I consider this early monograph to be an introduction the figure and works of Desideri. It was published with the title La 'Relazione’ di Ippolito Desideri fra storia locale e vicende internazionali as a monograph edition of the six-monthly journal “Storia Locale” (no. 2, December 2003, pp. 4-103; p. 3, Editoriale; inside back cover, author's biography), published by the Associazione Storia e Città with “Gli Ori” Publishers (Piazzetta San Pietro 5, 51100 Pistoia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org). This is a detailed reconstruction of the troublesome events surrounding the works of the Jesuit missionary, from failure to be published to subsequent ostracism, until the slow re-emergence with clarification of aspects that remained obscure and illustration of the events in a more general context. The figure of Desideri emerges strongly inside a concise version of the story of Western knowledge of Tibet (and surrounding Asiatic regions) and Buddhism from 1700 onwards, along with the various geopolitical implications.
The essay was presented with great success on 26th February 2004 in the Saloncino of Palazzo de’ Rossi (Pistoia), which houses the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Pistoia e Pescia, by Ivano Paci, chairman of the Fondazione, historian Giorgio Petracchi, chairman of the Storia e Città Association, and Andrea Ottanelli, editor-in-chief of “Storia locale” (reported in “La Nazione”, Pistoia, 26.2.2004). Initially it was only circulated in Pistoia with reviews in “La Nazione” (17.2.2004,, p.IX / Agenda Pistoia, Cesare Sartori, “Un pistoiese, il primo tibetologo della storia. La ricerca. La ‘riscoperta’ di padre Ippolito Desideri”) and “Il Tirreno” (16.3.2004, p. IV / Pistoia, Paolo Gestri, “Storia locale in edicola, c’è il saggio sul viaggio in Tibet di Desideri”; this review was republished in “Avventure nel Mondo”, year XXXI, no. 2, July-December 2004, p. 112). It was also mentioned by Pasquale Chiaro’s periodical “Appunti di Viaggio” (no. 72, May-June 2004, p. 38) and subsequently met with an even greater success than predicted.
Another presentation took place on 25th November 2004 at the Società Geografica Italiana (S.G.I.) at Villa Celimontana in Rome. The introduction by Prof. Giuliano Bellezza (chairman of Home of Geography) on behalf of Prof. Franco Salvatori, chairman of the S.G.I., was followed by speeches from:. Francesco Surdich of the University of Genoa a leading expert on the history of explorations (who chaired the session with energy and wisdom); Gherardo Gnoli, chairman of the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO, formerly IsMEO, Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, founded by Giuseppe Tucci); Maria Mancini, lecturer in Geographical History at the Roma Tre University (Third University of Rome); Massimiliano A. Polichetti, expert in the area of Tibet and Nepal at the National Museum of Oriental Art (Brancaccio Palace, Rome); Carlo Vivoli, director of the Pistoia State Archive, representing the magazine “Storia locale” and Vittorio Kulczycki of the “Avventure nel Mondo” association. Extremely warm recognition was given to the accurate and in-depth research promoting an extraordinary figure who is not yet as well-known as he deserves to be. For this reason, in fact, the author of this first and successful essay was encouraged to continue his research and publications as announced.
It should also be noted that the presentation at the S.G.I. was honoured with the numerous and highly qualified presence of institutions and academics such as: Dott.ssa Donatella Mazzeo, director of the National Museum of Oriental Art, Colonel Elio Ruggiano, director of the Library of the Istituto Geografico Militare, Dott. Stefano Caciolli, researcher at the same Institute, Prof. Maria Angela Falà, of the Maitreya Foundation, editor-in-chief of “Dharma” journal, anthropologist Prof. Giancarlo Castelli and many other university lecturers and researchers. The presentation was reported, with a brief summary, in “La Nazione”, Pistoia, Sunday 28.11.2004 (Cesare Sartori, Bargiacchi. Onori romani al biografo di Desideri), in “Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana” (Serie XII, Vol. X, fasc. 1, January-March 2005, pp. 261 and 265), and in “Bullettino Storico Pistoiese” (a. CVII, 2005; Series III XL; pp. 237-238).
As well as the report and mentions above, other important specialist periodicals also discussed the essay on Desideri’s Relazione, such as: “L’Universo” (review by Stefano Caciolli); “Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana” (review by Francesco Surdich); “Rivista Geografica Italiana” (review by Leonardo Rombai); “Clio” (review by Mariangela Maraviglia); “Bullettino Storico Pistoiese” (review by Renzo Nelli); “Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni” (review by Nicoletta Basilotta); “La Civiltà Cattolica” (Ippolito Desideri, missionario gesuita ed esploratore. An essay on the memoirs of Fr. I. Desideri) in a 6-page article by Giuliano Raffo, mentioned on the cover; “East and West” (review by Oscar Nalesini). See Bibliographic appendix for more detailed information.
In a firmly scientific and rigorously archival test, Enzo Bargiacchi retraces all the events with a concise but expressive depiction of these figures which not only gives a biographical outline of their character but also their peculiar characteristics, populating the pages with “people”. The reader is thus immerserd in a glimpse of that Florentine and Tuscan geographical context, which, between the mid-19th century and the 1930s, was in close contact with its English counterpart. With admirable freshness we are made familiar with many figures who would, in many cases, have remained names written on paper [S. Caciolli, “L’Universo”, January-February 2005, pp. 133-136].
We are reviewing this article because we believe that, thanks to a large number of documents quoted, it can offer a new and “complete reconstruction of the events surrounding the Jesuit missionary”.
With scrupulous care, the author retraces the fortunes of the Relazione (account of Fr. Desideri’s journey) from its rediscovery to the vicissitudes leading up to its publication [....]
Considering the importance of this topic for Orientalists and above all, the new information it contributes, we find the author’s decision to publish it in a periodical somewhat limited: even though the edition in question is practically a monograph it penalizes Desideri. We might even cynically comment that this is a continuation of the tradition surrounding Desideri’s Relazione, which has encountered so many obstacles over two centuries. With this criticism we hope to motivate Bargiacchi to publish with a wider circulation, with more detailed notes and comments which we feel may have been removed or scaled down [N. BASILOTTA, “Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni”, 2005/1, pp. 213-214].
Story of a centuries-old (mis)fortune is how this broad and exhaustive essay could be entitled, in which, with genuine passion and singular scrupulousness, the author reconstructs the intricate series of events which determined a kind of long conspiracy of silence surrounding the work of the Pistoiese Jesuit Ippolito Desideri, one of the first missionaries to venture into the regions of Tibet and certainly the first to attempt to penetrate the basic principles of a religious system far removed from Christianity, at that time firmly represented by the theology of St. Thomas [...]. Bargiacchi leads the reader on a fascinating adventure from the closed atmosphere of the archives to daring expeditions, touching on colonial interests and even international intrigue, at times taking on the hues of a mystery novel, as noted by Maria Mancini of the Italian Geographical Society, during the presentation of this volume.
Unpublished papers, thoroughly detailed research, archive analysis carried out by the author are the basis of this reconstruction and the protagonists are local academics and internationally renowned experts, scholars of Oriental languages and promoters of new disciplines dedicated to Tibetology and Buddhism, geographers and theologians [...] [M. Maraviglia, “Clio”, July-September 2005, pp. 537-539].
[...] Enzo Gualtiero Bargiacchi has published a new essay on the topic [...]: it is not an account of the journey but research into the sources illustrating the stages of the rediscovery of the original manuscripts, with the subsequent publications, and he indulges frequent digressions regarding the people involved and the echoes felt in international scientific circles [G. RAFFO, “La Civiltà Cattolica”, 19.11.2005, pp. 366-371].
In a hypothetical Olympus of the underestimated and wrongly forgotten, the figure of Pistoiese Jesuit Ippolito Desideri should by right be raised above many others. [...] Were it desirable (and perhaps it should be) to promote a cause for a sort of “cultural beatification” of Ippolito Desideri, there could be no more convinced, competent and tireless postulant than Enzo Gualtiero Bargiacchi. For years he has been devoted to studies of his illustrious fellow-townsman (whose steps he has physically retraced in Tibet, as we can conclude from many of the photographs enhancing the text in question) and his works. At last Bargiacchi has made all his hard work available to everyone, taking up almost the whole instalment no.2 of the magazine “Storia locale” effectively rendering it a monograph. [...] Bargiacchi chooses to place his emphasis on an unusual but no less interesting aspect: the “fortunes” (in this case inverted commas are practically obligatory since it would be more accurate to describe them as “misfortunes”) of the Relazione. He does so by gradually unravelling the intricate tangles of a series of events that often read like a mystery story, or a real spy novel.
… This is all told by Bargiacchi from his considerable reserves of knowledge about historical literature and memoirs of the period, but also and above all with the help of first-hand sources, always accurately and scrupulously clarified for the reader. [...] The sources in question are always seen in the light of flawlessly attentive hermeneutics which does not in any way conceal a fluid and enjoyable narrative style [R. Nelli, “Bullettino Storico Pistoiese”, 2005, pp. 191-194].
It gives me great pleasure to greet the publication of this book (in fact it is a monographic issue of the Pistoia review Storia Locale) dedicated by Enzo Gualtiero Bargiacchi to the events that developed around the Relazione written by the missionary – also from Pistoia – Ippolito Desideri, after seven years living in Tibet. Reading it one is reminded of the many novels […] which center around a lost manuscript or a burnt library. And it can be read precisely like a novel so pleasant is the way the book is written. But with one important difference: the Relazione manuscripts really did exist, and fortunately still do. Indeed consist of one of the most important texts, ever written on a country, Tibet, which although discussed extensively (and often inappropriately), is still relatively unknown to the Italian public. […] In Bargiacchi’s book the events linked to the search for the manuscript containing Desideri’s report and its publication perform also the function of the thread linking most of European Tibetology between the 19th and the 20th century [O. Nalesini, “East and West”, 2005, pp. 507-509].
[…] Credit goes to Bargiacchi for unravelling a rather complex matter, reconstructed in accurate and competent terms, with a pleasant narrative style and compelling contribution by the traveller to knowledge … [L. Rombai, “Rivista Geografica Italiana”, March 2006, pp. 206-208].
[…] it reads like a mystery novel about the quest to discover the mysterious and inaccessible manuscript of Fr. Desideri, just as in Eco’s The Name of the Rose the reader joins the pursuit for a lost Greek text, or the many readers of the new American best seller The Da Vinci Code anxiously wait to know what will happen … [Walter Gardini, Typed letter sent to the author from Buenos Aires, 17.11.2004].
The essay first published in late 2003 in “Storia Locale” (a revised and more extensive version which I am currently adapting and updating will be published with English translation in the prestigious Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente series) stirred up much interest and was quoted in leading studies in Italy and abroad. It has inspired a number of events, listed below.
DESIDERI Project: D.PROJ.01Foreword, D.PROJ.02Researches, D.PROJ.03Beginning, D.PROJ.04Rel.History, D.PROJ.05Lect.2004-6, D.PROJ.06Art.2004-6, D.PROJ.07D.Biography2006, D.PROJ.08D.Bibl., D.PROJ.09Ev.2007, D.PROJ.10Ev.2008, D.PROJ.11Atlanta2008, D.PROJ.98Development, D.PROJ.99Bibl.App.