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Toby Lester is the author of the Fourth Part of the world (2009) and a contributing editor to The Atlantic. A former Peace Corps volunteer and United Nations observer, he lives in the Boston area with his wife and three daughters. His work has also appeared on the radio program This American Life.

Sisältää nimen: Toby Lester (Author)

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USA (birth)
(near) Boston, Masssachusetts, USA
University of Virginia
Contributing editor, The Atlantic
Lyhyt elämäkerta
Toby Lester is a contributing editor to and has written extensively for The Atlantic. His work has also been featured on the radio show This American Life. A former Peace Corps volunteer and United Nations observer, he lives in the Boston area with his wife and three daughters. He is an invited research scholar at Brown University's John Carter Brown Library.



Way too many Italian names to try to keep straight. Author's frequent use of lists in his sentences annoyed me to no end.
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MarkLacy | 11 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 29, 2022 |
تعد «رجل فيتروفيان» أحد أشهر الرسومات في التاريخ. رسمها قبل خمسة قرون ليوناردو دا فينشي بشكل مثالي داخل مربع ودائرة، فأصبحت لعدة أسباب تحفة في الهندسة والتشريح.
إن معرفة السبب الذي دفع دا فينشي لفعل ذلك، وكيفية فعله، يمكن أن تعلمنا الكثير عن الأفكار والمعتقدات المركزية التي شكلت عصر النهضة. وهذا بالظبط ما يتناوله الكتاب.… (lisätietoja)
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TonyDib | 11 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jan 28, 2022 |
There were lots of things that I didn't know about Leonardo da Vinci's iconic image of the man in the square/circle. First up, I didn't know that it had pretty much remained hidden or obscure until 1956 when Kenneth Clark reproduced it in a work entitled "The Nude: A study in ideal form". Not did I know that it really harked back to Vitruvius and his "Ten books on Architecture" ..written around 25 BC....even though I have a copy of these and read them years ago. The only thing that I recall clearly from Vitruvius's book is that he recommends ringbarking trees and leaving them in the field to dry out for a few years before cutting them down to use as construction materials. But he also gives (in words only) the ideal proportions for a man and says that the ideal man fits within both a square and a circle. When Leonardo produced his drawing he also reproduced the words of Vitruvius ...but also corrected them and added his own findings.
Lester draws attention to the fact that there was a widespread belief that man (women didn't seem to come into it) was created in God's image and was a microcosm of the earth and that all the ideal proportions for architecture, church layout etc etc could be related to the ideal human form. But he also makes it clear that Leonardo did not just think this image up. He had access to many similar images that had been produced across the years and even to one by his friends, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, that had a figure in a circle and in a square. And Leonardo himself had been collecting measurements of people to help him in his painting and design work. (I made a few measurements myself when my kids were growing to see how the ideal proportions changed. The head on kids is proportionately large than with the adult, for example).
One piece of genius by Leonardo was to move the centre of the square down so that the circle is centred on the navel and the square on the genitals. Vitruvius apparently states that the navel is the midpoint of man but it's not and this had puzzled many other artists trying to emulate the figure There is also more than a bit of evidence that the face in the drawing is of Leonardo himself.
Another thing that I hadn't realised was that Leonardo was poorly educated and was making tremendous efforts to educate himself as an adult...teaching himself latin for example. But he never spoke it or read it very well. His lack of education probably made him value his own observations rather than rely on the authority view. And, in this, I think he was rather like Aristotle: believe what you observe rather than some dogma imposed on you by previous authorities. Certainly, he was relentlessly curious and kept noting down (in his notebooks) new things to be researched. But, the book also draws attention to Leonardo's restless nature and his tendency to start things and then move on to something new before finishing what he'd started. One of the things that jumped out at me from Lester's book was the fact that many others had drawn things like the connections in the brain to the source of common sense but the drawings were really crude. Leonardo's were individual works of art.
Lester also explains why the left foot looks slightly twisted and unnatural: well it's because the foot was generally taken as the measurement reference point and it needed to be shown side-on for it to be used as a reference in this way.
Although there is a short section at the end about the various ways the image had become iconic and enjoyed widespread usage in modern times, I felt that this was maybe a bit underdone...especially in view of the publisher's notes on the back of the book that draw attention to the fact that "everybody knows the image". It's easy reading and interesting. Lester has brought a lot of information together here. Happy to give it 5 stars.
… (lisätietoja)
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booktsunami | 11 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jul 24, 2021 |
I read history books the way others read genre fiction. Some of them are well-written and some not, some well-sourced and some not. Sometimes a book claiming to be a work of historical scholarship is actually a political screed. When I read one well-written, well-sourced, and about a subject not often tread, I am in my happy place. The Fourth Part of the World is one of those books and it's about maps.

To be precise, it is about one map: the first map in the world to name the New World "America." But to get to that point, one has to go back in time and start with the Medieval maps of the 12th century and slowly move the clock forward through the Golden Horde and the Crusades. The Travels of Marco Polo and "the Book" -- no authoritative version of the travels of Marco Polo exists but any number of versions await a reader's pleasure. The endless fascination and eternal quest to find Prester John, an imaginary king with an imaginary army waiting just over the hills to come to the assistance of the Crusaders and who existed in every unexplored corner of every map. The re-discovery of Greek in Western Europe, lost for a thousand years, and the translation of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographie, a book with instructions on how to draw maps, described latitude and longitude, and with 8000 places in the ancient world. Great convocations on religious matters where men of learning got together and, for the first time in dark rooms, discussed the forgotten philosophies and mathematics of the ancient world as they were feverishly translated, and exchanged books. The printing press. The invention of the Caravel. Dreams of Japan. The Portuguese and Africa and what they found there. The first trip around the Cape of Good Hope. The men of Bristol who saw something, once, a long stretch of coastline while chasing schools of cod. Columbus. John Cabot. Amerigo Vespucci. de Medicis and Papal Spies and secret societies of Royal mapmakers and the quest for the way to India. Lies and false letters and Monarchies jostling to lay hands on the New World.

And it all comes together with two men in a small town outside of Strassburg, one a philosopher and one a cartographer, who had access to a printing press, a stolen map of the New World, and a set of forged letters full of imaginary extra adventures of Amerigo Vespucci. They fell in love with the alliteration of Africa and Asia and Europe and, with small metal letters and newly translated Latin poetry in their heads, named the new world America. It was a best seller for twenty years but maps being what maps are and they wore out as new ones appeared. The map disappeared from the face of the Earth until one copy complete, in tact, and whole, found... and now in the Library of Congress.

The book ends with a very nice touch of the impact of the maps of the New World on Nicolaus Copernicus who quotes much of the intro text to the first true world map in his On the Revolutions. It leaves proof that, while perhaps not all of his theories of the Earth revolving around the Sun came from this source, it had bearing on his thinking. With the Fourth Part of the World, the old Aristotelean view of the world no longer worked. And if it didn't work, what else about how the world worked was outright wrong.

The Fourth Part of the World is terrific. For anyone interested in the history of maps and learning in Western Europe, or the Age of Discovery, I can completely recommend this book. It's a fun read, it's well written, it's incredibly well sourced, it is full of pictures of maps to help with the text, and it's all around great.

Fantastic. An easy 5 star rating.

… (lisätietoja)
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multiplexer | 8 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jun 20, 2021 |



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