Stephen Greenblatt, the renowned historian & scholar of Will in the World, has written another great book for the bibliophile. This time he has turned his attention to the Renaissance, and crafted a story which narratively reads like a literary thriller. He brings his readers along the journey of the discovery of perhaps the only surviving copy made of Lucretius' work On the Nature of Things and what that has meant for Western civilization. A Hudson Booksellers Best Book of 2011.
— Anne, Atlanta
Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius--a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.
The copying and translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.