Physical Description: 101.7 linear feet, 22 flat file
Scope and Content Note
Matteo Della Corte was born on 13 October 1875 in Cava de Tirreni, Italy. In 1895 he
entered the Università di Napoli to pursue a law degree, which he completed in 1901. In
the same year, Della Corte took the examination for entry into the archaeological
service at Pompeii, and began work there in March 1902. Shortly after this appointment,
Della Corte reentered the Università di Napoli to pursue a second degree more
appropriate for his service at Pompeii, a degree in archaeology, which he completed in
Della Corte spent his entire career at Pompeii. As an administrator, he successively
held the ranks of Inspector (1909-1923), Chief Inspector (1923-1926) and Director
(1926-1942). Della Corte was an epigraphist with a special interest in graffiti. In the
early part of the 20th century, Della Corte was virtually the only scholar studying
inscriptions at Pompeii. His key contribution was an attempt to combine epigraphy and
archaeology to create a prosopography of Pompeii. He was also the prolific author of
over 220 publications, yet today his work is heavily criticized for methodological
Della Corte's career was marked by a series of conflicts with colleagues and his
superiors in the Soprintendenza in Naples. The reasons for these conflicts range from
his generally difficult and argumentative personality to his repeated disregard for the
Soprintendenza's hierarchy and directives. As early as 1904, officials in Naples were
asking for his removal. Della Corte also made enemies due to his enthusiastic embrace of
Fascism, which led him to compile reports on colleagues who did not share his political
views. In 1942, Della Corte was forced to retire from his administrative post, but he
was quickly rehired in a token position in order to allow him to carry on his epigraphic
work. He continued to document inscriptions at Pompeii and prepare his publications
until his death on 5 February 1962.
Halsted Vander Poel met Della Corte in the late 1950s and befriended the elderly
archaeologist. He acquired Della Corte's personal library and papers after his death.
Vander Poel preserved Della Corte's original material and made additions to the papers.
He commissioned very brief summaries of most items, as well as typescript copies,
translations into English, indices and photocopies. He also added his own notes and
memorials to Della Corte. This series holds the bulk of Della Corte's material kept
together by Vander Poel, but other material is dispersed throughout the collection.
Much of the material presented in this series lacks a specific date and individual
items are therefore marked as undated. However, for Della Corte's own material a date
within the range from circa 1895 to 1962 can be assumed. Vander Poel's additions, when
lacking a specific date, can be dated in the general range from circa 1962 to 1997.
The Matteo Della Corte papers present certain difficulties for the researcher. Della
Corte routinely reused paper, often making it difficult to place items in discrete
categories. The recto and verso of a sheet of paper will have been used for different
purposes, often more than once. Vander Poel was able to identify instances where Della
Corte had reused the same sheet of paper five times over a span of twenty years. The
container list below documents the most significant, identifiable material on such
reused sheets. Also, the Pompeii house numbering given in the container lists is that
used by Della Corte. The numbering for many of these houses has subsequently
The Matteo Della Corte papers are arranged in six subseries by type of material.