods of Rome’s history (these typologies include drainage systems, civic infrastructure, Tiber facilities, etc.). The G.I.S. timeline also lends insight into the value of digital scholarship, and how the results can be harnessed in the form of an elegant publication like Rinne’s.