In 1482, the Florentine humanist and statesman Francesco Berlinghieri produced the Geographia, a book of over one hundred folio leaves describing the world in Italian verse, inspired by the ancient Greek geography of Ptolemy. The poem, divided into seven books (one for each day of the week the author “travels” the known world), is interleaved with lavishly engraved maps to accompany readers on this journey.
Sean Roberts demonstrates that the Geographia represents the moment of transition between printing and manuscript culture, while forming a critical base for the rise of modern cartography. Simultaneously, the use of the Geographia as a diplomatic gift from Florence to the Ottoman Empire tells another story. This exchange expands our understanding of Mediterranean politics, European perceptions of the Ottomans, and Ottoman interest in mapping and print. The envoy to the Sultan represented the aspirations of the Florentine state, which chose not to bestow some other highly valued good, such as the city’s renowned textiles, but instead the best example of what Florentine visual, material, and intellectual culture had to offer.
Through Berlinghieri's The Seven Days of Geography (1482), Roberts provides a highly original focus on the book as material artifact and contests prevailing views of its place in the history of geography and cartography. Most compellingly, his account of the book as a cultural go-between leads to a critique of models of Italian–Ottoman exchange current in early modern studies over the past decade.
Through his meticulous study of Francesco Berlinghieri's Geographia, Roberts deftly touches on some of the most timely and topical areas of recent research in the field of early modern studies: Artistic agency, materiality, patronage, print culture—and the nature of 'the Renaissance' itself.
Roberts’s account of Berlinghieri’s intellectual biography is informed and rewarding. It uncovers the distinctive quality of fifteenth-century geography, and reveals the characteristic combination of classical geography, mythology, medieval history and legend found in The Seven Days of Geography. His discussion of the Renaissance reinvention of Ptolemaic mapping reflects his awareness of the recent paradigm shift in the history of cartography and of science. The old progressivist vision of history and universal concept of objectivity has no place in Sean Roberts’s exposition. This book has a good chance of becoming a classic on the subject.
- 336 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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