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Wordly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance [Paperback]

Lisa Jardine
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Oct 1998
The flowering of civilization, the rebirth of classical scholarship and the serendipitous coming together of some of the greatest artists the world has ever known: this is the traditional view of the Renaissance. This work provides an interpretation of that age of European culture. In it, the author argues that while aristocrats and newly prosperous merchants commissioned works of art from the leading artists of the day, vicious commercial battles were being fought over silks and spices, and who should control international trade. As humanism and the "new learning" spread out of Italy across Europe, the prodigious output of the printing presses which sprang up soon dictated - by accident as much as by design - what was to become the European intellectual tradition.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (2 Oct 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393318664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393318661
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 927,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

Drawing from her earlier and more academic studies, Lisa Jardine approaches the challenge of creating a new history of the Renaissance with remarkable bravura and all the boldness required to deliver a fresh and highly readable story of an age we think we know so well. In Worldly Goods, Jardine argues that while the Renaissance was indeed marked by a flourishing cultural identity, it was the material and commercial spirit of the 15th and 16th centuries that set the tone. Commerce and international trade provided the enormous fortunes that funded artistic production, and luxury goods, including great works of art, became important as means of displaying newly acquired wealth and status. It was an urge to own, a ceaseless quest for new horizons and exotic treasures, that fueled the cultural output of the Renaissance, according to Jardine, and that taste for conspicuous displays of opulence characterizes the Western experience of the arts and culture to this day.

That Worldly Goods succeeds in telling a captivating new story of the Renaissance is testimony to Jardine's literary and scholarly success at a difficult task. That her book, richly illustrated and well written, makes contemplation of its subject a thrill is testimony of a very good read. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

What the reviews said:
'With this book, Lisa Jardine has surely established herself as one of the most engaging, most exciting and most radical interpreters of the Renaissance ... A marvellous book.' Peter Bradshaw, Evening Standard 'A notable achievement' New York Times 'Fascinating' Alan Massie, Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is an absolutely beautiful book -- almost worth buying for the quality of the paper and print and the illustrations alone. But it's more than that. The initial chapters on the role of the Eastern Church in preserving Greek learning and its transmission to the West are fascinating and revealing. The overall theme -- that the engine of the Renaissance was acquisition, not some abstract desire for learning -- is less well played out, but nonetheless well worth pondering. A wonderful history in the Barbara Tuchman style: educated, provocative and highly readable.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
As someone who has been teaching the history of the arts for many years, the Renaissance is often a frustrating period to teach. Most of the histories stress the "Great Men" approach, discussing the "genius" of Leonardo, Michaelangelo, et al, as though these dudes had been beamed into Italy from the planet Krypton. Lisa Jardine has finally anchored the artistic and humanistic achievements of the Renaissance in the believable realities of the rise of commodities trading, political gamesmanship, mutlicultural curiosity, and emerging market savvy, making the Renaissance sound remarkably like the present day. Jardine permits us to see Renaissance art in the same terms that the patrons who commissioned these works saw them, which is no small achievement. Her discussion of the relation between Luther's critique of the Pope and the rise of German business interests is quietly brilliant. On top of all this, the book is lusciously illustrated, a treat for the eye as well as the mind. If you think you just don't "get" the Renaissance, you need to read this book, for Jardine has provided us with insights not just into the past, but into how we think and act today.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The power of money, commerce and books 22 Feb 2005
Format:Paperback
This is a lovely book that one enjoys both reading and having in your hands. It is focused mainly on the power of money and commerce and its influence in producing and spreading the Renaissance. In some parts it should be regarded as the antithesis of the official thesis as, for instance, I find difficult to believe that Spain's Catholic kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, trusted so much that Columbus was going to find a new route to the Indies that decided to get rid of the Jewish population, something they could not afford in normal conditions. But at least that makes you thing that there could have been secondary motivations in decisions which are thought to be purely religious. Something similar is shown for the german Princes by describing the relationship between support to Luteran Reformation and the struggle against banking monopolies in Germany. But what is clearly and most vividly established is the amazing revolution taking place as a result of widespread difussion of printed books and the importance of commercial profit beneath it (for the printers, the authors were seldom paid).
The main merit of this book I think is that proofs that money and the desire to have properties and boast of them was as important for the functioning of the Renaissance world as for today's, and so it makes us closer psychologically to people living 500 years ago. I'm convinced that the Fuggers, the richest bankers of his age would catch up in a couple of years if transported to our age.
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