Ross King on the Man Who Changed Bookselling
In Conversation with Mitchell Kaplan on The Literary Life Podcast
On today’s episode of The Literary Life, Mitchell Kaplan talks to Ross King about his new book, The Bookseller of Florence, out now from Grove Atlantic.
From the episode:
Ross King: Books were a scarce commodity at this time. I did look up at one point the average library of a primary school in the United Kingdom is supposed to have thirteen hundred books. So every primary school in England has more books today than the greatest book collector of the early 1400s had in Niccolò de’ Niccoli’s collection. So Vespasiano [da Bisticci] would go there to get books, and he also had access to various other private collections, such as the one of Cosimo de’ Medici, for example … That was a difficult thing. He could never find a lot of copies because there just were not a lot of copies of books. He could maybe only find two or three copies of, say, the works of Pliny the Elder, and if you wanted to make a new copy of that it was very difficult. We’re used to having free access to knowledge or at least our access to knowledge. Knowledge is available to us in many forms very quickly, but it was not like that in 15th century Europe.
Ross King is the award-winning and bestselling author of Brunelleschi’s Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, The Judgment of Paris, Mad Enchantment, Leonardo and the Last Supper, and Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power, among other books. He and his wife live in Woodstock, Great Britain.