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Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance

Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance
Author: Lisa Jardine
ISBN 13: 9780393318661
ISBN 10: 393318664
Edition: N/A
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: 1998-09-17
Format: Paperback
Pages: 512
List Price: $19.95

"Fascinating. . . . A notable achievement. . . . Real history is in the details, the small stories, of which Worldly Goods is a treasure house."—Richard Bernstein, New York Times

Publishers Weekly

Arguing that acquisitiveness ranked among the chief traits of leading Renaissance figures, Jardine (Erasmus, Man of Letters), a noted British academic, seeks to reinterpret the forces at work in an era traditionally defined in terms of the triumph of humanism. Writing with critical intelligence and authority, Jardine characterizes the artistic masterpieces of the period as "strictly commercial" undertakings designed to glorify their owners while doubling as convertible capital. Extravagant expenditures on conspicuous display in the interest of dynasty-building drew the Habsburg emperor Maximilian so deeply into debt to Jakob Fugger, the prominent German financier, that Maximilian was forced to cede long-term rights in the profits from his silver and copper mines in exchange for further loans. The struggle to control the globe led to intrigue at the highest levels-both Columbus and Magellan took advantage of stolen maps for their landmark voyages-and Jardine's examination of exploration and commerce provides a window onto the times. Her extended discussion of the rapidly emerging book trade highlights the role of financiers such as the Medicis, the Pope's main bankers, whose keen interest in profits led them to ensure that even books proscribed by the Church remained in circulation. By analyzing the Renaissance narrowly in terms of the ascendancy of modern mercantile capitalism, Jardine likens the period to our own. The risk of such an approach is to slight the hold of antiquity on the shapers of our modern world. Author tour. (Dec.)