The Bookseller of Florence by Ross King: 4****

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

Ross King, just his name tells us this is going to be a well-researched book, and one about the Renaissance period in Italy – he has written about some non-Renaissance topics, but the Renaissance is his wheelhouse! And for the first time he has turned his eyes to the lost art of bookmaking, and printing in the 15th century and a minor character, Vespaciano, who rose from humble origins to become a leading bookmaker, bookseller and friend to the greats in Florence and beyond. He supplied many of these people with beautiful and elegant copies of old masters such as Plato, Cicero and other Greek and Roman writers, his services were in demand even after the invention of the moveable type printing press.
No matter how much I will rave about this book, it is not a book for everyone, as you have to wade through the development of papyrus to codex to parchment to paper, with much detail about all of these developments. Then we learn about how ink is prepared, how scribes used to copy on parchment and how parchment was prepared. There is a lot of book history here, a lot of philosophy here, a lot of Renaissance history and historical figures here, and finally a massive amount of names and places in the development of the printing press – so much so that I have failed to understand why so many examples are included when maybe 5 would be sufficient. But, then again, we are talking about Ross King who does immense research and will give you all you need to know, and most likely all that is known on a topic.
I really enjoyed this book but it was not one that I could read cover to cover at one time. I was easily able to read a few chapters, close the book and return to it. A well done effort and I look forward to King’s next book no matter what the topic!

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