Inventing Inventors in Renaissance Europe: Polydore Vergil's De Inventoribus Rerum

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Mohr Siebeck, 2007 - Religion - 325 pages
Polydore Vergil of Urbino (ca.1470-1555) fired his readers' imagination with his encyclopaedic book On the inventors of all things ( De inventoribus rerum 1499). His account of the manifold origins of sciences, crafts and social institutions is a praise of man's inventive genius and a prototypical cultural history. Polydorus was a household name for several centuries. Erasmus envied his friend the book's success, Rabelais heaped scorn on it, Catholic censors put it on the index, while Protestants were fascinated with that papist work. In this first in-depth study of the Renaissance 'bestseller', Catherine Atkinson examines not only the Italian humanist's bona fide (mostly ancient) inventors, in books I-III, she enquires into the neglected and misunderstood, yet equally important, books IV-VIII (1521). This early modern text, written on the eve of the Reformation, is devoted to the highly controversial topic of the 'invention' of ecclesiastical institutions. The priest and humanist Vergil, who during his 50 years in England rose in the church hierarchy, is shown to be an acute observer of contemporary religious practice. He employs the inventor question (who was the first to do this?) as an instrument of historiography and by comparing medieval church rites and institutions with religious practice of antiquity, implicitly questions the singularity of the Christian church.

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Inventio history of an idea
Polydore Vergil Italian priest and humanist
Introducing De inventoribus rerum
He who first yoked oxen to a plough
Pagan and Jewish survivals and Christian beginnings
The works reception
Vergils use of sources in DIR VI c 11 on litanies
List of illustrations

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About the author (2007)

Catherine Atkinson, Born 1956; studied European prehistory at London University; PhD in Renaissance history and literature at Hannover University; free-lance historian, author of several books.

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