Ancient Roman Poet Makes a Comeback…Again

October 7, 2011

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Sno-Isle has one austere little volume of a Loeb classic with parallel text called De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) by the First Century BCE Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher Lucretius.  We have had this one copy for years, generally holding up a shelf at Lynnwood, maybe going out once or twice a year.  Last month it had a holds queue of 5. 

 The rCover imageeason for this flurry of interest is doubtless the release of a new book by Stephen Greenblatt (Shakespearean scholar and author of Will in the World) called the Swerve : How the World Became Modern, which has a holds queue of 27 and building.  Greenblatt tells the true story of Poggio Bracciolini, a 15th Century Florentine collector of ancient texts who discovered the last existing copy of On the Nature of Things mouldering in an obscure German monastery.   Bracciolini copied and eventually promoted access to Lucretius’ lost poem throughout Renaissance Europe, and it went on to influence the thinking (even if only indirectly by scandalizing them) of Montaigne, Thomas More, Newton, Thomas Jefferson and many others.  Greenblatt discusses this lasting cultural influence as well as Bracciolini’s personal involvement in Vatican politics and the development of printing.  I finished the ARC last month and found this true history as riveting as any literary thriller by Matthew Pearl.

Unfortunately, the edition of On the Nature of Things we have is out of print, and I would probably have as much luck replacing it at a reasonable price as I would finding a native speaker of Latin. 

Fortunately, a new companion edition for the Swerve is coming out and we have a few on order.  It seems everything does come back in vogue, even if the fashion cycle is over millennia.


Posted by Darren



One Response to “Ancient Roman Poet Makes a Comeback…Again”

  1. Jeanne Crisp Says:

    Hi, Darren,
    just in case you wonder if anyone is reading… I really enjoyed this post. You’ve even inspired me to join the hold queue for the Greenblatt book. It now will remain to be seen whether I can remember why I requested the book once I get it… thanks!

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