The Renaissance Books

The Renaissance Books

Guardians of Republicanism analyses the political and intellectual history of Renaissance Florence-republican and princely-by focusing on five generations of the Valori family, each of which played a dynamic role in the city's political and cultural life. The Valori were early and influential supporters of the Medici family, but were also crucial participants in the city's periodic republican revivals throughout the Renaissance. Mark Jurdjevic examines their political struggles and conflicts against the larger backdrop of their patronage and support of the Neoplatonic philosopher Marsilio Ficino, the radical Dominican prophet Girolamo Savonarola, and Niccolo Machiavelli, the premier political philosopher of the Italian Renaissance. Each of these three quintessential Renaissance reformers and philosophers relied heavily on the patronage of the Valori, who evolved an innovative republicanism based on a hybrid fusion of the classical and Christian languages of Florentine communal politics. Jurdjevic's study thus illuminates how intellectual forces-humanist, republican, and Machiavellian-intersected and directed the politics and culture of the Florentine Renaissance.


The Evolution of the Book in Medieval and Renaissance Society

The Renaissance, which spanned from the 1400s until the 1600s, along with being an unprecedented leap forward in arts and intellectualism, was a time of great literary advancement. There were numerous ways in which the processes of writing, printing, and thinking were profoundly changed during this time of academic and artistic flourishing. Scientific and literary advancements helped usher in a new period of enlightenment. Highlighting the most important changes in Renaissance and Medieval society, we hope that the following serves a comprehensive list of how the written word evolved during this time of cultural explosion.

Key Dates
382- Vulgate Bible: Biblical texts that were translated to Latin

1400s- literature was published in folios and quartos

1410- Statue “Ex officio” declared that books must not contradict the Holy Church

1473- Caxton printing The History of Troy in Germany, the first book printed book to exist in England

1476- The first printing was done in England

1538- Licensing of books began

1525- Bible was translated into English as a result of the Reformation

1557- Geneva Bible was published

Manuscripts and Censorship
Before the invention of the printing press, the work that went into making a book was considerably more strenuous. In order to begin the writing process, ink had to be mixed by hand. The pages for books were also hand-made from animal hides and sewn together. Artists often embellished manuscripts with illustrations, carvings, or jewels, and these books were “treasured as works of art” throughout the fifteenth century (The Department of Medieval Art). These artists were called illuminators, and some of the most prestigious were the Limbourg brothers who impressively “combined elegant, sinuous figure, decrotive color, and selective realism in pictoral details” (Jones, Department of Art). Phillip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy had a taste for expensive illuminated manuscript and housed an extensive library that held a thousand titles at the time of his death (Jones, Department of Art).


The Art of Illumination. Thomas P. Campbell (Director) and Timothy B. Husband (Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters) discuss Herman, Paul, and Jean Limbourg’s Belles Heures of Jean of France, Duc of Berry (54.1.1) (2010). Literature was written by hand by authors and poets into manuscripts that circulated among readers, who would would then copy down the poems and stories they particularly liked and incorporate them into anthologies. Early bookmakers were often monks who kept libraries filled with religious works. By the twelfth century, the Renaissance, “an urban bookseller coordinated the various stages of production” (The Department of Medieval Art). This bookseller was called a librarie . Writers sold their manuscripts for very low prices. There were also no copyright laws, and writers were not paid for the sales of their books therefore it was difficult to make a living as a writer. St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was the center of business for books publishers posted title pages of new books as advertisements. (Norton 547). Though the popularity of the printed book was escalating, some rulers and aristocrats preferred to continue commissioning “books of hours for private devotion” (Jones, Department of Art) As Universities emerged in Europe, single-volume bibles, books of law, and other works that left wide margins for notes and commentary were in high demand (The Department of Medieval Art). The control and censorship of books was poorly organized, though licensing efforts had been put forth since 1538. (Norton 547). Prior to 1538, the Act of Parliment of 1410 known as Statue “Ex officio” decreed that all books must not be written “contrary to the Catholic faith and the determination of the Holy Church” (qtd. in Reed 158). Constitution VI censored books read at Universities at the discretion of the Archbishop, and Constitution VII made it illegal to translate Scriptures like John Wyclif attempted to (Reed 159). In 1557 the Stationer’s Company was put in charge of licensing books, and two years later government declared that the stationers only license books that had been approved by six privy counselors, or the archbishop of Canterbury as well as the bishop of London (Norton 457). However, books that were not approved were still circulating with only few displays of punishments. Censors were focused on works of history with political undertones that could badly affect the present, and religious treatises these works often reflected public opinion (Norton 458).

The English Bible
When speaking of the evolution of the book during the Medieval and Renaissance time periods, it is vital to discuss the evolution of the English Bible because religion and religious upheaval is often seen as characteristic of the two times periods. This holy text is a central part of the history and evolution of English society during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The English Bible was, of course, not always produced in the vernacular. During the Medieval time period, Christians used a Latin bible called the Vulgate Bible. The Vulgate was the primary Christian text of Western Europe and came about in 382 when Pope Damasus asked Saint Jerome to translate biblical texts from Greek and Hebrew to Latin. The purpose of the translation was to create a standard version as opposed to the inconsistent versions produced during the early Christian period (“Life and Legacy”). Because the Bible was in Latin as opposed to the vernacular, priests, art and music, and religious ceremonies were responsible for helping laypeople understand the teachings of the Church during the Medieval time period (Norton 538).

However, not all scholars agreed with the Vulgate. In England, The teachings of John Wycliffe (c. 1320-84) resulted in a movement for general access of a bible in the vernacular. Wycliffe and his followers, the Lollards, believed that the Bible contained truths that should guide government and that all people should be able to read the Bible in the language they speak. These ideals provided great controversy during this time. In his book about the evolution of the Bible, H. W. Hoare states that during the Middle Ages “the dethronement of the official Latin Bible by a vernacular version would have seemed to be an insidious attack on the authority and catholicity of the West” (27). During the 1380’s, the Lollards produced a New Testament that was translated from the Vulgate into English. Authorities saw this as heresy, and, as a result, the Archbishop of Canterbury prohibited the reading and translation of the Vulgate into English. As Hoare writes, “It was not the open Bible towards which the England of the monks naturally inclined. Medieval asked not for a book but for religion externalised in an institution. The age was not of reflection but of faithful and undiscriminating obedience” (30). Therefore, the English Bible was put away for another 130 years until the idea was once more ignited during the Reniassance (“Life and Legacy”).

In 1517 Germany, Martin Luther went against the ancient rule of the Catholic Church by arguing that readings of Scripture should be a private and individual experience. He argued for the importance of private conscience. By believing that secular authority was corrupt, Luther argued that Salvation “depended on […] enabling all of the people to regain direct access to the word of God by vernacular translation of the Bible” (Norton 538). The resulting schism in Western Christianity is known as the Reformation and is a major part of the Renaissance time period. The Reformation also marks an important turn in the evolution of a vernacular version of the Bible. Luther inspired Englishman William Tyndale to translate the Bible into English during 1525. Because Tyndale’s idea was not approved by the religious authorities of England, he moved to Germany and translated the New Testament from Greek into English (“Life and Legacy”). His version of the New Testament wa

The Geneva Bible, a 1560 edition

s smuggled into England. Eventually, Tyndale moved to Antwerp where he was charged with heresy. Many banned books were being produced in Antwerp when he moved there. In 1536, Tyndale was executed.

However, a new era of the English Bible came about when Henry VIII allowed vernacular translations of the Bible in 1538. He believed that an English Bible would be politically important for the new Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury endorsed the Great Bible, which appeared in 1539 and was a vernacular translation of the Bible based on Tyndale’s work (“Life and Legacy”). Over the years, many competing bibles were published, such as the Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible was published in 1557 and 1560 as a result of a group of Protestants fleeing England when Catholicism was reinstated as the Church of England during the reign of Mary I. Eventually, the King James Bible was produced towards the end of the Renaissance between 1608 and 1610 as an effort to reform the tension between the Puritans and the Church of England. While Shakespeare and The King James Bible are accredited as helping define modern English, this version of the Bible took decades to gain popularity, however, because most people still preferred to use the Geneva Bible (“Life and Legacy”).

The evolution of the English Bible during the Medieval and Renaissance Ages is a complicated history. However, the shift from the Vulgate Bible to the English Bible shows how English society greatly influenced the evolution of the book in general.

Structure of Literary Works: Quartos and Folios

Between the 1400s and the 1600s works of literature were published in quartos and folios. The structure of how literary works was published is revealing of the contents of the literary works. “The format in which works of literature were usually published is also telling. We normally find plays and poetry in quartos (or octavos), small volumes which had four(or eight) pages printed on each side of a sheet which was then folded twice (or three times) and stitched together with other such folded sheets to form the book. The more imposing folio format (in which the paper was folded only once, at two pages per side of a sheet) tended to be reserved not just for longer works but for those regarded as meriting especially respectful treatment” (Norton 548). For example, Raphael Holinshed’s history The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande was published as “two volumes containing 2835 small folio pages” (“Chronicles”).

Despite the prominence and esteem of folios they were in fact a later development in the publishing industry than quartos. Shakespeare published fifteen of his thirty seven plays in quartos before his works were published in the folio of 1623 (Lounsbury 53). Shakespeare’s plays were published in four separate folios (“William Pyle Phillips”). Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet were both published in quartos but were soon after drastically changed in new editions, “Between the text seen as a quarto and that of the same play in the folio there were frequently wide discrepancies. Passages found in one would not be found in the other.” (Lounsbury 55).

Below is a photograph of William Shakespeare’s first folio (“William Pyle Phillips”).

Shakespeare’s First Folio, published in 1623 (William Pyle Phillips Collection).

The Printing Press
Circulation of these religious texts and folios was made possible because of the development of the printing press. Before the invention, readers created personal anthologies by reproducing manuscripts by hand (Norton 547). The rewriting process was both tedious and risky texts could easily lose their authenticity and be altered. The printing press did not solve all of the difficulties in the book industry because the technology was new and errors were made, but it was the first step in increasing readership and establishing writers. The invention of the printing press transformed society by making information and literature more available. “Printing made books cheaper and more plentiful,” therefore enabling individuals to be well-read (Norton 534). However, it took time for the printing press to develop the book industry and distribute texts throughout society.

William Caxton was determined to learn the art of printing so that he could sell books in English to the English nobility. The first book that Caxton printed was his translation of The History of Troy, which was finished in 1473 or 1474. Not only was this the first printed book to be in circulation in England, but it was also the first book printed in English. At this point, Caxton was still in Cologne, Germany. It was not until 1476 that Caxton printed the first text in England, an indulgence (“Printing in England from Caxton to Barker”). This is a reflection of how Caxton printed what was in demand and what the people in power wanted. Even though he tended to cater to society’s demands, he was still a prominent figure of the time period, making “England the first place commonly to print books in its own language” (First Impressions). Until Caxton’s death in 1491, he printed over 100 books (“Printing in England from Caxton to Barker”).

The printer’s device of William Caxton

Once Caxton established the printing press in England, writers began to sell their manuscripts to the printer for a low price (Norton 547). Unlike today, these printers legally owned the texts that they printed (Norton 1354). However, the printers were not the only ones that created the books. After the work on the printing press was done, the book in progress was sent to specialists, who worked to emphasize certain aspects of the pages. Illuminators inserted formal initials, and rubricators added text by hand in red. Furthermore, the books were intentionally made to look like manuscripts, with intricate type faces that appeared like handwriting (First Impressions). The process was time consuming and involved numerous contributors, yet the printers were the ones who literally marked the printed books with their name.

Renaissance Humanism
Humanism, as an umbrella term, is any beliefs, methods, or philosophies that have a central emphasis on humans. In the scope of the Renaissance, humanism was a educational, social, and philosophical movement that began in Italy and was brought to western Europe and England by government officials and prominent thinkers. Prominent Italian humanists include Petrarch, Coluccio Salutati and Poggio Bracciolini, all of whom had notability and power in the Italian sociopolitical landscape. These Italian humanists collected antique texts and based their philosophy on intellectual advancement through rigorous study in subjects they considered vital. These subjects, now known fittingly as the “humanities” included history, poetry, grammar, rhetoric and moral philosophy. After humanism had been successfully implemented and accepted in upper-class Italian societies, it moved even more rapidly to the rest of Europe.

Henry VIII’s reign gave an unprecedented period of stability that allowed England to have its own renaissance and a quickly progressive humanist movement. The humanist movement was aimed mostly at young men from wealthy families, and its focus was to teach them subjects thought to best prepare them for public service. English humanists had a particular focus on teaching citizens how to communicate intellectually and effectively with each other, which would allow them to be integral parts of an informed society. With a particular focus on Latin, which was widely considered the language of diplomacy and higher learning, humanists sought to use classic literature and ideas to better educate and improve their pupils. As this movement progressed, humanist thinkers had to decide whether they would write their own works in Latin, the highly revered academic language, or English, the common language. They ultimately decided on English, as it was gaining nationalist support as the accepted vernacular and became a point of pride for the nation. This acceptance of English, combined with the humanist movement, led to the translation of many exalted works from other languages to English.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, humanism was an remarkably progressive intellectual movement that was implemented first in Italy and quickly spread across the rest of Europe. It stressed intellectual advancement for the sake of civic duty, as well as the flourishing of an informed and accountable public. This method of education and set of ideals was key for the rapid success of the English renaissance, and helped usher in a new era of intelligence and advancement for the entirety of Europe.

No citations in this section.

The Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters. “The Art of the Book in The Middle Ages.” Metmuseum.org. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. Web. 2012. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/book/hd_book.htm>.

First Impressions. The John Rylands University Library, 2011. Web. 27 November 2012.

“Haverford College: Library : Special Collections : Collections : Rare Books and Manuscripts : William Philips Pyle Collection.” Haverford College: Library : Special Collections : Collections : Rare Books and Manuscripts : William Philips Pyle Collection. Haverford College, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.haverford.edu/library/special/collections/rare_books_and_manuscripts/philips.php>.

Hoare, H.W. The Evolution of the Bible. Albany: Ages Digital Library, 1997. PDF e-book. <http:media.sabda.org/alkitab-8/LIBRARY/HOR_EVBI.PDF>

“Introduction.” The Norton Anthology English Literature: The Sixteenth Century/The Early Seventeenth Century. Ed. Julia Reidhead and Carly F. Doria. 9th ed. Vol. B. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. Print.

Jones, Susan. “Manuscript Illumination in Northern Europe.” Metmuseum.org. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. Web. 2012. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/manu/hd_manu.htm>.

Kewes, Paulina, Dr., Ian Archer, Dr., Felicity Heal, Dr., and Henry Summerson, Dr. “The Making of the Chronicles.” The Holinshed Project. N.p., Oct. 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cems.ox.ac.uk/holinshed/chronicles.shtml>.

The Life and Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 years. Brigham Young University, 2011. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.
<http://lib.byu.edu/exhibits/kingjamesbible/>.

“Printing in England from William Caxton to Christopher Barker.” University of Glasgow Special Collections, n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. <http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/printing/index.html>.

Reed, Arthur W. “The Regulation of the Book Trade before the Proclamation of 1538.” The Library (1917): 157-84. Print.

Thomas P. Campbell (Director) and Timothy B. Husband (Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters) discuss Herman, Paul, and Jean Limbourg’s Belles Heures of Jean of France, Duc of Berry(54.1.1) (2010).

“William Shakespeare’s First Folio” “Haverford College: Library : Special Collections : Collections : Rare Books and Manuscripts : William Philips Pyle Collection.” Haverford College: Library : Special Collections : Collections : Rare Books and Manuscripts : William Philips Pyle Collection. Haverford College, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.haverford.edu/library/special/collections/rare_books_and_manuscripts/philips.php>.

The Art of Illumination. Thomas P. Campbell (Director) and Timothy B. Husband (Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters) discuss Herman, Paul, and Jean Limbourg’s Belles Heures of Jean of France, Duc of Berry (54.1.1) (2010).

Literature was written by hand by authors and poets into manuscripts that circulated among readers, who would would then copy down the poems and stories they particularly liked and incorporate them into anthologies. Early bookmakers were often monks who kept libraries filled with religious works. By the twelfth century, the Renaissance, “an urban bookseller coordinated the various stages of production” (The Department of Medieval Art). This bookseller was called a librarie. Writers sold their manuscripts for very low prices. There were also no copyright laws, and writers were not paid for the sales of their books therefore it was difficult to make a living as a writer. St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was the center of business for books publishers posted title pages of new books as advertisements. (Norton 547). Though the popularity of the printed book was escalating, some rulers and aristocrats preferred to continue commissioning “books of hours for private devotion” (Jones, Department of Art) As Universities emerged in Europe, single-volume bibles, books of law, and other works that left wide margins for notes and commentary were in high demand (The Department of Medieval Art).

The control and censorship of books was poorly organized, though licensing efforts had been put forth since 1538. (Norton 547). Prior to 1538, the Act of Parliment of 1410 known as Statue “Ex officio” decreed that all books must not be written “contrary to the Catholic faith and the determination of the Holy Church” (qtd. in Reed 158). Constitution VI censored books read at Universities at the discretion of the Archbishop, and Constitution VII made it illegal to translate Scriptures like John Wyclif attempted to (Reed 159). In 1557 the Stationer’s Company was put in charge of licensing books, and two years later government declared that the stationers only license books that had been approved by six privy counselors, or the archbishop of Canterbury as well as the bishop of London (Norton 457). However, books that were not approved were still circulating with only few displays of punishments. Censors were focused on works of history with political undertones that could badly affect the present, and religious treatises these works often reflected public opinion (Norton 458).

The English Bible
When speaking of the evolution of the book during the Medieval and Renaissance time periods, it is vital to discuss the evolution of the English Bible because religion and religious upheaval is often seen as characteristic of the two times periods. This holy text is a central part of the history and evolution of English society during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The English Bible was, of course, not always produced in the vernacular. During the Medieval time period, Christians used a Latin bible called the Vulgate Bible. The Vulgate was the primary Christian text of Western Europe and came about in 382 when Pope Damasus asked Saint Jerome to translate biblical texts from Greek and Hebrew to Latin. The purpose of the translation was to create a standard version as opposed to the inconsistent versions produced during the early Christian period (“Life and Legacy”). Because the Bible was in Latin as opposed to the vernacular, priests, art and music, and religious ceremonies were responsible for helping laypeople understand the teachings of the Church during the Medieval time period (Norton 538).

However, not all scholars agreed with the Vulgate. In England, The teachings of John Wycliffe (c. 1320-84) resulted in a movement for general access of a bible in the vernacular. Wycliffe and his followers, the Lollards, believed that the Bible contained truths that should guide government and that all people should be able to read the Bible in the language they speak. These ideals provided great controversy during this time. In his book about the evolution of the Bible, H. W. Hoare states that during the Middle Ages “the dethronement of the official Latin Bible by a vernacular version would have seemed to be an insidious attack on the authority and catholicity of the West” (27). During the 1380’s, the Lollards produced a New Testament that was translated from the Vulgate into English. Authorities saw this as heresy, and, as a result, the Archbishop of Canterbury prohibited the reading and translation of the Vulgate into English. As Hoare writes, “It was not the open Bible towards which the England of the monks naturally inclined. Medieval asked not for a book but for religion externalised in an institution. The age was not of reflection but of faithful and undiscriminating obedience” (30). Therefore, the English Bible was put away for another 130 years until the idea was once more ignited during the Reniassance (“Life and Legacy”).

The Geneva Bible, a 1560 edition

In 1517 Germany, Martin Luther went against the ancient rule of the Catholic Church by arguing that readings of Scripture should be a private and individual experience. He argued for the importance of private conscience. By believing that secular authority was corrupt, Luther argued that Salvation “depended on […] enabling all of the people to regain direct access to the word of God by vernacular translation of the Bible” (Norton 538). The resulting schism in Western Christianity is known as the Reformation and is a major part of the Renaissance time period. The Reformation also marks an important turn in the evolution of a vernacular version of the Bible. Luther inspired Englishman William Tyndale to translate the Bible into English during 1525. Because Tyndale’s idea was not approved by the religious authorities of England, he moved to Germany and translated the New Testament from Greek into English (“Life and Legacy”). His version of the New Testament wa

However, a new era of the English Bible came about when Henry VIII allowed vernacular translations of the Bible in 1538. He believed that an English Bible would be politically important for the new Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury endorsed the Great Bible, which appeared in 1539 and was a vernacular translation of the Bible based on Tyndale’s work (“Life and Legacy”). Over the years, many competing bibles were published, such as the Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible was published in 1557 and 1560 as a result of a group of Protestants fleeing England when Catholicism was reinstated as the Church of England during the reign of Mary I. Eventually, the King James Bible was produced towards the end of the Renaissance between 1608 and 1610 as an effort to reform the tension between the Puritans and the Church of England. While Shakespeare and The King James Bible are accredited as helping define modern English, this version of the Bible took decades to gain popularity, however, because most people still preferred to use the Geneva Bible (“Life and Legacy”).s smuggled into England. Eventually, Tyndale moved to Antwerp where he was charged with heresy. Many banned books were being produced in Antwerp when he moved there. In 1536, Tyndale was executed.

The evolution of the English Bible during the Medieval and Renaissance Ages is a complicated history. However, the shift from the Vulgate Bible to the English Bible shows how English society greatly influenced the evolution of the book in general.

Structure of Literary Works: Quartos and Folios

Between the 1400s and the 1600s works of literature were published in quartos and folios. The structure of how literary works was published is revealing of the contents of the literary works. “The format in which works of literature were usually published is also telling. We normally find plays and poetry in quartos (or octavos), small volumes which had four(or eight) pages printed on each side of a sheet which was then folded twice (or three times) and stitched together with other such folded sheets to form the book. The more imposing folio format (in which the paper was folded only once, at two pages per side of a sheet) tended to be reserved not just for longer works but for those regarded as meriting especially respectful treatment” (Norton 548). For example, Raphael Holinshed’s history The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande was published as “two volumes containing 2835 small folio pages” (“Chronicles”).

Despite the prominence and esteem of folios they were in fact a later development in the publishing industry than quartos. Shakespeare published fifteen of his thirty seven plays in quartos before his works were published in the folio of 1623 (Lounsbury 53). Shakespeare’s plays were published in four separate folios (“William Pyle Phillips”). Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet were both published in quartos but were soon after drastically changed in new editions, “Between the text seen as a quarto and that of the same play in the folio there were frequently wide discrepancies. Passages found in one would not be found in the other.” (Lounsbury 55).

Below is a photograph of William Shakespeare’s first folio (“William Pyle Phillips”).

Shakespeare’s First Folio, published in 1623 (William Pyle Phillips Collection).

The Printing Press
Circulation of these religious texts and folios was made possible because of the development of the printing press. Before the invention, readers created personal anthologies by reproducing manuscripts by hand (Norton 547). The rewriting process was both tedious and risky texts could easily lose their authenticity and be altered. The printing press did not solve all of the difficulties in the book industry because the technology was new and errors were made, but it was the first step in increasing readership and establishing writers. The invention of the printing press transformed society by making information and literature more available. “Printing made books cheaper and more plentiful,” therefore enabling individuals to be well-read (Norton 534). However, it took time for the printing press to develop the book industry and distribute texts throughout society.

William Caxton was determined to learn the art of printing so that he could sell books in English to the English nobility. The first book that Caxton printed was his translation of The History of Troy, which was finished in 1473 or 1474. Not only was this the first printed book to be in circulation in England, but it was also the first book printed in English. At this point, Caxton was still in Cologne, Germany. It was not until 1476 that Caxton printed the first text in England, an indulgence (“Printing in England from Caxton to Barker”). This is a reflection of how Caxton printed what was in demand and what the people in power wanted. Even though he tended to cater to society’s demands, he was still a prominent figure of the time period, making “England the first place commonly to print books in its own language” (First Impressions). Until Caxton’s death in 1491, he printed over 100 books (“Printing in England from Caxton to Barker”).

The printer’s device of William Caxton

Once Caxton established the printing press in England, writers began to sell their manuscripts to the printer for a low price (Norton 547). Unlike today, these printers legally owned the texts that they printed (Norton 1354). However, the printers were not the only ones that created the books. After the work on the printing press was done, the book in progress was sent to specialists, who worked to emphasize certain aspects of the pages. Illuminators inserted formal initials, and rubricators added text by hand in red. Furthermore, the books were intentionally made to look like manuscripts, with intricate type faces that appeared like handwriting (First Impressions). The process was time consuming and involved numerous contributors, yet the printers were the ones who literally marked the printed books with their name.

Renaissance Humanism
Humanism, as an umbrella term, is any beliefs, methods, or philosophies that have a central emphasis on humans. In the scope of the Renaissance, humanism was a educational, social, and philosophical movement that began in Italy and was brought to western Europe and England by government officials and prominent thinkers. Prominent Italian humanists include Petrarch, Coluccio Salutati and Poggio Bracciolini, all of whom had notability and power in the Italian sociopolitical landscape. These Italian humanists collected antique texts and based their philosophy on intellectual advancement through rigorous study in subjects they considered vital. These subjects, now known fittingly as the “humanities” included history, poetry, grammar, rhetoric and moral philosophy. After humanism had been successfully implemented and accepted in upper-class Italian societies, it moved even more rapidly to the rest of Europe.

Henry VIII’s reign gave an unprecedented period of stability that allowed England to have its own renaissance and a quickly progressive humanist movement. The humanist movement was aimed mostly at young men from wealthy families, and its focus was to teach them subjects thought to best prepare them for public service. English humanists had a particular focus on teaching citizens how to communicate intellectually and effectively with each other, which would allow them to be integral parts of an informed society. With a particular focus on Latin, which was widely considered the language of diplomacy and higher learning, humanists sought to use classic literature and ideas to better educate and improve their pupils. As this movement progressed, humanist thinkers had to decide whether they would write their own works in Latin, the highly revered academic language, or English, the common language. They ultimately decided on English, as it was gaining nationalist support as the accepted vernacular and became a point of pride for the nation. This acceptance of English, combined with the humanist movement, led to the translation of many exalted works from other languages to English.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, humanism was an remarkably progressive intellectual movement that was implemented first in Italy and quickly spread across the rest of Europe. It stressed intellectual advancement for the sake of civic duty, as well as the flourishing of an informed and accountable public. This method of education and set of ideals was key for the rapid success of the English renaissance, and helped usher in a new era of intelligence and advancement for the entirety of Europe.

No citations in this section.

The Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters. “The Art of the Book in The Middle Ages.” Metmuseum.org. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. Web. 2012. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/book/hd_book.htm>.

First Impressions. The John Rylands University Library, 2011. Web. 27 November 2012.

“Haverford College: Library : Special Collections : Collections : Rare Books and Manuscripts : William Philips Pyle Collection.” Haverford College: Library : Special Collections : Collections : Rare Books and Manuscripts : William Philips Pyle Collection. Haverford College, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.haverford.edu/library/special/collections/rare_books_and_manuscripts/philips.php>.

Hoare, H.W. The Evolution of the Bible. Albany: Ages Digital Library, 1997. PDF e-book. <http:media.sabda.org/alkitab-8/LIBRARY/HOR_EVBI.PDF>

“Introduction.” The Norton Anthology English Literature: The Sixteenth Century/The Early Seventeenth Century. Ed. Julia Reidhead and Carly F. Doria. 9th ed. Vol. B. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. Print.

Jones, Susan. “Manuscript Illumination in Northern Europe.” Metmuseum.org. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. Web. 2012. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/manu/hd_manu.htm>.

Kewes, Paulina, Dr., Ian Archer, Dr., Felicity Heal, Dr., and Henry Summerson, Dr. “The Making of the Chronicles.” The Holinshed Project. N.p., Oct. 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cems.ox.ac.uk/holinshed/chronicles.shtml>.

The Life and Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 years. Brigham Young University, 2011. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.
<http://lib.byu.edu/exhibits/kingjamesbible/>.

“Printing in England from William Caxton to Christopher Barker.” University of Glasgow Special Collections, n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. <http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/printing/index.html>.

Reed, Arthur W. “The Regulation of the Book Trade before the Proclamation of 1538.” The Library (1917): 157-84. Print.

Thomas P. Campbell (Director) and Timothy B. Husband (Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters) discuss Herman, Paul, and Jean Limbourg’s Belles Heures of Jean of France, Duc of Berry(54.1.1) (2010).


1 The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

You’ve chosen books written during the Italian Renaissance. Would these authors have referred to it as ‘the Renaissance’ themselves? Did they feel there was something special in the air?

All of these books are written at approximately the same time they date from the first decades of the 16th century. The last to die were Cellini and Vasari, who died at almost the same time. They would have been perfectly aware of being in the Renaissance. The term is first used by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists. He talks about the ‘rinascita’—the rebirth—of culture and learning. It’s a recovery of antiquity and the application of those principles to art in his own time. He rejects the Middle Ages as a ‘Gothic’ period, a term of opprobrium pertaining to the Goths that destroyed the Roman Empire.

They were very aware that they were living in a new age, one of energy and rediscovery and one in which the new principles of beauty and understanding, the complexity of human nature and the possibility of human agency, were all very visible.

There’s also a lot of politics going on—including the sack of Rome with the Pope having to hide in Castel Sant’Angelo. Could you set the scene a bit, in terms of the history?

The golden age of the Italian Renaissance was the 15th century. If you think of Florence, we think of the regime of Lorenzo de’Medici—‘il Magnifico’—who came to power with the death of his father, in 1469. He died in 1492. This was a period of efflorescence of Italian scholarship, of learning, the development of a style of art that reproduced what the eye sees—rather than relying on symbolic iconography—and of classical archaeology and architecture with the recovery of Vitruvius.

One reason there was this explosion of culture was a period of relative peace after 1454. The five major Italian states did a deal recognising spheres of influence and the amount warfare was reduced.

“Beginning in 1494, Italy became the battleground of Europe”

But then it all came tumbling down. In 1494, Charles VIII of France invaded Italy to claim the throne of Naples. That destroyed the Italian state system. It also began the intervention of northern European monarchies into Italy. The Italians—who fought wars with professional mercenaries—couldn’t stand up to the enormous feudal levies of France.

Beginning in 1494, Italy became the battleground of Europe. Not only did France have claims to Naples and Milan, but so did the Spaniards. Then, later, when Charles V of Hapsburg inherited the crown of Spain in 1516, so did the Hapsburgs. So the hegemony of Europe, between the Hapsburgs and the Valois in France, really took place fighting over Italy. That was the proxy war of control of the continent. Italy suffered terribly.

Then came the Protestant Reformation of 1517 with Luther. That then disrupted the universality of the Church. It also divided the church, in terms of jurisdiction and revenue.

And the Church began to fight back. It was in that element of fighting back that many of the things that had characterised the Italian Renaissance were suppressed. There was the creation of the Roman Inquisition in 1542, and then the Index of Prohibited Books in 1559, which meant you couldn’t have that exploration of the human condition with very few restrictions anymore.

“They were very aware that they were living in a new age—one of energy and rediscovery and one in which the new principles of beauty and understanding, the complexity of human nature and the possibility of human agency, were all very visible”

So we can really see the Italian Renaissance reaching a point of splendour at the end of the 15th century.

There are powerful memories of that subsequently—and that’s the period of the books that I’ve chosen, partly to see how authors who wrote about politics and culture responded to an age of crisis. How do cultural leaders and thinkers respond to the dissolution of their world? And, for others, how does this concept of human agency and the great individual allow the sense of chaos to permit this great individual to rise?

That’s one of the reasons that I choose Benvenuto Cellini. Not only was he one of history’s great liars but he also really created the model of the artist as somewhat outside the rules of society. Society was dissolving and the rules that were there could not restrain his genius. So he got into all kinds of trouble—murdering people, stealing, having a large number of mistresses and illegitimate children and all of the things that we associate with la vie bohème, in the first decades of the 16th century.


The Renaissance: A Short History

Johnson has focused on short, digestible books in his twilight years - a far cry from his former epics such as Birth of the Modern and Modern Times. By his own admission, this is in large part a response to the death of that middle-ground of historical writing that was once occupied by serious-yet-popular histories. These newer, slimmer volumes are Johnson&aposs attempt to appeal to audiences that lack the interest to tackle a mighty tome, but his sweeping scope is a poor fit.

There are still flashes Johnson has focused on short, digestible books in his twilight years - a far cry from his former epics such as Birth of the Modern and Modern Times. By his own admission, this is in large part a response to the death of that middle-ground of historical writing that was once occupied by serious-yet-popular histories. These newer, slimmer volumes are Johnson's attempt to appeal to audiences that lack the interest to tackle a mighty tome, but his sweeping scope is a poor fit.

There are still flashes of Johnson. His joyous agility with archaic jargon (the background factors of the Renaissance show here and there "like palimpsests"), the thunderbolts that illuminate his positions and opinions, etc.

But it's not up to his former standard. For Johnson fans only. Prospective fans should start with his longer works. . more

The main problem with this book was that it presents the Renaissance less as a historic period (whatever a historic period might be) and more as a series of great men mostly in the arts doing rather impressive arty things.

That is, the Renaissance didn’t end up quite as I would have expected it to.

Now, my view of history is a bit more like James Burke’s in Connections – where history is the creation of jigsaw pieces and great ‘men’ (and I guess in the Renaissance ‘men’ it had to mostly be) are th The main problem with this book was that it presents the Renaissance less as a historic period (whatever a historic period might be) and more as a series of great men mostly in the arts doing rather impressive arty things.

That is, the Renaissance didn’t end up quite as I would have expected it to.

Now, my view of history is a bit more like James Burke’s in Connections – where history is the creation of jigsaw pieces and great ‘men’ (and I guess in the Renaissance ‘men’ it had to mostly be) are those who get all the credit once they are the first to put all the pieces together.

The myth that is presented here is that if a great artist in particular did not exist then the world would be down one great artist. One gaping hole would open up in the aesthetic fabric of the cosmos. There is no Zero-Sum game quite like it. Sure, Galileo was pretty smart, but people would have eventually looked through a telescope to see the moons of Jupiter and even figured out that odd little fact about falling bodies of different weights. He was a genius only by being first, but by necessity his discoveries would have been discovered again. Not so a Titian or a Michelangelo. Artists are of a completely different substance than we mere mortals and they are much like gasps of fresh air when trapped in the septic tank of history. It is all a bit hard to take after a while. Burke’s criticism – that these artists would have been nothing without the technological advances that gave them oil paints and printing and engraving, I think still holds. Anyway, I’m not completely convinced that if there had never been a Titian necessarily means there would not have been someone else. Every successful artist takes away a sequence of opportunities that someone else may have had. If there was no Shakespeare there would have been no Hamlet, I can see that, but there would possibly have still been a theatre on the dangerous side of the river and it would still have needed plays…

I don’t want to take away anything from the greatness of these artists, but over inflating them might only make them into grotesques, rather than the remarkable humans they actually were.

But I digress. What I actually wanted to say was that I didn’t read this book, but listened to it as a talking book and it reminded me of what it would be like if I was watching a really interesting art program on television and suddenly the picture tube on the TV went and all I could get was the sound. It was a real problem as I really have no idea what any of the works discussed in any of these churches look like. I mean, there is not a single image in my head of any of the pictures that adorn the walls of the Our Lady of the Thank You church. So while he was gushing, I was spending my time thinking about the type of language one ends up using when gushing over works of art. I had to do this, as there is only so long that I could say to myself – god, McCandless, you really should find out more about art.

There were some incredibly interesting things said in this book. The most interesting was that artists started creating images of individuals at about the same time as artists started being individuals themselves. That is, when artists started signing their names to their paintings, they also started painting people who were less ‘symbols’ or archetypes and more real people.

Like I said, this would have made a really good documentary with lots of sweeping visuals of canvases and buildings and gardens while this guy gushed. But as a text it left much to be desired – quite literally.

I never thought of the problems associated with making sculptures in bronze (in times of war some idiot will turn your statue into a canon) or in gold (in hard times some once-rich-person will decide they could do with the ready money rather than a figurine). How much priceless art was turned back into base metal is probably best not thought about.

I would have preferred a book that gave a bit more detail on the lives of some of the political figures of the period. I would have liked to come away with a better understanding of the interaction between secular and religious political leadership and the consequences this had on all aspects of life in the Renaissance. But except for quite a short bit on Machiavelli and Dante there was virtually no discussion of politics at all. He did say something very interesting about the fact that the Church was so powerful that it felt unassailable and therefore allowed lots of paintings of pagan things – you know, Greek gods raping women disguised as clouds and such – that would not be allowed during the reformation or counter-reformation – but I would have liked more on this. I would also have liked more on the philosophy of the period – I mean, Aristotle was rediscovered and was making quite a splash – so…

I think I will eventually need to read more about the Renaissance, obviously, the book I will read will need to have lots of pictures. I had hoped this book would have been a bit more informative. I think I would have liked it more if it did history with a bit more – this happened, but over here there was this and this. Who would have thought that this and that would mean the Pope would need to build a tower that would block the line of sight between … and so on. Like I said, something more like James Burke would have done.
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The Renaissance

The Renaissance (1953): This volume covers the history of Italy from c.1300 to the mid 16th century, focusing on the Italian Renaissance.

1 - Prelude: 1300–77:
1.1 - The Age of Petrarch and Boccaccio: 1304–75
1.2 - The Popes in Avignon: 1309–77
"Venetian merchants invaded every market from Jerusalem to Antwerp they traded impartially with Christians and Mohammedans, and papal excommunications fell upon them The Renaissance (The Story of Civilization #5), Will Durant (Author), Ariel Durant (Editor)

The Renaissance (1953): This volume covers the history of Italy from c.1300 to the mid 16th century, focusing on the Italian Renaissance.

1 - Prelude: 1300–77:
1.1 - The Age of Petrarch and Boccaccio: 1304–75
1.2 - The Popes in Avignon: 1309–77
"Venetian merchants invaded every market from Jerusalem to Antwerp they traded impartially with Christians and Mohammedans, and papal excommunications fell upon them with all the force of dew upon the earth." (p. 39)

2- The Florentine Renaissance: 1378–1534
2.1 - The Rise of the Medici: 1378–1464
2.2 - The Golden Age: 1464–92
2.3 - Savonarola and the Republic: 1492–1534
“But it took more than a revival of antiquity to make the Renaissance. And first of all it took money—smelly bourgeois money: . of careful calculations, investments and loans, of interest and dividends accumulated until surplus could be spared from the pleasures of the flesh, from the purchase of senates, signories, and mistresses, to pay a Michelangelo or a Titian to transmute wealth into beauty, and perfume a fortune with the breath of art. Money is the root of all civilization.” (p. 67-68)

3 - Italian Pageant: 1378–1534
3.1 - Milan
3.2 - Leonardo da Vinci
3.3 - Tuscany and Umbria
3.4 - Mantua
3.5 - Ferrara
3.6 - Venice and Her Realm
3.7 - Emilia and the Marches
3.8 - The Kingdom of Naples
"He was not handsome like most great men, he was spared this distracting handicap." (p. 185)

4 - The Roman Renaissance: 1378–1521
4.1 - The Crisis in the Church: 1378–1521
4.2 - The Renaissance Captures Rome: 1447–92
4.3 - The Borgias
4.4 - Julius II: 1503–13
4.5 - Leo X: 1513–21

5 - Debacle
5.1 - The Intellectual Revolt
5.2 - The Moral Release
5.3 - The Political Collapse: 1494–1534

6 - Finale: 1534–76
6.1 - Sunset in Venice
6.2 - The Waning of The Renaissance

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1994میلادی

عنوان: تاریخ تمدن مجلد پنجم رنسانس؛ نویسنده ویل دورانت؛ ویراستار آریل دورانت؛ مترجمها صفدر تقی‌زاده کتابهای اوّل و دوّم؛ ابوطالب صارمی کتابهای سوّم تا ششم؛ سرویراستار محمود مصاحب؛ ویراستاران محمود مصاحب، ابوطالب صارمی، خشایار دیهیمی؛ تهران، سازمان انتشارات، 1371، در 928ص؛ موضوع تاریخ تمدن - سده 20م

فهرست: کتاب اوّل: پیش‌درآمد؛ کتاب دوّم: رنسانسِ فلورانسی؛ کتاب سوّم: شکوه ایتالیا؛ کتاب چهارم: رنسانسِ رومی؛ کتاب پنجم: تبه‌روزیِ ایتالیا؛ کتاب ششم: مؤخّره؛ •••؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی . more

"But it took more than a revival of antiquity to make the Renaissance. And first of all it took money—smelly bourgeois money: the profits of skillful managers and underpaid labor of hazardous voyages to the East, and laborious crossings of the Alps, to buy goods cheap and sell them dear of careful calculations, investments, and loans of interest and dividends accumulated until enough surplus could be spared from the pleasures of the flesh, from the purchase of senates, signories, and mistress "But it took more than a revival of antiquity to make the Renaissance. And first of all it took money—smelly bourgeois money: the profits of skillful managers and underpaid labor of hazardous voyages to the East, and laborious crossings of the Alps, to buy goods cheap and sell them dear of careful calculations, investments, and loans of interest and dividends accumulated until enough surplus could be spared from the pleasures of the flesh, from the purchase of senates, signories, and mistresses, to pay a Michelangelo or a Titian to transmute wealth into beauty, and perfume a fortune with the breath of art." -- Will Durant, The Renaissance

Probably my least favorite of the first five books in Durant's 11-volume "Story of Civilization". That said, I still give it four stars. Durant a philosopher/historian LOVES art and artists. A lot of this book seems like an expanded version of Vasari's Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects: Illustrated - Biographies of the Greatest Artists of Renaissance, Including Leonardo da . Giotto, Raphael, Brunelleschi & Donatello. The book focuses on the Renaissance in Italy (and not the later expansion of Renaissance ideas into Europe). So, a majority of this book focuses on Art, Sculpture, Popes, Literature, and the great Italian cities of the Renaissance (Rome, Florence, Venice, etc). The narrative isn't driven by time as location (genearally, exluding the Prelude w/ Petrarch and Bocaccio), and Durant's brush. His narrative brush goes from Florence and the Medici, to Milan, Tuscany, Mantua, Ferrara, Venice, Naples, and Rome. In each city he explores the major artists from those towns, their relationship with Rome, and the major Renaissance artists associated with those city states. He ends the book by discussing the moral, religious, political, and economic changes that were associated with the end of the Italian Renaissance.

Again, let me add, although this is my least favoite of the first five, it is still pretty damn good. Durant does a pretty good job of putting a lot of the myths about the Renaissance to rest. He's a moderate historian. He's unprepared to criticize too harshly knowing the worst said about someone often has little to do with truth and more to do with who is in power and gets to have the last word. His prose in this book is a bit more restrained than in other books. I'm not sure why. Perhaps, it is only when dealing with philosophy and ideas that Durant is able to write without restraint (and the Renaissance was heavy on art, and light on ideas, excluding exceptional cases). When discussing art, there is often less room (for Durant) to wax poetic. He seems content with describing the art well and puting the artists and the geniuses of the age into their proper context. . more

“Those who desire immortality must pay for it with their lives.”

This well-researched and meticulously written book, which is the fifth volume in The Story of Civilization series, enlightens us about the life, art, literature, philosophy and science during Renaissance Italy. The narration begins by Petrarch (1304) and ends by Titian (1576).

“Wise men say that whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past for human event ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fac “Those who desire immortality must pay for it with their lives.”

This well-researched and meticulously written book, which is the fifth volume in The Story of Civilization series, enlightens us about the life, art, literature, philosophy and science during Renaissance Italy. The narration begins by Petrarch (1304) and ends by Titian (1576).

“Wise men say that whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past for human event ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who have been and ever will be animated by the same passions… I believe that the world has always been the same and has always contained as much good and evil…”
-Machiavelli

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So continues my tour through the ages.

The Renaissance, the fifth volume of The Story of Civilization, is unique in this series for its narrowness of scope. Instead of taking all of Western Europe as his subject, Durant confines himself to Italy and whereas the previous volume took us from the death of Constantine (337) all the way

So continues my tour through the ages.

The Renaissance, the fifth volume of The Story of Civilization, is unique in this series for its narrowness of scope. Instead of taking all of Western Europe as his subject, Durant confines himself to Italy and whereas the previous volume took us from the death of Constantine (337) all the way to the death of Dante (1321), this volume covers the period from the birth of Petrarch (1304) to the death of Michelangelo (1564). Nevertheless, as usual, Durant casts a wide net, including political, economic, musical, philosophical, scientific, and literary history.

But of course, this being a book about the Renaissance, the bulk of it is given over to the visual arts: painting, sculpture, and architecture. This is shaky territory for Durant he’s certainly no art critic, as he admits from the outset. As usual, he is urbane, eloquent, and learned but this isn’t quite enough some fire is missing. Durant was a man who lived on books, not paintings he appreciates visual art as a dilettante rather than an aficionado. And since the literary activity of the Renaissance wasn’t nearly as impressive as its artistic output, this deprives Durant of his forte.

Still, if you are looking for a single volume treatment of this age, I’m sure you could do worse than this book. It isn’t deep, but it’s broad you will come away knowing all the major names—of politicians, poets, and painters—as well as a good deal about the time. Indeed, you may not realize how much you’ve learned, as it is one of Durant’s signal talents that he is able to set down vast amounts of information in such a way that it sticks effortlessly in the memory.

Ignorant American that I am, I actually didn’t know a whole lot about the Italian Renaissance before I read this book, apart from the facts that everybody can’t help "knowing." For example, I “knew” the Renaissance consisted of a revival of classical learning, but of course the reality is far more complicated. Yes, during this time much classical learning was uncovered but it’s main effect seems not to have been a conversion to Greek logic and morality, but simply the realization that a non-Christian culture could be just as vibrant as a Christian one. The immediate effects of this weren’t necessarily good. In his History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell said: “The first effect of emancipation from the church was not to make men think rationally, but to open their minds to every sort of antique nonsense.” And indeed, it struck me that the ideal of rational thinking and empirical science made little headway during this time period—at least in Italy.

I suppose the most direct effect of paganism was the rediscovery of the body as a source of beauty. Medieval Art is wholly lacking in the muscular, graceful nudes of the Renaissance. This went hand in hand with humanism. Humanity itself, like the human form, began to be celebrated. The most interesting question about all is, Why? Why did this sudden change come about? This is the proper question for the historian. But Durant doesn’t try to answer it, or at the very least I found his answers superficial. I suppose I’ll have to keep reading.

I have to say, it does bother me that Durant, an incredibly well-read and well-traveled man, and an intelligent one too, can frequently be so superficial a thinker and a critic. I will hazard a guess for the reason. One of the main features of Durant’s style is its Olympian calm. He does not get excited he avoids passion. Wars, revolutions, artistic triumphs—all are narrated in a tone of serene composure. He does his best to sound as if he is God himself, so far above the petty intellectual squabbles of historians, philosophers, and scientists that he need not deign to partake in them. Thus he has the habit of offering his opinion in the royal “We.” Either that, or his pronouncements are simply stated as facts.

This attempt to appear above the fray limited him, I think. To make a real intellectual contribution means getting down in the trenches, to risk being contradicted, to defend one’s views. By writing like he does, Durant always plays the role of a gentleman on horseback, watching a battle from far away. He never picks up a pike and charges himself. Durant isn’t interested in that. It's a shame, I think, because this impaired him as a historian, a philosopher, and a critic. For example, his pronouncements on literature and art, though articulate and fair, are seldom penetrating. To be a great critic, you have to expose yourself to the art, to let it wound you and overwhelm you, to let go of your composure and submit to the raw experience. Durant was apparently unwilling to do this. He wrote and thought through a spyglass.

Still, he was fantastic at what he did—namely, tell the story of western history as fully as possible, with clarity and charm—and that’s exactly I’ll keep reading him until I reach the end of this series. It’s been a great ride so far.
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Before he started The Story of Civilization, which would occupy him and his wife from 1935 till their deaths in 1981, Will Durant had published the very successful Story of Philosophy, and thus had experience synthesizing diverse and complex ideas. In The Renaissance he brings all his talents to bear, writing about history, literature, art, science, religion, military strategy, and politics, somehow managing to pull all these threads into a single narrative which never loses its way. It is an as Before he started The Story of Civilization, which would occupy him and his wife from 1935 till their deaths in 1981, Will Durant had published the very successful Story of Philosophy, and thus had experience synthesizing diverse and complex ideas. In The Renaissance he brings all his talents to bear, writing about history, literature, art, science, religion, military strategy, and politics, somehow managing to pull all these threads into a single narrative which never loses its way. It is an astonishing achievement, and while some readers complain that his history is out of date, that is true only in the small details, not so in the big picture of history and humanity, and Durant is all about the big picture.

When I write a review, I usually try to summarize the text and provide apposite quotations, but, as with the previous volumes of this series, I am unequal to the task when it comes to Durant. Instead, I will let him speak for himself. I highlighted over 150 selections from the text, and below I have included the ones I found most insightful (and sometimes amusing), and it was only with great difficulty that I was able to cull them to fit within Goodreads’s length limitations.

Observations on life:
- Power, like freedom, is a test that only a sober intelligence can meet.
- Every town in Italy has fathered genius, and banished it.
- The simple common man, named Legion, tilled and mined the earth, pulled the carts or bore the burdens, toiled from dawn to dusk, and at evening had no muscle left for thought. He took his opinions, his religion, his answers to the riddles of life from the air about him, or inherited them with the ancestral cottage he let others think for him because others made him work for them.
- Justice was expensive the poor had to get along without it, and found it cheaper to kill than to litigate.
- When Lodovico Sforza welcomed Leonardo to Milan it was as a musician
- [Machiavelli] thought too much of the preservation, seldom of the obligations, never of the corruption, of power.
- Everywhere, at one time or another, the cities and their countryside suffered those earthquakes, floods, droughts, tornadoes, famines, plagues, and wars that a Malthusian Nature sedulously provides to compensate for the reproductive ecstasies of mankind.
- Bellincione was so quarrelsome that when he died a rival wrote an inscription for his tomb, warning the passer-by to tread quietly, lest the corpse should rise and bite him.
- One especially pretty and popular wife, Parisina Malatesta, committed adultery with her stepson Ugo Niccolò had them both beheaded (1425), and ordered that all Farrarese women convicted of adultery should be put to death. When it became clear that this edict threatened to depopulate Ferrara, it was no longer enforced.
- We may loosely estimate the medieval relapse of medical science in Latin Christendom by noting that the most advanced anatomists and physicians of this age had barely reached, by 1500, the knowledge possessed by Hippocrates, Galen, and Soranus in the period from 450 B.C. to A.D. 200.
- [Within the Roman church hierarchy] sin became more prevalent as more funds were provided to meet its costs.
- we should remind ourselves at the outset that man is by nature polygamous, and that only the strongest moral sanctions, a helpful degree of poverty and hard work, and uninterrupted wifely supervision, can induce him to monogamy.
- Weddings themselves consumed enormous sums Leonardo Bruni complained that his matrimonium had squandered his patrimonium.

Humanism:
- Doubting the dogmas of the Church, no longer frightened by the fear of hell, and seeing the clergy as epicurean as the laity, the educated Italian shook himself loose from intellectual and ethical restraints his liberated senses took unabashed delight in all embodiments of beauty in woman, man, and art and his new freedom made him creative for an amazing century (1434–1534) before it destroyed him with moral chaos, disintegrative individualism, and national slavery. The interlude between two disciplines was the Renaissance.
- By common consent [Petrarch] was the first humanist, the first writer to express with clarity and force the right of man to concern himself with this life, to enjoy and augment its beauties, and to labor to deserve well of posterity.
- they thought they had found in Plato—clouded with Plotinus—a mystical philosophy that would enable them to retain a Christianity that they had ceased to believe in, but never ceased to love.
- to many others the revelation of a Greek culture lasting a thousand years, and reaching the heights of literature, philosophy, and art in complete independence of Judaism and Christianity, was a mortal blow to their belief in the Pauline theology, or in the doctrine of nulla salus extra ecclesiam—”no salvation outside the Church.” Socrates and Plato became for them uncanonized saints the dynasty of the Greek philosophers seemed to them superior to the Greek and Latin Fathers, the prose of Plato and Cicero made even a cardinal ashamed of the Greek of the New Testament and the Latin of Jerome’s translation the grandeur of Imperial Rome seemed nobler than the timid retreat of convinced Christians into monastic cells
- the humanists, by and large, acted as if Christianity were a myth conformable to the needs of popular imagination and morality, but not to be taken seriously by emancipated minds.
- Pomponazzi had put into philosophic form a skepticism that had for two centuries been attacking the foundations of Christian belief. The failure of the Crusades the influx of Moslem ideas through Crusades, trade, and Arab philosophy the removal of the papacy to Avignon and its ridiculous division in the Schism the revelation of a pagan Greco-Roman world full of wise men and great art and yet without the Bible or the Church the spread of education, and its increasing escape from ecclesiastical control the immorality and worldliness of the clergy, even of popes, suggesting their private disbelief in the publicly professed creed their use of the idea of purgatory to raise funds for their purposes the reaction of the rising mercantile and moneyed classes against ecclesiastical domination the transformation of the Church from a religious organization into a secular political power: all these factors, and many more, combined to make the Italian middle and upper classes, in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, “the most skeptical of European peoples.”

Religion:
- In the second story of The Decameron the Jew Jehannat is converted to Christianity by the argument (adapted by Voltaire) that Christianity must be divine, since it has survived so much clerical immorality and simony.
- Venetian merchants invaded every market from Jerusalem to Antwerp they traded impartially with Christians and Mohammedans, and papal excommunications fell upon them with all the force of dew upon the earth.
- Morals in Rome, to which Petrarch importuned the popes to return, were then no better than in Avignon, except as poverty is an aid to chastity.
- The grandeur of Savonarola lay in his effort to achieve a moral revolution, to make men honest, good, and just. We know that this is the most difficult of all revolutions, and we cannot wonder that Savonarola failed where Christ succeeded with so pitiful a minority of men. But we know, too, that such a revolution is the only one that would mark a real advance in human affairs and that beside it the bloody overturns of history are transient and ineffectual spectacles, changing anything but man.
- Some cardinals had an income of 30,000 ducats a year. They lived in stately palaces manned by as many as three hundred servants and adorned with every art and luxury known to the time. They did not quite think of themselves as ecclesiastics they were statesmen, diplomats, administrators they were the Roman Senate of the Roman Church and they proposed to live like senators. They smiled at those foreigners who expected of them the abstinence and continence of priests. Like so many men of their age, they judged conduct not by moral but by esthetic standards a few commandments might be broken with impunity if it was done with courtesy and taste.
- a pantheistic conclusion: God is the soul of the world. This became the philosophy of Lorenzo and his circle, of the Platonic Academies in Rome, Naples, and elsewhere from Naples it reached Giordano Bruno from Bruno it passed to Spinoza and thence to Hegel it is still alive.
- Petrarch lamented the fact that in the minds of many scholars it was a sign of ignorance to prefer the Christian religion to pagan philosophy.
- Masuccio described the monks and friars as “ministers of Satan,” addicted to fornication, homosexualism, avarice, simony, and impiety, and professed to have found a higher moral level in the army than in the clergy.
- “In our corrupt times,” said Guicciardini, “the goodness of a pontiff is commended when it does not surpass the wickedness of other men.”
- It was a prime defect of the Medici as popes that they thought of themselves as a royal dynasty, and sometimes rated the glory of their family above the fate of Italy or the Church.

Life in the Renaissance:
- So Italy advanced, in wealth and art and thought, a century ahead of the rest of Europe and it was only in the sixteenth century, when the Renaissance faded in Italy, that it blossomed in France, Germany, Holland, England, and Spain. The Renaissance was not a period in time but a mode of life and thought moving from Italy through Europe with the course of commerce, war, and ideas.
- Guicciardini was one of thousands in Renaissance Italy who had no faith whatever who had lost the Christian idyll, had learned the emptiness of politics, expected no utopia, dreamed no dreams and who sat back helpless while a world of war and barbarism swept over Italy somber old men, emancipated in mind and broken in hope, who had discovered, too late, that when the myth dies only force is free.
- They transformed the ideal of a gentleman from a man with ready sword and clanking spurs into that of the fully developed individual attaining to wisdom and worth by absorbing the cultural heritage of the race.
- [For the Renaissance man] his immorality was part of his individualism. His goal being the successful expression of his personality, and his environment imposing upon him no standards of restraint either from the example of the clergy or from the terror of a supernatural creed, he allowed himself any means to his ends, and any pleasure on the way….He was a realist, and seldom talked nonsense except to a reluctant woman. He had good manners when he was not killing, and even then he preferred to kill with grace. He had energy, force of character, direction and unity of will he accepted the old Roman conception of virtue as manliness, but added to it skill and intelligence.
- Assassins could be bought almost as cheaply as indulgences. The palaces of Roman nobles swarmed with bravi, thugs ready to kill at a nod from their lords. Everyone had a dagger, and brewers of poison found many customers at last the people of Rome could hardly believe in the natural death of any man of prominence or wealth.
- The morals of war worsened with time. In the early days of the Renaissance almost all battles were modest engagements of mercenaries, who fought without frenzy and knew when to stop victory was judged won as soon as a few men had fallen and a live ransomable prisoner was worth more than a dead enemy. As the condottieri became more powerful, and armies larger and more costly, troops were allowed to plunder captured cities in lieu of regular pay resistance to plunder led to the massacre of the inhabitants, and ferocity grew at the smell of the blood it shed.
- As religious belief declined, the notion of right and wrong was replaced, in many minds, by that of practicality and as governments seldom enjoyed the authority of legitimation by time, the habit of obedience to law lapsed, and custom had to be supplanted by force. Against the tyranny of governments the only recourse was tyrannicide.
- The restoration of slavery as a major economic institution belongs to this period. When Pope Paul III opened war upon England in 1535 he decreed that any English soldiers captured might lawfully be enslaved.
- Politically the Renaissance was the replacement of republican communes with mercantile oligarchies and military dictatorships. Morally it was a pagan revolt that sapped the theological supports of the moral code, and left human instincts grossly free to use as they pleased the new wealth of commerce and industry. Unchecked by censorship from a Church herself secularized and martial, the state declared itself above morality in government, diplomacy, and war.

The End of an Era:
- The intensity of religious debate in the age of the Reformation, the Calvinist intolerance, the mutual persecutions in England, encouraged a corresponding dogmatism in Italy the urbane Catholicism of Erasmus gave place to the militant orthodoxy of Ignatius Loyola. Liberalism is a luxury of security and peace.
- France, Spain, and Germany, weary of sending tribute to finance the wars of the Papal States and the luxuries of Italian life, looked with amazement and envy at a peninsula so shorn of will and power, so inviting in beauty and wealth. The birds of prey gathered to feast on Italy.
- Italy was economically doomed. She was also politically doomed. While she remained divided into warring economies and states, the development of a national economy was compelling and financing, in other European societies, the transition from feudal principalities to the monarchical state.
- England, France, Spain, and Germany raised national armies out of their own people, and their aristocracies provided cavalry and leadership the Italian cities had small forces of mercenaries inspired only by plunder, led by purchasable condottieri, and prejudiced against sustaining mortal injuries. It needed only one engagement to reveal to Europe the defenselessness of Italy.
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This Durant volume was disappointing, particularly when compared to Volumes I-IV. In this history, Durant covers three centuries or so of Italy&aposs renaissance history. By "renaissance," it seems that Durant means Italy&aposs artistic impulses (e.g., Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael) and its economic vitality.* While acknowledging Durant&aposs fondness for all things Italian of this age, there&aposs plenty of "same old, same old" in this historical period in this historical place. Politics were power politics This Durant volume was disappointing, particularly when compared to Volumes I-IV. In this history, Durant covers three centuries or so of Italy's renaissance history. By "renaissance," it seems that Durant means Italy's artistic impulses (e.g., Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael) and its economic vitality.* While acknowledging Durant's fondness for all things Italian of this age, there's plenty of "same old, same old" in this historical period in this historical place. Politics were power politics the papacy was ordinary and rude religiosity was pervasive and the poor were kept in their place. More importantly, in his "history of civilization," Durant is strikingly silent about why this period and this place warrants its own volume, i.e., why it is significant for us to know and why, say, equivalent treatments should not be given to Indian and Chinese civilizations. That brings the reader to the troubling impression that civilization for Durant is Western.**

Tucked into this volume is a brief account of the Great Spiritual Awakening that occurred in western Europe with the rediscovery of Plato after years tucked away in the backrooms of the Muslim world. Three Italians in particular were responsible for this rehabilitation of Plato. Georgius Gemistus (1350s-1450s) introduced Plato to western Europe at the Council of Florence (1438-39), which attempted to bridge the East-West schism in religious-philosophical thought. Because he admired Plato so much, Gemistus took on a Platonic-like name, Plethon. For western philosophy, it was Plethon who stopped the philosophical love affair with Aristotle and replaced him with Plato. Aristotle was of this world. Plato was about a divine world. Plethon wrote about Plato’s views on reincarnation and other topics including reason. But reason was not of the material world, and it was not about objectivity as we understand that term today. Rather, it was the vehicle to access the divine world. These thoughts on Plato were further developed by the founder of the Medici-sponsored Platonic Academy in Florence, Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), who revived Neoplatonism and translated Plato’s works into Latin.*** The most elegant expression of the Divine Platonic world is the youthful exuberance of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola in his Oration on the Dignity of Man where being godlike was “the dignity of man.”**** These three Renaissance figures were central in transforming Plato into a major thinker for Western philosophy. It seems clear enough that there is a straight path running from Plato’s dialogues to Christianity to Neoplatonism to the Renaissance Platonists. It is theological in essence. How Plato was secularized – stripped of these divine elements – by western philosophy is not clear.

As in his other works, Durant's writing itself in this volume is impressive but, in the sweep of history, there is way too much information. Durant is so knowledgeable but a good part of the historian's task is to be selective, even highly so, and not to share it all.

*In "The Course of Civilization," historians Joseph Strayer, Hans Gatzke, and E. Harris Harbison write of the Renaissance that "Italian Humanists managed to persuade future generations that theirs was an age of light after darkness" but that this "remained a vague and hazy historical conception" until Jacob Burckhardt's "brilliant book called 'The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy' (1860)." Strayer, Gatzke, and Harbison, state that Burckhardt "exaggerated both the sharpness of the breach with the medieval past and the uniqueness of Italy over against the rest of Europe." They go on to say that the 'Renaissance' is best used to describe the revolution in artistic and literary taste," but that the term is less useful when applied to political and ecclesiastical history," and that "it is quite useless when applied to economic and social history. "

** A Wikipedia reference reminds us that Durant tried "to improve understanding of viewpoints of human beings and to have others forgive foibles and human waywardness. He chided the comfortable insularity of what is now known as Eurocentrism, by pointing out in Our Oriental Heritage that Europe was only 'a jagged promontory of Asia'. He complained of 'the provincialism of our traditional histories which began with Greece and summed up Asia in a line' and said they showed 'a possibly fatal error of perspective and intelligence'." That said, a question then becomes why Durant, in his eleven volume history of civilization, has only one volume (Volume 1) on South Asia and the Far East and even that volume is characterized as "our" (Western) oriental heritage.

*** In his major treatise on Platonic thinking , Platonic Theology on the Immortality of the Soul (1474), Ficino wrote about, in the words of Wikipedia, the world’s ensoulment and its integration with the human soul.” Also from Wikipedia, Ficino “coined the term Platonic love” that resulted in the “popularization of this term in Western philosophy.”

Probably not the best book on the renaissance available these days, but Will Durant&aposs writing style is always delightful which alone is why this surely belongs on a shelf of a half dozen or more renaissance books. Nice continuation of where his The Age of Faith left off. (Fun side note to that book was how singing and music in church initially were considered BAD before it was seen as a way of enhancing faith.)

As standard fare, excellent mention of Leonardo&aposs multifaceted interests which appare Probably not the best book on the renaissance available these days, but Will Durant's writing style is always delightful which alone is why this surely belongs on a shelf of a half dozen or more renaissance books. Nice continuation of where his The Age of Faith left off. (Fun side note to that book was how singing and music in church initially were considered BAD before it was seen as a way of enhancing faith.)

As standard fare, excellent mention of Leonardo's multifaceted interests which apparently was also responsible for his falling out with Michelangelo when he tried to get Michel into a conversation on a topic unrelated to art. (Michelangelo apparently thought Leonardo was poking at his ignorance.) Even today it seems a lot of Leonardo's inventions (early form of a parachute, a tank design -- apparently the designs had an intentional flaw to keep people from stealing his design -- and so on) proved feasible. Lot was said Michelangelo's statues (including his disappointment with his final one), paintings, architecture (which he insisted he was NOT an architect, and dissections. (While the Church may have generally shunned the practice, it did teach him vital aspects of anatomy. As Durant's writing style goes, also a mention that Michelangelo put the energy into his art that other men would have put into love-making and suggested Michelangelo was never involved with anyone, male or female.

Among the more amusing passages were how illegitimate children were quite common during during the renaissance and it was quite uncommon for there to be a town without.

Among the memorable lines:
Wise men say, and not without reason, that whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who have been, and ever will be, animated by the same passions and thus they must necessarily have the same results. - Niccoló Machiavelli, The Discourses. 1517.

Fun to mention how Machiavelli thought mercenaries were a waste of money, as they had no patriotic pride they were fighting for. They would therefore engage in "pretend" skirmishes to limit their casualties while fattening their wallets. . more

As an Italian, I was raised to hold our cultural heritage in awe. From the early, almost mythical figures of Dante and Giotto, to the misanthropic Michelangelo, the joyous Raffaele, the "divine" Arretino (who was anything but divine in his scurrility, and reminds one of Juvenal than the somber and pious Dante) are among but a select few leading figures in this impetuous and visceral age.

We see the birth of the modern GermanoSpanishFrench-Italian rivalry in the form of the exploitation of the p As an Italian, I was raised to hold our cultural heritage in awe. From the early, almost mythical figures of Dante and Giotto, to the misanthropic Michelangelo, the joyous Raffaele, the "divine" Arretino (who was anything but divine in his scurrility, and reminds one of Juvenal than the somber and pious Dante) are among but a select few leading figures in this impetuous and visceral age.

We see the birth of the modern GermanoSpanishFrench-Italian rivalry in the form of the exploitation of the papacy and levying of thites and tributes to enrich the peninsula at the expense of the rest of Europe. As much as I sympathise with the exploited Europe, its hard to begrudge Julius II, the Warrior Pope who patroned Raffaele, or Leo X, when one thinks and beholds the art they patroned. Karma, like in the previous titles, always finds its way, as when Rome was brutally sacked and ravaged by the triumphant Germans in 1527.

No review could do any of these masterpieces justice: the reader is simply left with the weight of the efforts and tribulations of untold generations, and feels gratitude for this often beautiful, often horrifying, legacy of our forefathers. It is in this spirit that I proceed to the next volume: the Reformation . more


Contents

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in the early modern period. Beginning in Italy, and spreading to the rest of Europe by the 16th century, its influence was felt in art, architecture, philosophy, literature, music, science, technology, politics, religion, and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. Renaissance scholars employed the humanist method in study, and searched for realism and human emotion in art. [21]

Renaissance humanists such as Poggio Bracciolini sought out in Europe's monastic libraries the Latin literary, historical, and oratorical texts of antiquity, while the Fall of Constantinople (1453) generated a wave of émigré Greek scholars bringing precious manuscripts in ancient Greek, many of which had fallen into obscurity in the West. It is in their new focus on literary and historical texts that Renaissance scholars differed so markedly from the medieval scholars of the Renaissance of the 12th century, who had focused on studying Greek and Arabic works of natural sciences, philosophy and mathematics, rather than on such cultural texts.

In the revival of neoplatonism Renaissance humanists did not reject Christianity quite the contrary, many of the greatest works of the Renaissance were devoted to it, and the Church patronized many works of Renaissance art. However, a subtle shift took place in the way that intellectuals approached religion that was reflected in many other areas of cultural life. [22] In addition, many Greek Christian works, including the Greek New Testament, were brought back from Byzantium to Western Europe and engaged Western scholars for the first time since late antiquity. This new engagement with Greek Christian works, and particularly the return to the original Greek of the New Testament promoted by humanists Lorenzo Valla and Erasmus, would help pave the way for the Protestant Reformation.

Well after the first artistic return to classicism had been exemplified in the sculpture of Nicola Pisano, Florentine painters led by Masaccio strove to portray the human form realistically, developing techniques to render perspective and light more naturally. Political philosophers, most famously Niccolò Machiavelli, sought to describe political life as it really was, that is to understand it rationally. A critical contribution to Italian Renaissance humanism, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola wrote the famous text De hominis dignitate (Oration on the Dignity of Man, 1486), which consists of a series of theses on philosophy, natural thought, faith and magic defended against any opponent on the grounds of reason. In addition to studying classical Latin and Greek, Renaissance authors also began increasingly to use vernacular languages combined with the introduction of the printing press, this would allow many more people access to books, especially the Bible. [23]

In all, the Renaissance could be viewed as an attempt by intellectuals to study and improve the secular and worldly, both through the revival of ideas from antiquity, and through novel approaches to thought. Some scholars, such as Rodney Stark, [24] play down the Renaissance in favour of the earlier innovations of the Italian city-states in the High Middle Ages, which married responsive government, Christianity and the birth of capitalism. This analysis argues that, whereas the great European states (France and Spain) were absolutist monarchies, and others were under direct Church control, the independent city republics of Italy took over the principles of capitalism invented on monastic estates and set off a vast unprecedented commercial revolution that preceded and financed the Renaissance.

Many argue that the ideas characterizing the Renaissance had their origin in late 13th-century Florence, in particular with the writings of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) and Petrarch (1304–1374), as well as the paintings of Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337). Some writers date the Renaissance quite precisely one proposed starting point is 1401, when the rival geniuses Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi competed for the contract to build the bronze doors for the Baptistery of the Florence Cathedral (Ghiberti then won). [25] Others see more general competition between artists and polymaths such as Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Donatello, and Masaccio for artistic commissions as sparking the creativity of the Renaissance. Yet it remains much debated why the Renaissance began in Italy, and why it began when it did. Accordingly, several theories have been put forward to explain its origins.

During the Renaissance, money and art went hand in hand. Artists depended entirely on patrons while the patrons needed money to foster artistic talent. Wealth was brought to Italy in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries by expanding trade into Asia and Europe. Silver mining in Tyrol increased the flow of money. Luxuries from the Muslim world, brought home during the Crusades, increased the prosperity of Genoa and Venice. [26]

Jules Michelet defined the 16th-century Renaissance in France as a period in Europe's cultural history that represented a break from the Middle Ages, creating a modern understanding of humanity and its place in the world. [27]

Latin and Greek phases of Renaissance humanism

In stark contrast to the High Middle Ages, when Latin scholars focused almost entirely on studying Greek and Arabic works of natural science, philosophy and mathematics, [28] Renaissance scholars were most interested in recovering and studying Latin and Greek literary, historical, and oratorical texts. Broadly speaking, this began in the 14th century with a Latin phase, when Renaissance scholars such as Petrarch, Coluccio Salutati (1331–1406), Niccolò de' Niccoli (1364–1437) and Poggio Bracciolini (1380–1459) scoured the libraries of Europe in search of works by such Latin authors as Cicero, Lucretius, Livy and Seneca. [29] [ full citation needed ] By the early 15th century, the bulk of the surviving such Latin literature had been recovered the Greek phase of Renaissance humanism was under way, as Western European scholars turned to recovering ancient Greek literary, historical, oratorical and theological texts. [30] [ full citation needed ]

Unlike with Latin texts, which had been preserved and studied in Western Europe since late antiquity, the study of ancient Greek texts was very limited in medieval Western Europe. Ancient Greek works on science, maths and philosophy had been studied since the High Middle Ages in Western Europe and in the Islamic Golden Age (normally in translation), but Greek literary, oratorical and historical works (such as Homer, the Greek dramatists, Demosthenes and Thucydides) were not studied in either the Latin or medieval Islamic worlds in the Middle Ages these sorts of texts were only studied by Byzantine scholars. Some argue that the Timurid Renaissance in Samarkand and Herat, whose magnificence toned with Florence as the center of a cultural rebirth, [31] [32] were linked to the Ottoman Empire, whose conquests led to the migration of Greek scholars to Italian cities. [33] [ full citation needed ] [34] [ full citation needed ] [12] [35] One of the greatest achievements of Renaissance scholars was to bring this entire class of Greek cultural works back into Western Europe for the first time since late antiquity.

Muslim logicians, most notably Avicenna and Averroes, had inherited Greek ideas after they had invaded and conquered Egypt and the Levant. Their translations and commentaries on these ideas worked their way through the Arab West into Iberia and Sicily, which became important centers for this transmission of ideas. From the 11th to the 13th century, many schools dedicated to the translation of philosophical and scientific works from Classical Arabic to Medieval Latin were established in Iberia, most notably the Toledo School of Translators. This work of translation from Islamic culture, though largely unplanned and disorganized, constituted one of the greatest transmissions of ideas in history. [36] The movement to reintegrate the regular study of Greek literary, historical, oratorical and theological texts back into the Western European curriculum is usually dated to the 1396 invitation from Coluccio Salutati to the Byzantine diplomat and scholar Manuel Chrysoloras (c. 1355–1415) to teach Greek in Florence. [37] [ full citation needed ] This legacy was continued by a number of expatriate Greek scholars, from Basilios Bessarion to Leo Allatius.

Social and political structures in Italy

The unique political structures of late Middle Ages Italy have led some to theorize that its unusual social climate allowed the emergence of a rare cultural efflorescence. Italy did not exist as a political entity in the early modern period. Instead, it was divided into smaller city states and territories: the Kingdom of Naples controlled the south, the Republic of Florence and the Papal States at the center, the Milanese and the Genoese to the north and west respectively, and the Venetians to the east. Fifteenth-century Italy was one of the most urbanised areas in Europe. [38] Many of its cities stood among the ruins of ancient Roman buildings it seems likely that the classical nature of the Renaissance was linked to its origin in the Roman Empire's heartland. [39]

Historian and political philosopher Quentin Skinner points out that Otto of Freising (c. 1114–1158), a German bishop visiting north Italy during the 12th century, noticed a widespread new form of political and social organization, observing that Italy appeared to have exited from Feudalism so that its society was based on merchants and commerce. Linked to this was anti-monarchical thinking, represented in the famous early Renaissance fresco cycle The Allegory of Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (painted 1338–1340), whose strong message is about the virtues of fairness, justice, republicanism and good administration. Holding both Church and Empire at bay, these city republics were devoted to notions of liberty. Skinner reports that there were many defences of liberty such as the Matteo Palmieri (1406–1475) celebration of Florentine genius not only in art, sculpture and architecture, but "the remarkable efflorescence of moral, social and political philosophy that occurred in Florence at the same time". [40]

Even cities and states beyond central Italy, such as the Republic of Florence at this time, were also notable for their merchant Republics, especially the Republic of Venice. Although in practice these were oligarchical, and bore little resemblance to a modern democracy, they did have democratic features and were responsive states, with forms of participation in governance and belief in liberty. [40] [41] [42] The relative political freedom they afforded was conducive to academic and artistic advancement. [43] Likewise, the position of Italian cities such as Venice as great trading centres made them intellectual crossroads. Merchants brought with them ideas from far corners of the globe, particularly the Levant. Venice was Europe's gateway to trade with the East, and a producer of fine glass, while Florence was a capital of textiles. The wealth such business brought to Italy meant large public and private artistic projects could be commissioned and individuals had more leisure time for study. [43]

Black Death

One theory that has been advanced is that the devastation in Florence caused by the Black Death, which hit Europe between 1348 and 1350, resulted in a shift in the world view of people in 14th century Italy. Italy was particularly badly hit by the plague, and it has been speculated that the resulting familiarity with death caused thinkers to dwell more on their lives on Earth, rather than on spirituality and the afterlife. [44] It has also been argued that the Black Death prompted a new wave of piety, manifested in the sponsorship of religious works of art. [45] However, this does not fully explain why the Renaissance occurred specifically in Italy in the 14th century. The Black Death was a pandemic that affected all of Europe in the ways described, not only Italy. The Renaissance's emergence in Italy was most likely the result of the complex interaction of the above factors. [15]

The plague was carried by fleas on sailing vessels returning from the ports of Asia, spreading quickly due to lack of proper sanitation: the population of England, then about 4.2 million, lost 1.4 million people to the bubonic plague. Florence's population was nearly halved in the year 1347. As a result of the decimation in the populace the value of the working class increased, and commoners came to enjoy more freedom. To answer the increased need for labor, workers traveled in search of the most favorable position economically. [46]

The demographic decline due to the plague had economic consequences: the prices of food dropped and land values declined by 30–40% in most parts of Europe between 1350 and 1400. [47] Landholders faced a great loss, but for ordinary men and women it was a windfall. The survivors of the plague found not only that the prices of food were cheaper but also that lands were more abundant, and many of them inherited property from their dead relatives.

The spread of disease was significantly more rampant in areas of poverty. Epidemics ravaged cities, particularly children. Plagues were easily spread by lice, unsanitary drinking water, armies, or by poor sanitation. Children were hit the hardest because many diseases, such as typhus and syphilis, target the immune system, leaving young children without a fighting chance. Children in city dwellings were more affected by the spread of disease than the children of the wealthy. [48]

The Black Death caused greater upheaval to Florence's social and political structure than later epidemics. Despite a significant number of deaths among members of the ruling classes, the government of Florence continued to function during this period. Formal meetings of elected representatives were suspended during the height of the epidemic due to the chaotic conditions in the city, but a small group of officials was appointed to conduct the affairs of the city, which ensured continuity of government. [49]

Cultural conditions in Florence

It has long been a matter of debate why the Renaissance began in Florence, and not elsewhere in Italy. Scholars have noted several features unique to Florentine cultural life that may have caused such a cultural movement. Many have emphasized the role played by the Medici, a banking family and later ducal ruling house, in patronizing and stimulating the arts. Lorenzo de' Medici (1449–1492) was the catalyst for an enormous amount of arts patronage, encouraging his countrymen to commission works from the leading artists of Florence, including Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Michelangelo Buonarroti. [10] Works by Neri di Bicci, Botticelli, da Vinci, and Filippino Lippi had been commissioned additionally by the Convent of San Donato in Scopeto in Florence. [50]

The Renaissance was certainly underway before Lorenzo de' Medici came to power – indeed, before the Medici family itself achieved hegemony in Florentine society. Some historians have postulated that Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance as a result of luck, i.e., because "Great Men" were born there by chance: [51] Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Michelangelo were all born in Tuscany. Arguing that such chance seems improbable, other historians have contended that these "Great Men" were only able to rise to prominence because of the prevailing cultural conditions at the time. [52]

Humanism

In some ways, Renaissance humanism was not a philosophy but a method of learning. In contrast to the medieval scholastic mode, which focused on resolving contradictions between authors, Renaissance humanists would study ancient texts in the original and appraise them through a combination of reasoning and empirical evidence. Humanist education was based on the programme of Studia Humanitatis, the study of five humanities: poetry, grammar, history, moral philosophy, and rhetoric. Although historians have sometimes struggled to define humanism precisely, most have settled on "a middle of the road definition. the movement to recover, interpret, and assimilate the language, literature, learning and values of ancient Greece and Rome". [53] Above all, humanists asserted "the genius of man . the unique and extraordinary ability of the human mind". [54]

Humanist scholars shaped the intellectual landscape throughout the early modern period. Political philosophers such as Niccolò Machiavelli and Thomas More revived the ideas of Greek and Roman thinkers and applied them in critiques of contemporary government, following the Islamic steps of Ibn Khaldun. [56] [57] Pico della Mirandola wrote the "manifesto" of the Renaissance, the Oration on the Dignity of Man, a vibrant defence of thinking. Matteo Palmieri (1406–1475), another humanist, is most known for his work Della vita civile ("On Civic Life" printed 1528), which advocated civic humanism, and for his influence in refining the Tuscan vernacular to the same level as Latin. Palmieri drew on Roman philosophers and theorists, especially Cicero, who, like Palmieri, lived an active public life as a citizen and official, as well as a theorist and philosopher and also Quintilian. Perhaps the most succinct expression of his perspective on humanism is in a 1465 poetic work La città di vita, but an earlier work, Della vita civile, is more wide-ranging. Composed as a series of dialogues set in a country house in the Mugello countryside outside Florence during the plague of 1430, Palmieri expounds on the qualities of the ideal citizen. The dialogues include ideas about how children develop mentally and physically, how citizens can conduct themselves morally, how citizens and states can ensure probity in public life, and an important debate on the difference between that which is pragmatically useful and that which is honest.

The humanists believed that it is important to transcend to the afterlife with a perfect mind and body, which could be attained with education. The purpose of humanism was to create a universal man whose person combined intellectual and physical excellence and who was capable of functioning honorably in virtually any situation. [58] This ideology was referred to as the uomo universale, an ancient Greco-Roman ideal. Education during the Renaissance was mainly composed of ancient literature and history as it was thought that the classics provided moral instruction and an intensive understanding of human behavior.

Humanism and libraries

A unique characteristic of some Renaissance libraries is that they were open to the public. These libraries were places where ideas were exchanged and where scholarship and reading were considered both pleasurable and beneficial to the mind and soul. As freethinking was a hallmark of the age, many libraries contained a wide range of writers. Classical texts could be found alongside humanist writings. These informal associations of intellectuals profoundly influenced Renaissance culture. Some of the richest "bibliophiles" built libraries as temples to books and knowledge. A number of libraries appeared as manifestations of immense wealth joined with a love of books. In some cases, cultivated library builders were also committed to offering others the opportunity to use their collections. Prominent aristocrats and princes of the Church created great libraries for the use of their courts, called "court libraries", and were housed in lavishly designed monumental buildings decorated with ornate woodwork, and the walls adorned with frescoes (Murray, Stuart A.P.)

Renaissance art marks a cultural rebirth at the close of the Middle Ages and rise of the Modern world. One of the distinguishing features of Renaissance art was its development of highly realistic linear perspective. Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) is credited with first treating a painting as a window into space, but it was not until the demonstrations of architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446) and the subsequent writings of Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) that perspective was formalized as an artistic technique. [59]

The development of perspective was part of a wider trend towards realism in the arts. [60] Painters developed other techniques, studying light, shadow, and, famously in the case of Leonardo da Vinci, human anatomy. Underlying these changes in artistic method was a renewed desire to depict the beauty of nature and to unravel the axioms of aesthetics, with the works of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael representing artistic pinnacles that were much imitated by other artists. [61] Other notable artists include Sandro Botticelli, working for the Medici in Florence, Donatello, another Florentine, and Titian in Venice, among others.

In the Netherlands, a particularly vibrant artistic culture developed. The work of Hugo van der Goes and Jan van Eyck was particularly influential on the development of painting in Italy, both technically with the introduction of oil paint and canvas, and stylistically in terms of naturalism in representation. Later, the work of Pieter Brueghel the Elder would inspire artists to depict themes of everyday life. [62]

In architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi was foremost in studying the remains of ancient classical buildings. With rediscovered knowledge from the 1st-century writer Vitruvius and the flourishing discipline of mathematics, Brunelleschi formulated the Renaissance style that emulated and improved on classical forms. His major feat of engineering was building the dome of the Florence Cathedral. [63] Another building demonstrating this style is the church of St. Andrew in Mantua, built by Alberti. The outstanding architectural work of the High Renaissance was the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica, combining the skills of Bramante, Michelangelo, Raphael, Sangallo and Maderno.

During the Renaissance, architects aimed to use columns, pilasters, and entablatures as an integrated system. The Roman orders types of columns are used: Tuscan and Composite. These can either be structural, supporting an arcade or architrave, or purely decorative, set against a wall in the form of pilasters. One of the first buildings to use pilasters as an integrated system was in the Old Sacristy (1421–1440) by Brunelleschi. [64] Arches, semi-circular or (in the Mannerist style) segmental, are often used in arcades, supported on piers or columns with capitals. There may be a section of entablature between the capital and the springing of the arch. Alberti was one of the first to use the arch on a monumental. Renaissance vaults do not have ribs they are semi-circular or segmental and on a square plan, unlike the Gothic vault, which is frequently rectangular.

Renaissance artists were not pagans, although they admired antiquity and kept some ideas and symbols of the medieval past. Nicola Pisano (c. 1220 – c. 1278) imitated classical forms by portraying scenes from the Bible. His Annunciation, from the Baptistry at Pisa, demonstrates that classical models influenced Italian art before the Renaissance took root as a literary movement [65]

Science

Applied innovation extended to commerce. At the end of the 15th century Luca Pacioli published the first work on bookkeeping, making him the founder of accounting. [6]

The rediscovery of ancient texts and the invention of the printing press in about 1440 democratized learning and allowed a faster propagation of more widely distributed ideas. In the first period of the Italian Renaissance, humanists favoured the study of humanities over natural philosophy or applied mathematics, and their reverence for classical sources further enshrined the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic views of the universe. Writing around 1450, Nicholas Cusanus anticipated the heliocentric worldview of Copernicus, but in a philosophical fashion.

Science and art were intermingled in the early Renaissance, with polymath artists such as Leonardo da Vinci making observational drawings of anatomy and nature. Da Vinci set up controlled experiments in water flow, medical dissection, and systematic study of movement and aerodynamics, and he devised principles of research method that led Fritjof Capra to classify him as the "father of modern science". [67] Other examples of Da Vinci's contribution during this period include machines designed to saw marbles and lift monoliths, and new discoveries in acoustics, botany, geology, anatomy, and mechanics. [68]

A suitable environment had developed to question classical scientific doctrine. The discovery in 1492 of the New World by Christopher Columbus challenged the classical worldview. The works of Ptolemy (in geography) and Galen (in medicine) were found to not always match everyday observations. As the Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation clashed, the Northern Renaissance showed a decisive shift in focus from Aristotelean natural philosophy to chemistry and the biological sciences (botany, anatomy, and medicine). [69] The willingness to question previously held truths and search for new answers resulted in a period of major scientific advancements.

Some view this as a "scientific revolution", heralding the beginning of the modern age, [70] others as an acceleration of a continuous process stretching from the ancient world to the present day. [71] Significant scientific advances were made during this time by Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe, and Johannes Kepler. [72] Copernicus, in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), posited that the Earth moved around the Sun. De humani corporis fabrica (On the Workings of the Human Body) by Andreas Vesalius, gave a new confidence to the role of dissection, observation, and the mechanistic view of anatomy. [73]

Another important development was in the process for discovery, the scientific method, [73] focusing on empirical evidence and the importance of mathematics, while discarding much of Aristotelian science. Early and influential proponents of these ideas included Copernicus, Galileo, and Francis Bacon. [74] [75] The new scientific method led to great contributions in the fields of astronomy, physics, biology, and anatomy. [c] [76]

Navigation and geography

During the Renaissance, extending from 1450 to 1650, [77] every continent was visited and mostly mapped by Europeans, except the south polar continent now known as Antarctica. This development is depicted in the large world map Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula made by the Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu in 1648 to commemorate the Peace of Westphalia.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain seeking a direct route to India of the Delhi Sultanate. He accidentally stumbled upon the Americas, but believed he had reached the East Indies.

In 1606, the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon sailed from the East Indies in the VOC ship Duyfken and landed in Australia. He charted about 300 km of the west coast of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. More than thirty Dutch expeditions followed, mapping sections of the north, west, and south coasts. In 1642–1643, Abel Tasman circumnavigated the continent, proving that it was not joined to the imagined south polar continent.

By 1650, Dutch cartographers had mapped most of the coastline of the continent, which they named New Holland, except the east coast which was charted in 1770 by Captain Cook.

The long-imagined south polar continent was eventually sighted in 1820. Throughout the Renaissance it had been known as Terra Australis, or 'Australia' for short. However, after that name was transferred to New Holland in the nineteenth century, the new name of 'Antarctica' was bestowed on the south polar continent. [78]

Music

From this changing society emerged a common, unifying musical language, in particular the polyphonic style of the Franco-Flemish school. The development of printing made distribution of music possible on a wide scale. Demand for music as entertainment and as an activity for educated amateurs increased with the emergence of a bourgeois class. Dissemination of chansons, motets, and masses throughout Europe coincided with the unification of polyphonic practice into the fluid style that culminated in the second half of the sixteenth century in the work of composers such as Palestrina, Lassus, Victoria, and William Byrd.

Religion

The new ideals of humanism, although more secular in some aspects, developed against a Christian backdrop, especially in the Northern Renaissance. Much, if not most, of the new art was commissioned by or in dedication to the Church. [22] However, the Renaissance had a profound effect on contemporary theology, particularly in the way people perceived the relationship between man and God. [22] Many of the period's foremost theologians were followers of the humanist method, including Erasmus, Zwingli, Thomas More, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.

The Renaissance began in times of religious turmoil. The late Middle Ages was a period of political intrigue surrounding the Papacy, culminating in the Western Schism, in which three men simultaneously claimed to be true Bishop of Rome. [79] While the schism was resolved by the Council of Constance (1414), a resulting reform movement known as Conciliarism sought to limit the power of the pope. Although the papacy eventually emerged supreme in ecclesiastical matters by the Fifth Council of the Lateran (1511), it was dogged by continued accusations of corruption, most famously in the person of Pope Alexander VI, who was accused variously of simony, nepotism, and fathering four children (most of whom were married off, presumably for the consolidation of power) while a cardinal. [80]

Churchmen such as Erasmus and Luther proposed reform to the Church, often based on humanist textual criticism of the New Testament. [22] In October 1517 Luther published the 95 Theses, challenging papal authority and criticizing its perceived corruption, particularly with regard to instances of sold indulgences. [d] The 95 Theses led to the Reformation, a break with the Roman Catholic Church that previously claimed hegemony in Western Europe. Humanism and the Renaissance therefore played a direct role in sparking the Reformation, as well as in many other contemporaneous religious debates and conflicts.

Pope Paul III came to the papal throne (1534–1549) after the sack of Rome in 1527, with uncertainties prevalent in the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation. Nicolaus Copernicus dedicated De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) to Paul III, who became the grandfather of Alessandro Farnese (cardinal), who had paintings by Titian, Michelangelo, and Raphael, as well as an important collection of drawings, and who commissioned the masterpiece of Giulio Clovio, arguably the last major illuminated manuscript, the Farnese Hours.

Self-awareness

By the 15th century, writers, artists, and architects in Italy were well aware of the transformations that were taking place and were using phrases such as modi antichi (in the antique manner) or alle romana et alla antica (in the manner of the Romans and the ancients) to describe their work. In the 1330s Petrarch referred to pre-Christian times as antiqua (ancient) and to the Christian period as nova (new). [81] From Petrarch's Italian perspective, this new period (which included his own time) was an age of national eclipse. [81] Leonardo Bruni was the first to use tripartite periodization in his History of the Florentine People (1442). [82] Bruni's first two periods were based on those of Petrarch, but he added a third period because he believed that Italy was no longer in a state of decline. Flavio Biondo used a similar framework in Decades of History from the Deterioration of the Roman Empire (1439–1453).

Humanist historians argued that contemporary scholarship restored direct links to the classical period, thus bypassing the Medieval period, which they then named for the first time the "Middle Ages". The term first appears in Latin in 1469 as media tempestas (middle times). [83] The term rinascita (rebirth) first appeared, however, in its broad sense in Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists, 1550, revised 1568. [84] [85] Vasari divides the age into three phases: the first phase contains Cimabue, Giotto, and Arnolfo di Cambio the second phase contains Masaccio, Brunelleschi, and Donatello the third centers on Leonardo da Vinci and culminates with Michelangelo. It was not just the growing awareness of classical antiquity that drove this development, according to Vasari, but also the growing desire to study and imitate nature. [86]

In the 15th century, the Renaissance spread rapidly from its birthplace in Florence to the rest of Italy and soon to the rest of Europe. The invention of the printing press by German printer Johannes Gutenberg allowed the rapid transmission of these new ideas. As it spread, its ideas diversified and changed, being adapted to local culture. In the 20th century, scholars began to break the Renaissance into regional and national movements.

England

In England, the sixteenth century marked the beginning of the English Renaissance with the work of writers William Shakespeare (1564 –1616), Christopher Marlowe (1564 – 1593), Edmund Spenser (1552/1553 – 1599), Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535), Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), Sir Philip Sidney (1554 – 1586), architects (such as Inigo Jones (1573 – 1652), who introduced Italianate architecture to England), and composers such as Thomas Tallis (1505 – 1585), John Taverner (c. 1490 – 1545), and William Byrd (c.1539/40 or 1543 – 1623).

France

The word "Renaissance" is borrowed from the French language, where it means "re-birth". It was first used in the eighteenth century and was later popularized by French historian Jules Michelet (1798–1874) in his 1855 work, Histoire de France (History of France). [87] [88]

In 1495 the Italian Renaissance arrived in France, imported by King Charles VIII after his invasion of Italy. A factor that promoted the spread of secularism was the inability of the Church to offer assistance against the Black Death. Francis I imported Italian art and artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, and built ornate palaces at great expense. Writers such as François Rabelais, Pierre de Ronsard, Joachim du Bellay, and Michel de Montaigne, painters such as Jean Clouet, and musicians such as Jean Mouton also borrowed from the spirit of the Renaissance.

In 1533, a fourteen-year-old Caterina de' Medici (1519–1589), born in Florence to Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino and Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, married Henry II of France, second son of King Francis I and Queen Claude. Though she became famous and infamous for her role in France's religious wars, she made a direct contribution in bringing arts, sciences, and music (including the origins of ballet) to the French court from her native Florence.

Germany

In the second half of the 15th century, the Renaissance spirit spread to Germany and the Low Countries, where the development of the printing press (ca. 1450) and Renaissance artists such as Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) predated the influence from Italy. In the early Protestant areas of the country humanism became closely linked to the turmoil of the Protestant Reformation, and the art and writing of the German Renaissance frequently reflected this dispute. [89] However, the Gothic style and medieval scholastic philosophy remained exclusively until the turn of the 16th century. Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg (ruling 1493–1519) was the first truly Renaissance monarch of the Holy Roman Empire.

Hungary

After Italy, Hungary was the first European country where the Renaissance appeared. [90] The Renaissance style came directly from Italy during the Quattrocento to Hungary first in the Central European region, thanks to the development of early Hungarian-Italian relationships—not only in dynastic connections, but also in cultural, humanistic and commercial relations—growing in strength from the 14th century. The relationship between Hungarian and Italian Gothic styles was a second reason—exaggerated breakthrough of walls is avoided, preferring clean and light structures. Large-scale building schemes provided ample and long term work for the artists, for example, the building of the Friss (New) Castle in Buda, the castles of Visegrád, Tata, and Várpalota. In Sigismund's court there were patrons such as Pipo Spano, a descendant of the Scolari family of Florence, who invited Manetto Ammanatini and Masolino da Pannicale to Hungary. [91]

The new Italian trend combined with existing national traditions to create a particular local Renaissance art. Acceptance of Renaissance art was furthered by the continuous arrival of humanist thought in the country. Many young Hungarians studying at Italian universities came closer to the Florentine humanist center, so a direct connection with Florence evolved. The growing number of Italian traders moving to Hungary, specially to Buda, helped this process. New thoughts were carried by the humanist prelates, among them Vitéz János, archbishop of Esztergom, one of the founders of Hungarian humanism. [92] During the long reign of emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg the Royal Castle of Buda became probably the largest Gothic palace of the late Middle Ages. King Matthias Corvinus (r. 1458–1490) rebuilt the palace in early Renaissance style and further expanded it. [93] [94]

After the marriage in 1476 of King Matthias to Beatrice of Naples, Buda became one of the most important artistic centres of the Renaissance north of the Alps. [95] The most important humanists living in Matthias' court were Antonio Bonfini and the famous Hungarian poet Janus Pannonius. [95] András Hess set up a printing press in Buda in 1472. Matthias Corvinus's library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was Europe's greatest collections of secular books: historical chronicles, philosophic and scientific works in the 15th century. His library was second only in size to the Vatican Library. (However, the Vatican Library mainly contained Bibles and religious materials.) [96] In 1489, Bartolomeo della Fonte of Florence wrote that Lorenzo de' Medici founded his own Greek-Latin library encouraged by the example of the Hungarian king. Corvinus's library is part of UNESCO World Heritage. [97]

Matthias started at least two major building projects. [98] The works in Buda and Visegrád began in about 1479. [99] Two new wings and a hanging garden were built at the royal castle of Buda, and the palace at Visegrád was rebuilt in Renaissance style. [99] [100] Matthias appointed the Italian Chimenti Camicia and the Dalmatian Giovanni Dalmata to direct these projects. [99] Matthias commissioned the leading Italian artists of his age to embellish his palaces: for instance, the sculptor Benedetto da Majano and the painters Filippino Lippi and Andrea Mantegna worked for him. [101] A copy of Mantegna's portrait of Matthias survived. [102] Matthias also hired the Italian military engineer Aristotele Fioravanti to direct the rebuilding of the forts along the southern frontier. [103] He had new monasteries built in Late Gothic style for the Franciscans in Kolozsvár, Szeged and Hunyad, and for the Paulines in Fejéregyháza. [104] [105] In the spring of 1485, Leonardo da Vinci travelled to Hungary on behalf of Sforza to meet king Matthias Corvinus, and was commissioned by him to paint a Madonna. [106]

Matthias enjoyed the company of Humanists and had lively discussions on various topics with them. [107] The fame of his magnanimity encouraged many scholars—mostly Italian—to settle in Buda. [108] Antonio Bonfini, Pietro Ranzano, Bartolomeo Fonzio, and Francesco Bandini spent many years in Matthias's court. [109] [107] This circle of educated men introduced the ideas of Neoplatonism to Hungary. [110] [111] Like all intellectuals of his age, Matthias was convinced that the movements and combinations of the stars and planets exercised influence on individuals' life and on the history of nations. [112] Galeotto Marzio described him as "king and astrologer", and Antonio Bonfini said Matthias "never did anything without consulting the stars". [113] Upon his request, the famous astronomers of the age, Johannes Regiomontanus and Marcin Bylica, set up an observatory in Buda and installed it with astrolabes and celestial globes. [114] Regiomontanus dedicated his book on navigation that was used by Christopher Columbus to Matthias. [108]

Other important figures of Hungarian Renaissance include Bálint Balassi (poet), Sebestyén Tinódi Lantos (poet), Bálint Bakfark (composer and lutenist), and Master MS (fresco painter).


Top Ten Books on The Medici Family during the Renaissance

Love them or hate them, the Medicis played an important role in Florence during the Italian Renaissance. They were patrons of the arts, politicians, bankers, and rulers. Some historians have argued that the Medicis helped foster the Italian Renaissance while others have pointed out they were little more than petty despots. Regardless, the Medicis were a fascinating and important family of unique and unusual characters. Here are some books that will help you understand them better.

A dazzling history of the modest family which rose to become one of the most powerful in Europe, The Medici is a remarkably modern story of power, money and ambition. Against the background of an age which saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning - of humanism which penetrated and explored the arts and sciences and the 'dark' knowledge of alchemy, astrology, and numerology - Paul Strathern explores the intensely dramatic rise and fall of the Medici family in Florence, as well as the Italian Renaissance which they did so much to sponsor and encourage.

Magnifico is a vividly colorful portrait of Lorenzo de' Medici, the uncrowned ruler of Florence during its golden age. A true "Renaissance man," Lorenzo dazzled contemporaries with his prodigious talents and magnetic personality. Known to history as Il Magnifico (the Magnificent), Lorenzo was not only the foremost patron of his day but also a renowned poet, equally adept at composing philosophical verses and obscene rhymes to be sung at Carnival.

The Intellectual Struggle for Florence is an analysis of the ideology that developed in Florence with the rise of the Medici, during the early fifteenth century, the period long recognized as the most formative of the early Renaissance. Instead of simply describing early Renaissance ideas, this volume attempts to relate these ideas to specific social and political conflicts of the fifteenth century, and specifically to the development of the Medici regime.

Lauro Martines, April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici (Oxford, Oxford University Press 2003

On a Sunday in April 1478, assassins attacked Lorenzo and his brother as they attended Mass in the cathedral of Florence. Lorenzo scrambled to safety as Giuliano bled to death on the cathedral floor. April Blood moves outward in time and space from that murderous event, unfolding a story of tangled passions, ambition, treachery, and revenge. April Blood offers us a fresh portrait of Renaissance Florence, where dazzling artistic achievements went side by side with violence, craft, and bare-knuckle politics. At the center of the canvas is the figure of Lorenzo the Magnificent--poet, statesman, connoisseur, patron of the arts, and ruthless "boss of bosses."

Hibbert, Christopher. The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall. (William Morrow, 2012)

It was a dynasty with more wealth, passion, and power than the houses of Windsor, Kennedy, and Rockefeller combined. It shaped all of Europe and controlled politics, scientists, artists, and even popes, for three hundred years. It was the house of Medici, patrons of Botticelli, Michelangelo and Galileo, benefactors who turned Florence into a global power center, and then lost it all.

A dazzling history of the modest family that rose to become one of the most powerful in Europe, The Medici is a remarkably modern story of power, money, and ambition. Against the background of an age that saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning Paul Strathern explores the intensely dramatic rise and fall of the Medici family in Florence, as well as the Italian Renaissance which they did so much to sponsor and encourage. Strathern also follows the lives of many of the great Renaissance artists with whom the Medici had dealings, including Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello as well as scientists like Galileo and Pico della Mirandola and the fortunes of those members of the Medici family who achieved success away from Florence, including the two Medici popes and Catherine de' Médicis, who became Queen of France and played a major role in that country through three turbulent reigns.

By the end of the fifteenth century, Florence was well established as the home of the Renaissance. As generous patrons to the likes of Botticelli and Michelangelo, the ruling Medici embodied the progressive humanist spirit of the age, and in Lorenzo de' Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent) they possessed a diplomat capable of guarding the militarily weak city in a climate of constantly shifting allegiances between the major Italian powers.

Mary Hollingsworth argues that the idea that the Medici were enlightened rulers of the Renaissance is a fiction that has now acquired the status of historical fact. In truth, the Medici were as devious and immoral as the Borgias—tyrants loathed in the city they illegally made their own. In this dynamic new history, Hollingsworth argues that past narratives have focused on a sanitized and fictitious view of the Medici—wise rulers, enlightened patrons of the arts, and fathers of the Renaissance—but that in fact their past was reinvented in the sixteenth century, mythologized by later generations of Medici who used this as a central prop for their legacy.

Related Articles

Catherine Fletcher, The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de' Medici (Oxford University Press, 2016) Ruler of Florence for seven bloody years, 1531 to 1537, Alessandro de' Medici was arguably the first person of color to serve as a head of state in the Western world. Born out of wedlock to a dark-skinned maid and Lorenzo de' Medici, he was the last legitimate heir to the line of Lorenzo the Magnificent. By the age of nineteen, he was prince of Florence, inheritor of the legacy of the grandest dynasty of the Italian Renaissance. Catherine Fletcher tells the riveting tale of Alessandro's unexpected rise and spectacular fall, unraveling centuries-old mysteries, exposing forgeries, and bringing to life the epic personalities of the Medicis, Borgias, and others as they waged sordid campaigns to rise to the top.

Caroline P. Murphy, Murder of a Medici Princess (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Caroline Murphy here illuminates the brilliant life and tragic death of Isabella de Medici, one of the brightest stars in the dazzling world of Renaissance Italy, the daughter of Duke Cosimo I, ruler of Florence and Tuscany. Murphy is a superb storyteller, and her fast-paced narrative captures the intrigue, the scandal, the romantic affairs, and the violence that were commonplace in the Florentine court. Isabella, in fact, conducted numerous affairs, including a ten-year relationship with the cousin of her violent and possessive husband. Her permissive lifestyle, however, came to an end upon the death of her father, who was succeeded by her disapproving older brother Francesco. Considering Isabella's ways to be licentious and a disgrace upon the family, he permitted her increasingly enraged husband to murder her in a remote Medici villa.


The Renaissance Books - History

Niccolò Machiavelli (May 3, 1469–June 21, 1527) was an Italian Renaissance historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, Humanist, and writer. He has often been called the founder of modern political science. He was for many years a senior official in the Florentine Republic, with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He also wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is renowned in the Italian language. He was secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. He wrote his most renowned work, The Prince (Il Principe) in 1513.

“Machiavellianism” is a widely used negative term to characterize unscrupulous politicians of the sort Machiavelli described most famously in The Prince. Machiavelli described immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and killing innocents, as being normal and effective in politics. He even seemed to endorse it in some situations. The book itself gained notoriety when some readers claimed that the author was teaching evil, and providing “evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power.” The term ” Machiavellian ” is often associated with political deceit, deviousness, and realpolitik. On the other hand, many commentators, such as Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Denis Diderot, have argued that Machiavelli was actually a republican, even when writing The Prince, and his writings were an inspiration to Enlightenment proponents of modern democratic political philosophy.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli: Machiavelli is a political philosopher infamous for his justification of violence in his treatise The Prince.

The Prince

Machiavelli’s best-known book, The Prince, contains several maxims concerning politics. Instead of the more traditional target audience of a hereditary prince, it concentrates on the possibility of a “new prince.” To retain power, the hereditary prince must carefully balance the interests of a variety of institutions to which the people are accustomed. By contrast, a new prince has the more difficult task in ruling: he must first stabilize his newfound power in order to build an enduring political structure. Machiavelli suggests that the social benefits of stability and security can be achieved in the face of moral corruption. Machiavelli believed that a leader had to understand public and private morality as two different things in order to rule well. As a result, a ruler must be concerned not only with reputation, but also must be positively willing to act immorally at the right times.

As a political theorist, Machiavelli emphasized the occasional need for the methodical exercise of brute force or deceit, including extermination of entire noble families to head off any chance of a challenge to the prince’s authority. He asserted that violence may be necessary for the successful stabilization of power and introduction of new legal institutions. Further, he believed that force may be used to eliminate political rivals, to coerce resistant populations, and to purge the community of other men of strong enough character to rule, who will inevitably attempt to replace the ruler. Machiavelli has become infamous for such political advice, ensuring that he would be remembered in history through the adjective “Machiavellian.”

The Prince is sometimes claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It was also in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time concerning politics and ethics. In contrast to Plato and Aristotle, Machiavelli insisted that an imaginary ideal society is not a model by which a prince should orient himself.

Influence

Machiavelli’s ideas had a profound impact on political leaders throughout the modern west, helped by the new technology of the printing press. During the first generations after Machiavelli, his main influence was in non-Republican governments. One historian noted that The Prince was spoken of highly by Thomas Cromwell in England and had influenced Henry VIII in his turn towards Protestantism and in his tactics, for example during the Pilgrimage of Grace. A copy was also possessed by the Catholic king and emperor Charles V. In France, after an initially mixed reaction, Machiavelli came to be associated with Catherine de’ Medici and the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. As one historian reports, in the 16th century, Catholic writers “associated Machiavelli with the Protestants, whereas Protestant authors saw him as Italian and Catholic.” In fact, he was apparently influencing both Catholic and Protestant kings.

Modern materialist philosophy developed in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, starting in the generations after Machiavelli. This philosophy tended to be republican, more in the original spirit of Machiavellianism, but as with the Catholic authors, Machiavelli’s realism and encouragement of using innovation to try to control one’s own fortune were more accepted than his emphasis upon war and politics. Not only were innovative economics and politics results, but also modern science, leading some commentators to say that the 18th century Enlightenment involved a “humanitarian” moderating of Machiavellianism.

Although Jean-Jacques Rousseau is associated with very different political ideas, it is important to view Machiavelli’s work from different points of view rather than just the traditional notion. For example, Rousseau viewed Machiavelli’s work as a satirical piece in which Machiavelli exposes the faults of one-man rule rather than exalting amorality.

Scholars have argued that Machiavelli was a major indirect and direct influence upon the political thinking of the Founding Fathers of the United States due to his overwhelming favoritism of republicanism and the republic type of government. Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson followed Machiavelli’s republicanism when they opposed what they saw as the emerging aristocracy that they feared Alexander Hamilton was creating with the Federalist Party. Hamilton learned from Machiavelli about the importance of foreign policy for domestic policy, but may have broken from him regarding how rapacious a republic needed to be in order to survive.


The Renaissance: A History From Beginning to End

During the Middle Ages, the nations of Europe forged new identities that moved them away from the lost glory of the Roman Empire into their own ethnicity. The experience of maturation was often clumsy and out of step, an evolutionary process that saw the nation's developing at their own pace as they struggled to replace the protection of Rome with their own home-grown strength. What the nations, once they were ready to be described in that manner, did have was the Roman Catholic Church, which defined itself as the spiritual protector of Christian believers. But the dutiful Christians of the Middle Ages who sought orthodoxy and for the most part obeyed the papal rules underwent a change when the Middle Ages ended. The Renaissance, or rebirth, was a period of time when Europeans began to question what they had been told was sacrosanct. Through art, inventions, science, literature, and theology, the separate nations of the European continent sought answers that the Roman Catholic Church was unwilling, or perhaps unable, to offer.

Inside you will read about.
✓ The Rebirth of Europe
✓ The Italian Renaissance
✓ The French Renaissance
✓ The Spanish Renaissance
✓ The German Renaissance
✓ The Low Countries Renaissance
✓ The English Renaissance
✓ Here Be Dragons: Exploring the Unknown

The Church that had become a powerful political entity was viewed with distrust and skepticism by many Christians the spread of learning that accompanied the invention of Gutenberg's printing press meant that bold new ideas were traveling across the boundaries of Europe faster than the Church could silence them. Lascivious, power-brokering popes could not bring a halt to the challenges they encountered when a German priest rebelled against corrupt practices that masqueraded as ecclesiastical authority. As the walls came tumbling down, humanism burst forth, inspiring the art of Michelangelo, the science of Vesalius, the literature of Shakespeare and Cervantes. But with the loss of religious uniformity came terrible conflicts: France suffered the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre Spain welcomed the Inquisition to purge heresy the Low Countries were split between Catholic and Protestant. The Renaissance was a triumph of the human spirit and a confirmation of human ability, even as it affirmed the willingness of men and women to die for the right to think freely.


Spreading Further Afield

Furthermore, the Renaissance spread from Italy, and subsequently reached different parts of Europe. As these countries lie to the north of the Italian peninsula, it became known as the ‘Northern Renaissance’. Nevertheless, as the Renaissance arrived in these countries, the trajectories it took varied considerably from one country to another. In France, for instance, the Renaissance arrived following Francis I’s involvement in the Italian Wars during the 16 th century. The French monarch was inspired by the Renaissance in Italy, and imported many Italian works of art, as well as artists, including Leonardo da Vinci. The Renaissance in France received a boost in 1533, when the 14-year-old Catherine de’ Medici married Henry II, the son of Francis, and the future king of France. Catherine brought with her the latest arts, music, and science from her native Florence to the French court.

Funeral sculptures of Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici in Basilique de Saint-Denis, France. (Germain Pilon / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The Renaissance in Germany, on the other hand, was quite different from that of Italy and France. The Renaissance spread to that area of Europe around the second half of the 15 th century, and subsequently became intertwined with the Protestant Reformation of the early 16 th century. Apart from its involvement in the Protestant Reformation, the German Renaissance is most notable for the printing press, which was invented by Johannes Gutenberg around the middle of the 15 th century. Gutenberg, along with Albrecht Dürer, renowned for his woodcut prints, are two of the biggest names of the German Renaissance.

The Renaissance also made its way to England, arriving around the middle of the 16 th century, and coincided with the Elizabethan era. The Renaissance in England is most notable for its literary achievements, and the playwright William Shakespeare is undoubtedly its brightest stars. Other figures of the English Renaissance include Shakespeare’s fellow playwrights Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson, the composer Thomas Tallis, and the courtier-poet Edmund Spenser.

Naturally, the Renaissance could not last forever, and eventually came to an end. Some scholars consider the 16 th century to be the end of the Renaissance, whilst others argue that it ended a century later. In the case of Italy, several factors have been identified as contributing to the demise of the Renaissance. These include economic decline, the political instability as a result of the many wars fought by other European powers on Italian soil, and the Counter-Reformation. Nevertheless, it may be argued that as a movement, the Renaissance did not come to an end. Instead, its ideas were transformed, and continued to be developed, albeit in a different direction.

Top image: ‘The Last Judgment’ fresco by the Renaissance painter Michelangelo covering the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. It is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. It is known as one of the greatest pieces of Renaissance artwork. Source: Francesco Todaro / Adobe stock


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