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Customer Review

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating subject-matter but flawed editing & research, 27 Dec. 2009
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This review is from: The Mercurial Emperor: The Magic Circle of Rudolf II in Renaissance Prague (Paperback)
Whenever I'm visiting foreign cities browsing in the local bookstores is a habit I just cannot kick, and when I was last in Prague I picked up this book there and immediately started reading it (though I had other books with me). Indeed, the subject is a fascinating one: not only is Prague a unique city with an incomparable heritage and history, but Rudolf II is one of the most remarkable Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. His court in Hradcany Castle in Prague must have been a veritable melting pot of scientists, painters, alchemists, astrologers, poets, buffoons and charlatans, while all around in Europe things were changing fast: the Reformation was gaining momentum, as were the forces of the Counter-Reformation spearheaded by Rudolf's contemporary (and uncle) Philip II of Spain. On this score, the book does not fail to deliver: it describes very well the Prague court and the activities of such intriguing characters as John Dee, Tycho Brahe, Edward Kelley and Johannes Keppler, and how these men stood with one foot in the past but simultaneously at the beginning of modern science.

However, the fun is spoiled to a degree by the careless research and editing. To name just a few examples:
- On page 26, Anna of Austria (Rudolf's sister) is - correctly - named as the fourth wife of Philip II of Spain, but on page 40 she has suddenly become his third wife;
- On page 153 Tyche is the greek god of destiny, while on page 162 Tyche is now the greek goddess of fortune (the latter is correct: Tyche is a goddess, not a god);
- Philip II of Spain is not Maximilian II's brother (p. 34) but his brother-in-law (having married Philip's sister Maria);

Of course, all this makes one wonder how meticulously the rest of the book was researched and edited which is why, in spite of the fascinating subject-matter, I gave only 3 stars.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Nov 2011, 19:26:33 GMT
Great book about a fascinating character as the reviews state. But I also agree that there's the occasional lapse in scholarship and facts, I spotted one about Arthur Dee and his supposed age when resident at Prague ; but nonetheless given this minor caveat an original look at an enigmatic figure of history who was highly influential in the late Renaissance as a patron of the arts and esoterica.

Posted on 24 Jan 2015, 03:35:27 GMT
Fanshawe61 says:
Thanks for the useful review. I have a query for anyone here. Does anyone know any work of fiction that features Rudolf? I only know a small cameo in John Banville's 'Kepler', apart from a similar cameo in my own book, which has such a limited release it's not really known ('The Stream and the Torrent: The Curious Case of Jan Torrentius and the Followers of the Rosy Cross', Vo.1, Zagava/Editions de l'Oubli).

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jun 2015, 13:39:34 BST
[Deleted by the author on 7 Jun 2015, 14:14:10 BST]

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jul 2015, 11:23:42 BST
Pillowtail says:
In German - Bruederzwist des Hauses Hapsburgs by Grillparzer
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Location: Ghent, Belgium

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