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

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

by Ross King
The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance

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

by Ross King


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The Renaissance in Florence conjures images of beautiful frescoes and elegant buildings—the dazzling handiwork of the city’s skilled artists and architects. But equally important for the centuries to follow were geniuses of a different sort: Florence’s manuscript hunters, scribes, scholars, and booksellers, who blew the dust off a thousand years of history and, through the discovery and diffusion of ancient knowledge, imagined a new and enlightened world.

At the heart of this activity, which bestselling author Ross King relates in his exhilarating new book, was a remarkable man: Vespasiano da Bisticci. Born in 1422, he became what a friend called “the king of the world’s booksellers.” At a time when all books were made by hand, over four decades Vespasiano produced and sold many hundreds of volumes from his bookshop, which also became a gathering spot for debate and discussion. Besides repositories of ancient wisdom by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, and Quintilian, his books were works of art in their own right, copied by talented scribes and illuminated by the finest miniaturists. His clients included a roll-call of popes, kings, and princes across Europe who wished to burnish their reputations by founding magnificent libraries.

Vespasiano reached the summit of his powers as Europe’s most prolific merchant of knowledge when a new invention appeared: the printed book. By 1480, the king of the world’s booksellers was swept away by this epic technological disruption, whereby cheaply produced books reached readers who never could have afforded one of Vespasiano’s elegant manuscripts.

A thrilling chronicle of intellectual ferment set against the dramatic political and religious turmoil of the era, Ross King’s brilliant The Bookseller of Florence is also an ode to books and bookmaking that charts the world-changing shift from script to print through the life of an extraordinary man long lost to history—one of the true titans of the Renaissance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802158529
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 04/13/2021
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 261,725
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Ross King is the award-winning and bestselling author of Brunelleschi’s Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, The Judgment of Paris, Mad Enchantment, Leonardo and the Last Supper, and Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, among other books. He and his wife live in Woodstock, Great Britain.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Street of Booksellers 1

Chapter 2 The Pure Radiance of the Past 13

Chapter 3 Wondrous Treasures 32

Chapter 4 Athens on the Arno 40

Chapter 5 Wise Men from the East 59

Chapter 6 Vespasiano Mangiadore 79

Chapter 7 Antique Letters 99

Chapter 8 Friends in High Places 115

Chapter 9 The Fall of Greece 129

Chapter 10 The Miraculous Man 140

Chapter 11 The Decades of the King 156

Chapter 12 A Destiny of Dignity and Excellence 172

Chapter 13 The Spirit of Plato 184

Chapter 14 Uomini da Bene e Letterati 199

Chapter 15 Hermes the Thrice-Greatest 211

Chapter 16 A Divine Way of Writing 220

Chapter 17 The Finest Library Since Antiquity 231

Chapter 18 The Second Coming 248

Chapter 19 Florentinis Ingeniis Nil Ardui Est 266

Chapter 20 For the Advantage of All Scholars 278

Chapter 21 Apud Sanctum Iacobum de Ripoli 289

Chapter 22 A Reversal of Fortune 301

Chapter 23 How the Mighty Are Fallen 317

Chapter 24 The Land of Oblivion 326

Chapter 25 Lament for Otranto 345

Chapter 26 Pardon and Deliver Us 359

Chapter 27 The Grand Conjunction 368

Epilogue: Chasing Away the Darkness 387

Acknowledgments 401

Image Credits 405

Selected Bibliography 407

Notes 411

Index 453

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