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Ex-Libris

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2005

    17th-century books as plunder and as weapons

    London is a city of coal cinders and rat droppings -- at the first level this is a gritty, detailed evocation of everyday urban life in the 1660s by a remarkably young author. At a second it's a pleasingly intelligent bibliothriller, exploring not only the period's book trade but also the value and power of the private libraries of royals and the nobility both as prizes to plunder and as ideological weapons to deploy in the wars of religion. This was an era when there were not yet so many books that a highly educated person could not at least aspire to read more or less universally. On yet another plane Ex-Libris looks at the emergence of first tender shoots of modern science from the compost of alchemy, astrology and even more mystical influences. Cartography and navigation of the seas figure prominently. Finally it delves the ongoing ideological struggle between spritual and secular ways of seeking knowledge, as the Catholic Church labors to suppress the ideas of Copernicus, Galileo and others. A thoughful reader may well ponder whether we have progressed very far since the seventeenth century.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Superb historical fiction

    In 1660, Lady Marchamont petitions London bookseller Isaac Inchbold proprietor of Nonsuch Books to visit her in Dorsetshire. Since Isaac never leaves London and is such a creature of habit, anyone who knows him is stunned when he decides to travel to the countryside. Yet the strange note sends an intrigued Isaac journeying to Pontifex Hall. <P>Lady Marchamont hires Isaac to restore her library to its former glory before looters ransacked it during the civil war. In particular, she wants the bookworm to locate an antiquated heretical tome, ¿The Labyrinth of the World¿ identified by her murdered father in his EX-LIBRIS. Intrigued not only by the immense fee, Isaac begins a quest that places his life in danger. <P>EX-LIBRIS is a superb historical thriller that grips the readers with its in depth look at seventeenth century Europe. Even more interesting is the clever historiographical look by the 1660 Isaac back to the Civil War. The story line is fast-paced as Isaac tells his tale in the first person so that the audience completely understands him as a likable chap whose simple existence turns frustrating with troubles. More novels like this one will lead to Ross King ruling the genre. <P>Harriet Klausner

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