Tag Archives: Venice

If geography is prose, maps are iconography… Lennart Meri

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Irresistible North: from Venice to Greenland on the trail of the Zen brothers New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011 Andrea di Robilant Faroe Islands Discovery and exploration Historiography Hardcover. 1st. ed. vii, 228 p.: ill., maps; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 199-214) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

From the author of A Venetian Affair and Lucia comes a charming odyssey in the path of the mysterious Zen brothers, who explored parts of the New World a century before Columbus, and became both a source of scandal and a cause célèbre among geographers in the following centuries.

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This delightful journey begins with Andrea di Robilant’s serendipitous discovery of a travel narrative published in Venice in 1558 by the Renaissance statesman Nicolò Zen: the text and its fascinating nautical map re-created the travels of two of the author’s ancestors, brothers who explored the North Atlantic in the 1380s and 1390s. Di Robilant set out to discover why later, in the nineteenth century, the Zens’ account came under attack as one of the greatest frauds in geographical history. Was their map —and even their journey — partially or perhaps entirely faked?

In Irresistible North the author follows the Zens’ route from the Faeroes to Shetland to Iceland and Greenland, greeted by characters who help unravel the enigmas in the Zens’ account. The medieval world comes to life as di Robilant guides us through a landscape enlivened by the ghosts of power-hungry earls and bishops of the old Norwegian realm and magical tales of hot springs and smoking mountains. In this rich telling — an original work of history and a travel book in one — the magnetism of the north draws us in as powerfully as it drew the Zen brothers more than six centuries ago.

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Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee, And was the safeguard of the West… William Wordsworth

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The horses of St Mark’s: a story of triumph in Byzantium, Paris and Venice New York, Overlook Press, 2010 Charles Freeman Bronze sculpture, Classical  Italy  Venice; Europe  History; Horses of San Marco  History Hardcover. 1st. American ed. and printing.  xiv, 298 p.: ill., ports.; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The Horses of St. Mark’s in Venice are among art’s finest creations — and certainly one with a story like no other. Charles Freeman explores the mysterious origin of the statues and their turbulent movements through Europe over the centuries: in Constantinople, at both its founding and sacking in the Fourth Crusade; in Venice, at both the height of its greatness and fall in 1797; in the Paris of Napoleon, and the revolutions of 1848; and back in Venice. In this book, Freeman shows how the horses came to stand at the heart of European history time and time again.

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Comments Off on Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee, And was the safeguard of the West… William Wordsworth

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We require from buildings two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it… John Ruskin

Venice : pure city London : Chatto & Windus, 2009  Peter Ackroyd Venice (Italy) History Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 403 p., [32] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps (some col.) ; 24 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p. [381]-386) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underl ining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

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In this vision of Venice,  Ackroyd turns his skill for evoking a sense of place from London and the River Thames to Venice, the city of myth, mystery and beauty, set like a jewel in its glistening lagoon. Ackroyd’s Venice is at once romantic and packed with detail, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the fiestas and the flowers.

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He leads us through the fascinating, story-filled history of the city, from the first refugees arriving in the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century, to the rise of a great mercantile state and trading empire, the wars against Napoleon and the tourist invasions of today. Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the mosaics of St. Marks’ and the glass blowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the doges and the destitute.

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And of course, the artists – Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, with their passion for colour and form. There are wars and sieges, scandals and seductions, fountains playing in deserted squares and crowds thronging the markets. And there is a dark undertone too, of shadowy corners and dead ends, prisons and punishment. We could have no better guide to Venice than Peter Ackroyd whose book is, itself, a glorious journey and the perfect holiday.

Comments Off on We require from buildings two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it… John Ruskin

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Empires of the Sea shows the Mediterranean as a majestic and bloody theatre of war. Opening with the Ottoman victory in 1453 it is a breathtaking story of military crusading, Barbary pirates, white slavery and the Ottoman Empire and the larger picture of the struggle between Islam and Christianity. Coupled with dramatic set piece battles, a wealth of riveting first-hand accounts, epic momentum and a terrific denouement at Lepanto, this is a work of history at its broadest and most compelling.

There are those among the hawks who will see American troops march into Baghdad, topple a statue of the current tyrant and then fly out to an aircraft carrier and stand under a “Mission Accomplished” banner. There are those among the doves who believe that if we bestow the blessings of liberty upon the people and shower them with our largesse – and for the truly craven beg their forgiveness for everything from the lack of rain in the desert forward – that we will be loved because we are “good people”

Both camps are full of fools. Unfortunately the east knows that the West’s stomach for war is weak. A few weeks, a few months or even a few years and we are unwilling to bear the costs of our own defense. Five centuries ago Islam attempted to conquer the West – it was not a campaign of a single battle but a war that lasted for three generations – and the West finally prevailed, well more like a stalemate, because they were willing to bear the cost of the battle.

We do not pretend that they were like the Crusaders marching under a banner of DEUS LE VOLT, they were merchant princes for the most part trying to defend their commerce, but they were also men of Faith who knew that surrender was tantamount to voluntary slavery. Today a weary West marches slowly toward that same slavery all boldness drained from our blood with a fool’s confidence in a sword we no longer have the strength to wield.

In the 1960’s it was said that an optimist learned Russian and a pessimist Chinese – Crowley makes a compelling case to either study arabic or learn anew the price of freedom.

Empires of the sea : the final battle for the Mediterranean 1521-1580    London : Faber and Faber, 2008 Roger Crowley Venice (Italy)  History  Turkish Wars, 1453-1571 Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. ix, 341 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In 1521, Suleiman the Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power, dispatched an invasion fleet to the island of Rhodes. This was the opening shot in an epic struggle between rival empires and faiths, and the ensuing battle for control of the Mediterranean would last sixty years.

Empires of the Sea tells the story of this great contest. It is a tale of spiralling intensity that ranges from Istanbul to the Gates of Gibraltar and features a cast of  characters including: Barbarossa, the pirate who terrified Europe; the risk-taking Emperor Charles V; the Knights of St John, last survivors of the crusading spirit; and the brilliant Christian admiral Don Juan of Austria. Its brutal climax came between 1565 and 1571, six years that witnessed a fight to the finish, decided in a series of bloody set pieces: the epic siege of Malta; the battle for Cyprus; and the apocalyptic last-ditch defense of southern Europe at Lepanto – one of the single most shocking days in world history that fixed the frontiers of the Mediterranean world we know today.

Empires of the Sea follows Roger Crowley’s first book, the widely praised Constantinople: The Last Great Siege. It is page-turning narrative history at its best – a story of extraordinary color and incident, rich in detail, full of surprises and backed by a wealth of eyewitness accounts.

Comments Off on Empires of the Sea shows the Mediterranean as a majestic and bloody theatre of war. Opening with the Ottoman victory in 1453 it is a breathtaking story of military crusading, Barbary pirates, white slavery and the Ottoman Empire and the larger picture of the struggle between Islam and Christianity. Coupled with dramatic set piece battles, a wealth of riveting first-hand accounts, epic momentum and a terrific denouement at Lepanto, this is a work of history at its broadest and most compelling.

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