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#22 Conversation with Ross King

Updated: May 9, 2022

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

June 5, 2021

The recording of this session is available for $10.

The Bookseller of Florence tells the true story of the “king of the world’s booksellers,” Vespasiano da Bisticci, who, in the age before print, was Europe’s greatest merchant of knowledge, helping to create fine libraries for clients such as Cosimo de’ Medici, Federigo da Montefeltro, and Pope Nicholas V.

Paola’s note: Vespasiano is one of (if not the) favorite of all the historical figures I got to know during my graduate studies. He was a quintessential Florentine: witty, funny and above all, a great salesman. I will always remember standing at Vespasiano’s tomb in Santa Croce with Ross King, honoring the man we both admire. The bookseller simply could not afford to have such a prestigious burial location - and so he was buried with his brother, a medical doctor….

Ross King is the bestselling author of books on Italian, French, and Canadian art and history. Among his books are Brunelleschi’s Dome (2000), Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling (2002), The Judgment of Paris (Governor General’s Award, 2006), Leonardo and The Last Supper (Governor General’s Award, 2012), and Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies (Charles Taylor Prize, 2017). He has also published two novels (Domino and Ex-Libris), a biography of Niccolò Machiavelli, and a collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s fables, jokes, and riddles. He is the co-author with Anja Grebe of Florence: The Paintings & Frescoes, 1250-1743 (2015).

Ross’s newest book, the subject of four years of research and writing, marks his return to the ‘Golden Age’ of fifteenth-century Florence. The Bookseller of Florence tells the remarkable true story of one of the unsung heroes of the Italian Renaissance: the manuscript dealer Vespasiano da Bisticci. Known as ‘the king of the world’s booksellers’, Vespasiano produced hundreds of exquisite manuscripts for the libraries of many of Europe’s most famous and powerful personalities. The Bookseller of Florence has been hailed as a ‘profoundly engaging study of a time when books were considered essential to a meaningful life, and knowledge and wisdom were cherished as ends in themselves’ (Booklist), and as ‘a spectacular life of the book trade’s Renaissance man’ (Sunday Times).

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