Worldly Goods

Lisa Jardine, Author Nan A. Talese $32.5 (496p) ISBN 978-0-385-47684-3
Arguing that acquisitiveness ranked among the chief traits of leading Renaissance figures, Jardine (Erasmus, Man of Letters), a noted British academic, seeks to reinterpret the forces at work in an era traditionally defined in terms of the triumph of humanism. Writing with critical intelligence and authority, Jardine characterizes the artistic masterpieces of the period as ""strictly commercial"" undertakings designed to glorify their owners while doubling as convertible capital. Extravagant expenditures on conspicuous display in the interest of dynasty-building drew the Habsburg emperor Maximilian so deeply into debt to Jakob Fugger, the prominent German financier, that Maximilian was forced to cede long-term rights in the profits from his silver and copper mines in exchange for further loans. The struggle to control the globe led to intrigue at the highest levels-both Columbus and Magellan took advantage of stolen maps for their landmark voyages-and Jardine's examination of exploration and commerce provides a window onto the times. Her extended discussion of the rapidly emerging book trade highlights the role of financiers such as the Medicis, the Pope's main bankers, whose keen interest in profits led them to ensure that even books proscribed by the Church remained in circulation. By analyzing the Renaissance narrowly in terms of the ascendancy of modern mercantile capitalism, Jardine likens the period to our own. The risk of such an approach is to slight the hold of antiquity on the shapers of our modern world. Author tour. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1996
Release date: 11/01/1996
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 470 pages - 978-0-393-31866-1
Paperback - 481 pages - 978-0-333-67446-8
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