Hannibal and The Fictional World of Archives

Original Novel Title: Hannibal

Author: Thomas Harris

Publisher: New York, NY: Delacorte Press, June 1999 (hardcover); New York, NY: Dell, May 2000 (paperback)

This sequel to Silence of the Lambs (1988), not quite as suspenseful but with liberal amounts of horror, finds Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (aka Dr. Fell) working in the Capponi Lirary in Florence, Italy. Once again we encounter the Archivist as Monster theme, one of the predominant fictional representations of archivists and manuscript curators.

His nemesis, FBI agent Clarice Starling, with whom Hannibal formed a psychological bond, makes use of old files and records twice. The first is in Chapter 11 where she returns to the defunct and abandoned Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. There she finds in the basement

Filing cabinets, all right. In the center of the corridor all the way down, dull olive in her flashlight beam. (p. 77)

After examining Dr. Lecter's former cell, she systematically searches the bank of cabinets for what she hopes will be a piece of evidence to assist the FBI's search.

There were about eight feet of filing cabinets, four cabinets in all, chin-high. Each had five drawers, secured by a single four-pin lock beside the top drawer. None of them was locked. All were full of files, some of them fat, all of them in folders. Old marbleized paper folders gone limp with time, and newer ones in manila folders. The files on the health of dead men, dating back to the hospital's opening in 1932. They were roughly alphabetical, with some material piled flat behind the folders in the long drawers. (p. 79)

In Chapter 21 we get our first detailed description of Dr. Lecter's cover identity as Dr. Fell in the Capponi Library of the Palazzo Capponi, Florence, Italy.

In the library, this unique collection of manuscripts and correspondence going back to the early thirteenth century, he can induldge a certain curiosity about himself.
Dr. Lecter believed, from fragmentary family records, that he was descended from a certain Giuliano Bevisangue, a fearsome twelfth-century figure in Tuscany, and from the Machiavelli as well as the Visconti. This was the ideal place for research. (p. 136)
Now we can see Dr. Lecter seated at a sixteenth-century refectory table in the Capponi Library. Behind him is a wall of pigeonholed manuscripts and great canvas-covered ledgers going back eight hundred years. A fourteenth-century correspondence with a minister of the Republic of Venice is stacked before him, weighted with a small casting Michelangelo did as a study for his horned Moses, and in front of the inkstand, a laptop computer with on-line research capability through the University of Milan.

By contrast and comparison, we later find Agent Starling amidst her own Dr. Lecter archives which she liberated by court order from its custodial home

Almost at once she found a trove of useful personal material at the Columbia College of Criminal Justice Library, where they maintained a Hannibal Lecter Room. The college had original papers from his medical and psychiatric practices and transcripts of his trial and the civil actions against him. On her first visit to the library Starling waited forty-five minutes while custodians hunted for the keys to the Lecter room without success. On the second occasion, she found an indifferent graduate student in charge, and the material uncatalogued. (p. 258-59)

Dr. Lecter's own records and evidentiary traces (mostly false credit card purchases) as he moves from place to place form his and, ultimately, Starling's undoing.

Feature Film Release Date: 2001

Anthony Hopkins reprises his role as the utterly evil Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

  1. Fictional World of Archives Discussion Board.
  2. Dustjacket of HannibalRead more about and purchase Hannibal via Amazon.com.
  3. The Internet Movie Database

CONTENTS: The Fictional World of Archives

Submitted by David Mattison, 2000.03.22. Updated 2001.03.08.