The Italian humanist Polydore Vergil (1470-1555) was born in Urbino but spent most of his life in early Tudor England. His most popular work, On Discovery (De inventoribus rerum, 1499), was the first comprehensive account of discoveries and inventions written since antiquity. Thirty Latin editions of this work were published in Polydore's lifetime, and by the eighteenth century more than a hundred editions had appeared in eight languages, including Russian. On Discovery became a key reference for anyone who wanted to know about "firsts" in theology, philosophy, science, technology, literature, language, law, material culture, and other fields. Polydore took his information from dozens of Greek, Roman, biblical, and Patristic authorities. His main point was to show that many Greek and Roman claims for discovery were false and that ancient Jews or other Asian peoples had priority. This is the first English translation of a critical edition based on the Latin texts published in Polydore Vergil's lifetime.
Brian Copenhaver's edition and translation of the first three books of the De inventoribus rerum (1499) of the humanist Polydore Vergil is especially useful because of its copious annotations...Copenhaver's translation helps in reminding us that most Renaissance writers were bricoleurs rather than scholars, and compendia like that of Polydore Vergil most certainly had a greater currency in Renaissance culture than less readable works such as Perotti's Cornucopiae or Guillaume Budi's De asse et partibus.
[Polydore Vergil] brought a keen sense of ambiguity to his breakthrough book--a vast study of inventions that went through thirty editions in Latin in his lifetime. As Brian Copenhaver shows in the introduction to his superb edition of Vergil's complex, learned book, On Discovery, some ancient authorities denounced human inventions as a source of corruption; others saw them as a continual source of improvement in the human condition...On Discovery, as Copenhaver shows, had a profound and lasting impact. It proved to be one of the principal channels through which the antiquarian methods of the fifteenth century reached the ethnographers and historians of religion of the next two centuries.
Important and engaging...Beautifully produced from quality materials, the book maintains the exceptionally high standards of the I Tatti Renaissance Library series. Highly recommended.
- 752 pages
- 5-1/4 x 8 inches
- Harvard University Press
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