The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began

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There was something serendipitous about reading this book in a week that modern scientists took a step closer to the elusive Higgs boson. The Swerve focuses on an elusive manuscript, a 9th-century copy of Lucretius’ De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things), which was rediscovered in a southern German monastery in 1417 by the Florentine humanist Poggio Bracciolini, a leading manuscript hunter and also an influential curial scribe. Bracciolini and papal politics are at the centre of this study, but Greenblatt casts his net wide, offering a fascinating overview of this crucial period in the history of early Renaissance Italy. Bracciolini’s recovery of Lucretius’ poem – and the work’s subsequent diffusion in print – is seen as an epochal moment, “a midwife to modernity”. Lucretius explores nothing less than the substance of the universe and mortal life in these “sublime” verses, modelled on Epicurean learning and in turn on Democritus’ theory that the universe is filled with colliding atoms in constant motion. His work would influence artists such as Botticelli, political thinkers such as Machiavelli, and philosophers and writers from Bruno to Montaigne, Jefferson and Darwin. This is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the Renaissance.

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Publisher
,

Published

Genre

Period

Century

Alt title
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Price
(US) $26.95
(UK) £20.00

ISBN
(US) 9780224078788
(UK) 9780393064476

Format
Hardback

Pages
356

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