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.
Galluzzi has long been one of the premier scholars of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century history of technology and science. But most of his scholarship is not available in English and is thus inaccessible to those who do not read Italian. This beautifully written book will bring his scholarship to the general reader, while promising to be of great use to specialists.
In a period of economic development, profound urbanization, and constant warfare, artist-engineers offered Renaissance society creative solutions to technical problems, new ways of imagining and understanding the world, and empirical methodologies that laid the groundwork for the new sciences. Galluzzi’s richly illustrated book therefore does well to demonstrate how artist-engineers revolutionized the conceptualization and production of textual and visual content, and, consequently, produced radical innovations in graphic representations that reflect the ever-fascinating world that is the Italian Renaissance.
Galluzzi, director of the Museo Galileo since 1982, is eminently qualified to synthesize this vast body of work…His observations display a freshness, immediacy, and acuity…Anyone who studies or teaches the renaissance of arts and letters will benefit from this more inclusive view of the period.
Galluzzi is the doyen of Leonardo da Vinci scholars today…This is apt to become a canonical text in its field.
An authoritative introduction to Galluzzi’s scholarly achievement, making it accessible as a reference work to an international English language reading audience, while at the same retaining stylistic traces of the vividness of the lectures.
- 296 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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