The Role of Books
By Sean Roberts
Harvard University Press, $49.95, 336 pages
With the rise of the printing press, books became more important than ever in the world of the Renaissance. It enabled people to adopt information from ancient sources, update it a little and then present it to a new reading public. It allowed new forms of art to be incorporated into the book without requiring a lot of time.
The book also played the role of diplomatic gift between nations, peoples and cultures. It represented a shared common goal: to provide a way to communicate across time. In this work Sean Roberts explores the world of geography in Renaissance Florence with the publishing of a book of geography that was gifted to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire not long after the fall of Constantinople. Roberts takes us on a journey exploring the world where this geography was written, the attempts to Christianize the world, with particular emphasis on Jerusalem and surrounding locations, and the role that geography played in examining the Renaissance world.
This book is interesting, but it does not flow as smoothly as it should. It meanders through several tangents that get the reader off the main course, and it never completely recovers.
Reviewed by Kevin Winter