The Fortunes of the Courtier: European Reception of Castiglione's " Cortegiano "

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Castiglione's Cortegiano, or the Courtier, is one of the best-known texts of the Italian Renaissance. When it first appeared in 1528, the Courtier was widely read as a guide to contemporary conduct. Its popularity led to its publication in six languages in twenty different European centers in the sixteenth century alone. While the text itself has been studied very carefully in recent years as the embodiment of the spirit of the High Renaissance, its multitude of readers, spread over the world, has received much less attention. In this engaging study Peter Burke explores how readers over the years have responded to the Courtier. Because it was read so widely in Europe, the Courtier affords Burke an ideal test case for the diffusion and reception of ideas. From Poland and Hungary to England, Portugal, and even the New World, he takes us on a fascinating tour of the courts, libraries, and reading rooms of Europe in search of Castiglione's idea of the perfect courtier. He shows how changing responses to the Courtier, both positive and negative, reveal changing social values and how regional variations in its reception reflect the emerging cultural map of early modern Europe. His evidence includes printing history, translations, marginalia, and records of sale and possession. He concludes with a discussion of the later fortune of the Courtier, including its role in the 'civilizing process' and its curious appeal to writers as different as Samuel Johnson and W. B. Yeats.Informed by Burke's considerable knowledge of printing and publishing history, this book contributes to our growing understanding of the history of the book and to our knowledge of the Renaissance and its reception.

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About the Author:

Peter Burke is Reader in Cultural History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. His numerous books include Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (Harper & Row, 1978) and, more recently, The Fabrication of Louis XIV (Yale, 1992). He is also the editor of New Perspectives on Historical Writing (Penn State, 1992).

From Publishers Weekly:

The "Courtier" here is Baldassar Castiglione's 1528 publication Cortegiano or Book of the Courtier. In this overview of Castiglione's transmontane reception in its first century of publication, Burke, a Cambridge cultural historian, looks at the book's owners, admirers, translators, imitators, critics and philosophical and stylistic predecessors. Like Robert Darnton's bookish histories (most recently, The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France), The Fortunes of the Courtier keeps a narrow focus but by so doing manages to reveal a great deal about changing social and intellectual attitudes. Take his example of Castiglione's Polish adherent Lukasz Gornicki, whose Polish Courtier is fairly close in many ways but omits women as characters and music, sculpture and painting-clearly what played in cosmopolitan Urbino was overly dainty for the tastes of the Polish march lords. Then there's the issue of translations, particularly of Castiglione's best-known concept, sprezzatura. Now we might translate it as "insouciance" but that borrowing wasn't available even to French translators until the 19th century, leaving 16th-century English translators to muddle through with clearly unsatisfactory substitutions like "disgracing" or "recklessness." Given the era's changing attitudes as Italophilia changed to Italophobia, Reformation to Counter-reformation, the only thing wrong with this book is that it could profitably have been longer.

Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780271015170: The Fortunes of the Courtier: The European Reception of Castiglione's Cortegiano (Penn State Series in the History of the Book)

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ISBN 10:  0271015179 ISBN 13:  9780271015170
Publisher: Penn State Press, 1995
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9780271015163: The Fortunes of the Courtier: The European Reception of Castiglione's Cortegiano (Penn State Series in the History of the Book)

Penn S..., 1996
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9780745611501: The Fortunes of the Courtier: European Reception of Castiglione's

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