Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance

Ross King. Atlantic Monthly, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5852-9
Art historian King (Brunelleschi’s Dome) delivers a richly detailed portrait of 15th-century Florence and the important role booksellers played in disseminating ancient Greek and Latin texts that were vital to the Renaissance. King focuses on Vespasiano da Bisticci, a renowned bookseller and “manuscript hunter” who produced gorgeously illustrated parchment copies of theological texts and works by Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers. Like many Florentines, Vespasiano had to balance his relationships with the city-state’s most prominent families carefully; in one case, his stellar reputation resulted in a brief wartime truce between his patrons Lorenzo de’ Medici and the King of Urbino so that a specially commissioned Bible could reach the king safely. When the success of the Gutenberg printing press reduced interest in parchment booksellers, Vespasiano used his retirement to write a humanizing biographical series on his famous friends and patrons, including Cosimo de’ Medici. King’s expansive narrative also includes a history of bookmaking and the transition between “modern” Gothic calligraphy and the new “ancient” method designed to mimic the cleaner style found in classical works. Though somewhat hampered by a lack of available information about Vespasiano’s personal life, this expert account shines a new light on the Renaissance. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/07/2021
Release date: 04/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 496 pages - 978-0-385-69297-7
Open Ebook - 978-0-8021-5853-6
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