The Bookseller of Florence Vespasiano Da Bisticci and the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance

Ross King

$45

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A gripping story of ancient wisdom, new technology and ‘the king of the world’s booksellers’, set in Renaissance Florence

In the mid-1400s, Vespasiano da Bisticci’s bookshop in Florence was said to contain all the wisdom of the world. Vespasiano and his team of scribes and illuminators produced exquisite manuscripts for popes and princes across Europe, rediscovering and disseminating some of the most significant texts from classical antiquity. At his shop, the most formidable minds of the city would gather to debate these old ideas of revolutionary power.

But in 1476 a new technology arrived in Florence. The convent of San Jacopo di Ripoli, a community of Dominican nuns on the other side of the city, acquired a printing press from a bankrupt German printer. Before long, with the enterprising nuns working tirelessly as typesetters, the Ripoli Press began printing a series of books and pamphlets that triggered an explosion of ideas in politics, philosophy and religion.

In The Bookseller of Florence Ross King, the internationally bestselling author of Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, uncovers the story of a local battle that would have far-reaching consequences. The wave of radical thinking unleashed by printed books would alter the course of history, fuelling the Renaissance and the Reformation, and paving the way for the Enlightenment – and modernity as we know it today.

$45

In stock

ISBN – 9781784742652
Publisher – Penguin Random House
Format – Hardback
Publication Date – 01/04/2021
Dimensions – 242mm X 160mm
Categories – Object Histories

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Ross King
The Bookseller of Florence Vespasiano Da Bisticci and the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance
The Bookseller of Florence Vespasiano Da Bisticci and the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance


‘If you want to celebrate the place that bookmaking and bookselling still have in our lives . . . immerse yourself in Ross King’s rich history of Vespasiano da Bisticci, \”the king of the world’s booksellers,\” in 15th-century Florence . . . wonderful‘ SIMON SCHAMA, NEW YORK TIMES

‘A spectacular life of the book trade’s Renaissance man . . . King’s supreme ability is to imagine himself into the past . . . The scope of his knowledge is staggering’ JOHN CAREY, SUNDAY TIMES


An exhilarating and untold account of a Florentine bookseller working at the frontiers of human knowledge, and the epochal shift from script to print that defined the Renaissance

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

At the heart of this activity was a remarkable bookseller: Vespasiano da Bisticci. Besides repositories of ancient wisdom by the likes of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, his books were works of art in their own right, copied by talented scribes and illuminated by the finest miniaturists. His clients included popes, kings, and princes across Europe who wished to burnish their reputations by founding magnificent libraries. Vespasiano reached the summit of his powers as Europe’s most prolific merchant of knowledge when a new invention appeared: the printed book. By 1480, the ‘king of the world’s booksellers’ was swept away by this epic technological disruption.

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

‘A brilliant narrative that seamlessly weaves together intellectual debate, technological exploration and the excitement of new ways of thinking about ethics, politics and human capability’ ROWAN WILLIAMS

$40

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