Bull, George - Venice: The Most Triumphant City. Folio Society, 1980, 1st thus.
Evelyn Waugh called Venice 'the greatest surviving work of art in the world'. Almost two hundred years earlier, the thirty-seven year old Goethe found these dramatic words to record his first impression of this magical work of art: 'It was written, then, on my page in the Book of Fate, that at five in the afternoon of the twenty-eighth of September in the year 1786, I should see Venice for the first time as I entered this beautiful island city, this beaver-republic.' Venice: The Most Triumphant City is a quite new kind of book on Venice - a voyage of literary exploration through five centuries.Through the observant eyes of the great and the obscure, the rich and the poor, of all who have fallen under its spell, the narrative unfolds like a series of brilliant tapestries, illuminating in a highly original way this 'gorgeous jewel', this 'maiden city with her virginity untouched', this 'great town half floated with a deluge', this dream-like city 'whose temples and whose palaces did seem like fabrics of enchantment piled to heaven'. It is a voyage which, almost incidentally, fills in the outlines of history. There are glimpses of that early refuge of a community of fishermen from the perpetual ravages of war on the mainland. There are tantalizing vignettes of the splendour of sixteenth-century Venice, when the Doges and their powerful galleys did indeed 'hold the gorgeous east in fee'. Wherever you look, there are the shadows of the famous . . . of Erasmus and the great printer Aldus Manutius, of Titian and Aretino, of Monteverdi and the red-haired priest Vivaldi, of the wanderer Thomas Coryat and John Evelyn, of Byron and Shelley, of Casanova and da Ponte, of Henry James and Thomas Mann. The story of this extraordinary place glides imperceptibly forward from days of splendour to days of decay, from pageant and carnival to embattled survival in a hostile twentieth-century environment. Yet the miracle remains somehow intact, in an uncannily seamless thread. 'Time flows when you rest your elbows on the ledges of Venetian windows' said Henry James, a few hundred years after Aretino had expressed the same thought to Titian, saying 'Never do I lean out of the windows but I see at market time a thousand persons and as many gondolas . . .' But perhaps the much-travelled and wordly-wise politician Philippe de Commynes found the most graphic phrase of all: 'I wondered to behold the seat of this City: so many steeples, so many religious houses, and so much building, and all in the water . . . To be short, it is the most triumphant city that I ever saw.' George Bull's approach is a seductive one: part anthology, part autobiography, part history; a celebration of the magic of that fascinating miracle of man's ingenuity, Venice, handsomely illustrated in the words and images of the most talented writers and artists from five centuries. (Folio Society).
9½" x 6¼", 192pp, blue-green cloth blocked in gold with decoration to the front board and spine, and spine lettering, hardback. Illustrated in monochrome and colour with historical material within the text.
Slightly sunned spine; fine; no glassine wrapper (not issued in a slip-case); still has its LP record flyer.
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