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Pliny the Elder and the Emergence of Renaissance Architecture


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  • Date Published: October 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107079861

£ 119.00

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About the Authors
  • The Naturalis historia by Pliny the Elder provided Renaissance scholars, artists and architects with details of ancient architectural practice and long-lost architectural wonders - material that was often unavailable elsewhere in classical literature. Pliny's descriptions frequently included the dimensions of these buildings, as well as details of their unusual construction materials and ornament. This book describes, for the first time, how the passages were interpreted from around 1430 to 1580, that is, from Alberti to Palladio. Chapters are arranged chronologically within three interrelated sections - antiquarianism; architectural writings; drawings and built monuments - thereby making it possible for the reader to follow the changing attitudes to Pliny over the period. The resulting study establishes the Naturalis historia as the single most important literary source after Vitruvius's De architectura.

    • Identifies an important new literary source on architecture (Pliny the Elder's Naturalis historia) that was used extensively by Renaissance scholars, artists, and architects
    • Is multidisciplinary and will appeal across a broad spectrum of interests, including art history, the history and theory of architecture, classics (textual analysis, textual interpretation, and reception studies), Italian (cultural studies, history, language, and literature) and antiquarianism
    • Exceptionally well-produced and researched, with ample footnotes, beautiful illustrations, and an index that enables quick and easy access to a veritable mine of information on numerous aspects of the emergence of Renaissance architecture in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy
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    • Winner, 2018 Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Book Prize, Renaissance Society of America

    Reviews & endorsements

    '… this is highly recommended reading for the architectural historian of the Renaissance - especially one who wants to understand how thoroughly Plinian the Renaissance canon of the Five Column Orders actually is.' Krista De Jonge, Renaissance Quarterly

    … Pliny has had only limited attention paid to him by historians of Renaissance architecture, which is what this book sets out to rectify. It does so in a remarkably comprehensive and exceptionally scholarly manner …' David Hemsoll, The Burlington Magazine

    '… this book has provided an important perspective that was long overdue.' Joseph Rykwert, The Times Literary Supplement

    '… one seldom sees an issue that has the potential of filling a gap in the research of the modern reception of ancient culture … Peter Fane-Saunders's monograph represents a successful attempt to correct the deficiency … There is no doubt that [it] will become an essential handbook.' Petra Hečková, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    'All in all, Fane-Saunders' brilliant investigation marks a milestone in Plinian studies, provides new food for thought, and will certainly inspire many new directions in research.' Michail Chatzidakis, translated from Sehepunkte

    'In this clearly structured and well-written account of the reception of Pliny the Elder's chapters on ancient architecture in the Renaissance, Peter Fane-Saunders has made a significant contribution to the history of the humanities and, at the same time, fulfilled a desideratum in the history of architecture.' Margaret Daly Davis, History of Humanities

    'Peter Fane-Saunders masters a formidable and important topic with sophistication, erudition, and engaging prose. In offering the first comprehensive analysis of the Italian Renaissance reception of Pliny the Elder's writing on architecture, his book fills a significant gap in our understanding of early modern architecture. It makes a major contribution to our conception of the transmission of ideas from ancient Rome into the European architectural tradition.' Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Prize Award Committee, Renaissance Society of America

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107079861
    • length: 510 pages
    • dimensions: 262 x 185 x 35 mm
    • weight: 1.64kg
    • contains: 74 b/w illus. 8 colour illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Pliny the Elder and his place in antique and mediaeval writings on architecture
    2. Initial explorations: Petrarch, the Mirabilia Urbis Romae and Flavio Biondo
    3. The manuscript hunter and the librarian: Poggio Bracciolini and Giovanni Tortelli
    4. A new system: Pomponio Leto and his school
    5. Emerging doubts
    6. Pliny and Leon Battista Alberti: two 'architectural histories'
    7. Pliny, Filarete and the ideal patron of architecture
    8. 'Aldus and his dream book': the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili
    9. A more down-to-earth Pliny
    10. Mixing the traditions: the curious case of Cesare Cesariano
    11. Developments in the Veneto: the Vitruvian commentaries of Daniele Barbaro and I quattro libri by Andrea Palladio
    12. Standing before the marvels: Ciriaco d'Ancona and Pliny's 'Opera mirabilia in terris'
    13. In the mind's eye: drawings of Plinian wonders, from Leonardo to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger
    14. From paper to stone: rebuilding Pliny's architectural marvels
    Final thoughts: Pliny's influence on the Renaissance understanding of ancient architecture.

  • Author

    Peter Fane-Saunders, Durham University
    Peter Fane-Saunders holds a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Durham. His main research interest is the classical tradition - particularly works of art and architecture that derive their inspiration from the ancient world. His work has been published in various European academic journals. Formerly, he was Rome Fellow at the British School at Rome.


    • Winner, 2018 Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Book Prize, Renaissance Society of America

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