Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Paging through the Past

The Swerve: How The World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
My score: 4 of 5 stars

One of the reasons we have libraries is to keep a record of human knowledge. We like to think that over time we've been gradually adding to our store of information and safeguarding it for the future. But in the 15th century, at the end of what are sometimes called the Dark Ages, a man could make a living searching for lost books because so many of them had been misplaced and forgotten. Poggio Bracciolini was such a man, and when he looked on the shelves of a monastery he found a book that contained a poem. It was a poem that would change the world.

It's amazing to think that some of the same ideas contained in the work, On the Nature of Things by Lucretius, are still hotly debated today. Then again, maybe it's to be expected when it came from an ancient society that has its hooks so firmly in our modern consciousness. After all, we still say "Rome wasn't built in a day" and most of us can name a few ancient Greek and Roman gods. As you read about the discovery of the text you'll learn not only about ancient Rome, but also about the world in which Poggio lived. How did he come to be a hunter of books, and how did he manage to bring this text to wider recognition? And just how did that Roman poem change the world?

Stephen Greenblatt won a Pulitzer Prize for his book this year. You can watch the video below from PBS News to learn more about the book and its author.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting video. Thanks for sharing.