Romolais a historical novel in three volumes, taking place in 15th century Florence, Italy. The book title refers to the main character: Romola de’ Bardi, the daugther of aclassical scholar. The story, first published in 1863, was written by George Eliot – the male pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819–1880) – travelling between the brand new Kingdom of Italy and the United Kingdom.
This edition was published by Philadelphia based Porter & Coates, ten years after the passing of the author. The text is interspersed with photographs of Florence (photographer unknown) that show a timeless city populated by Renaissance statues and classical architecture. The complete absence of living souls reinforces the impression of Florence as a museum, or somewhat less nicely put, a ghost town. The reality must have been different: horse-drawn streetcars were introduced in Florence a few years before this edition, and the first train station opened six years later.
The title page is typeset in a few sizes of French Oldstyle, a popular choice at the time that was available from multiple vendors, with minor differences between sizes and foundries. The images of the Rijksmuseum, who present this copy in their vast archive, focus on the photographs. Text pages are hidden behind flyleafs with photo captions typeset in an italic face, which appears to be from Barnhart Brothers & Spindler’s version of French Oldstyle (AKA Elzevir).