The Book of Michael of Rhodes
A Fifteenth-Century Maritime Manuscript
- 2011 J. Franklin Jameson Prize, presented by the American Historical Association
- 2011 Eugene S. Ferguson Prize, presented by the Society for the History of Technology
534 pp., 8 x 10 in, 48 illus.
- Published: June 5, 2009
The facsimile of a hand-lettered and illustrated manuscript by a fifteenth-century Venetian seaman, reproduced in full color and published for the first time.
In the fifteenth century, a Venetian mariner, Michael of Rhodes, wrote and illustrated a text describing his experiences in the Venetian merchant and military fleets. He included a treatise on commercial mathematics and treatments of contemporary shipbuilding practices, navigation, calendrical systems, and astrological ideas. This manuscript, “lost,” or at least in unknown hands for over 400 years, has never been published or translated in its entirety until now.
Volume 1 is a facsimile of the manuscript, reproduced in full color. The text is written out by hand and beautifully illustrated (probably at least in part by Michael himself), featuring color diagrams and illustrations of naval architecture, original drawings of astrological signs, calendrical charts, and a coat of arms Michael devised for himself.
The Book of Michael of Rhodes provides a remarkable glimpse into the individual life of a mariner the harsh conditions of his service at sea the material conditions of Venetian trade the making of knowledge in Renaissance culture and the fraught process for a vernacular author of transforming his lived experience into the written word. This collection is a marvel.
Pamela H. Smith, Department of History, Columbia University