Nan A. Talese
November 1, 1996
The flowering of civilization, the rebirth of classical scholarship, and the emergence of some of the greatest artists and thinkers the world has known; this is the traditional view of the Renaissance. In this lively, provocative, and wholly absorbing new book, Lisa Jardine offers a radical new interpretation, arguing that the creation of culture during the Renaissance was inextricably tied to the creation of wealth – that the expansion of commerce spurred the expansion of thought. As Professor Jardine boldly states, “The seeds of our own exuberant multiculturalism and bravura consumerism were planted in the European Renaissance.”
While Europe’s crowned heads and merchant entrepreneurs competed with each other to acquire works of art from the leading artists of the day, vicious commercial battles were being fought over silks and spices, and over who should control the centers for international trade around the globe. The rapidly growing market for printed books – a new commodity seized upon with equal enthusiasm by investors and consumers – disseminated the “new learning” via publishing houses and printing presses across Europe, stimulating the evolution of the European intellectual tradition as much by accident as by design.
Bringing this opulent epoch to life in all its material splendor and competitive acquisitiveness, Lisa Jardine examines Renaissance culture from its western borders in Christendom to its eastern reaches in the Islamic Ottoman Empire. Lavishly illustrated and an utter delight to read, Worldly Goods is a sumptuous feast of a book, presenting a dazzling new vision of a distant era that seems, in many of its contours, very much like our own.
Lisa Jardine is Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, and an Honorary Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. She is the author of books on a wide range of subjects, notably Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare and Erasmus, Man of Letters. A regular visitor to American campuses, she also frequently appears on BBC television and radio in England.