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The Italian Renaissance of Machines

The Italian Renaissance of Machines

Paolo Galluzzi

Translated by Jonathan Mandelbaum

ISBN 9780674984394

Publication date: 02/04/2020

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The Renaissance was not just a rebirth of the mind. It was also a new dawn for the machine.

When we celebrate the achievements of the Renaissance, we instinctively refer, above all, to its artistic and literary masterpieces. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, however, the Italian peninsula was the stage of a no-less-impressive revival of technical knowledge and practice. In this rich and lavishly illustrated volume, Paolo Galluzzi guides readers through a singularly inventive period, capturing the fusion of artistry and engineering that spurred some of the Renaissance’s greatest technological breakthroughs.

Galluzzi traces the emergence of a new and important historical figure: the artist-engineer. In the medieval world, innovators remained anonymous. By the height of the fifteenth century, artist-engineers like Leonardo da Vinci were sought after by powerful patrons, generously remunerated, and exhibited in royal and noble courts. In an age that witnessed continuous wars, the robust expansion of trade and industry, and intense urbanization, these practitioners—with their multiple skills refined in the laboratory that was the Renaissance workshop—became catalysts for change. Renaissance masters were not only astoundingly creative but also championed a new concept of learning, characterized by observation, technical know-how, growing mathematical competence, and prowess at the draftsman’s table.

The Italian Renaissance of Machines enriches our appreciation for Taccola, Giovanni Fontana, and other masters of the quattrocento and reveals how da Vinci’s ambitious achievements paved the way for Galileo’s revolutionary mathematical science of mechanics.


  • Galluzzi’s project in this erudite and beautifully illustrated book is to consider Renaissance humanism from the relatively unfamiliar perspective of machine design…Leonardo’s projects, like Taccola’s, combined philosophy, art, experimental science, performance, politics, diplomacy, and fantasy. It’s not that these engineer-humanists did many different things, but that they regarded all things as one.

    —Jessica Riskin, New York Review of Books


  • Paolo Galluzzi is Director of the Museo Galileo in Florence, Italy. He is the author of more than 250 publications on the history of science, including works on Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and the scientific revolutions of the Italian Renaissance. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, and has taught at the University of Siena and the University of Florence.

Book Details

  • 296 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press