A Panorama of Turin

Torino, Panorama generale

Torino, Panorama generale, ca. 1914
Source: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv / Fotograf: Unbekannt / Fel_031762-RE / Public domain mark

The rich online image collections of the ETH Zürich hold countless treasures, including aerial photographs, historic bookplates, the collection of the Fotostiftung Schweiz, historic scientific instruments, field research photography in geology and botany, and historic photographs of buildings in Zurich. Many images are available with some type of Creative Commons license, or are in the public domain. A great deal of the collection consists of postcards, with some unusual examples such as this five-part accordion-folded panorama of Turin dating to around 1914.

The photographs used in the panorama were apparently taken from the Monte dei Cappuccini, on the east side of the Po River just outside the historic center of the city. The leftmost image looks south-southwest, upstream along the Po, toward the Castello del Valentino. Moving from left to right and facing westward, the images successively pan from southwest to north-northwest, while the final, rightmost image looks northeast toward the basilica of Superga. Near the right edge of the central image, the spire of the Mole Antonelliana punctuates the skyline. Together, the five photographs pan well over 180°. The Po runs along the foreground of the entire panorama, while the Alps form a continuous backdrop, a vivid illustration of Turin as the “città subalpina.”

The ETH image archive also holds similar panoramas of numerous other cities and landscapes. Besides many variations on Alpine panoramas, these include Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Lugano, Lyon, Palermo, Valletta, and Oahu!

Summer Postcards

Last week the Austrian National Library launched its digitized postcard portal AKON Ansichtskarten Online with over 75,000 historic postcards available to browse and download. The AKON portal supplements several other similar online resources such as the E-Pics Image Archive at the ETH Zurich, which includes a large group of historic postcards assembled by the Swiss collector Adolf Feller. Both collections focus primarily on European postcards. Many of these images provide valuable information about buildings or urban ensembles now destroyed or dramatically altered, while others offer amusing presentations of familiar sites.

Good online collections emphasizing American postcards include the Boston Public Library’s Tichnor Brothers Collection, the National Trust Library Historic Postcard Collection at the University of Maryland, and the New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery (here search under the genre “Postcards”).

Most images are freely available to use and download under a variety of Creative Commons licenses or public domain designations. The navigation on the AKON site is intuitive but slightly clumsy, based on a zoomable world map. The ETH site includes extensive metadata with its images, automatically creating captions.

A loose sampling of postcards from these collections follows, grouped under the headings “Work” and “Play.” The first category features sites that have occupied me professionally during the past year, while the second shares snapshots of my summer vacation. Click any image to link to its source.


Torino, Palazzo Madama, Castello Medioevale, Mono. Vitt. Emanuele, II. Ricordo Nazionale

Torino, Palazzo Madama, Castello Medioevale, Mono. Vitt. Emanuele, II. Ricordo Nazionale

Torino, Veduta del Po, colla Grand Madre di Dio ed il monte dei Cappuccini

Torino, Veduta del Po, colla Grand Madre di Dio ed il monte dei Cappuccini



Roma, Panorama dalla Cupola di S. Pietro

Roma, Panorama dalla Cupola di S. Pietro

Roma, Piazza S. Pietro, Ispirazioni Divine

Roma, Piazza S. Pietro, Ispirazioni Divine



Chicago Skyline

Macatawa MI

Ottawa Beach Holland MI

P.S.: The Boston Public Library gives an incorrect location for Lake Macatawa – it is in Ottawa County in western Michigan.