Jim Recommends – The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts by Ross King.

For my morning and evening commutes I’ve been listening to The Bookseller of Florence. I haven’t quite finished it so I don’t feel comfortable reviewing it. However, I’ve really been enjoying it so I totally recommend it. It’s available on Hoopla, Overdrive or in hardcopy. What I really love about it is its mix of Renaissance history, the rediscovery of Greek and Roman literature, and the day-to-day process of book production when it all has to be done by hand. The audio version is well narrated and the narrator really gets into the voices.

A thrilling chronicle of intellectual ferment set against the dramatic political and religious turmoil of the era, this is 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–Vespasiano da Bisticci. Born in 1422, he became what a friend called “the king of the world’s booksellers.” At a time when all books were made by hand, over four decades Vespasiano produced and sold many hundreds of volumes from his bookshop, which also became a gathering spot for debate and discussion. Besides repositories of ancient wisdom by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, and Quintilian, his books were works of art in their own right, copied by talented scribes and illuminated by the finest miniaturists. His clients included a roll-call of 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, whereby cheaply produced books reached readers who never could have afforded one of Vespasiano’s elegant manuscripts.