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The Book of the Courtier (Dover Value Editions) Paperback – May 2, 2003

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Italian

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Value Editions
  • Paperback: 470 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (May 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486427021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486427027
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,752,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on February 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Book of the Courtier is one of those books that you hear frequently cited, but rarely actually read. It seems a shame to me if it remains unread. I expected it to take me a while to wade through it. I expected it to be dense and difficult to penetrate. Instead, it read very quickly and easy. The prose was modern, lucid, and nearly compulsively readable.

The book is structured as a conversational game carried out the court of the Duke of Urbino in the rooms of his wife Elisabetta Gonzaga. In four books, different members of the court sketch out the ideal Courtier and the ideal Lady. The books treat various subjects, including the nature of grace, love, humor, gender equality, and necessary skills. The unfamiliar details of the time are mixed with the quite familiar and recognizable human foibles that are still relevant today.

Castiglione is perceptive and witty and quite loving in the way he draws the people in the book. Both the "real" people having the conversation, and the imaginary ideal people being described are well developed.

I enjoyed it, and I recommend it. You don't need to be a scholar to enjoy it as well.
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73 of 82 people found the following review helpful By ilmk on January 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
Whether or not this work can be considered relevant in today's society is not a factor here. As a testimony to fifteenth century Italian Court Life it is unparalleled.
This delightful four-part book at the social nobility of the Italian Renaissance opens with an apology by Baldesar on the quality of his writing. Something that was clearly debated after Petrarch, Dante and Boccaccio as there is somewhat of a lengthier side discussion on the merits of using the vernacular in written speech partway through the first `book'.
The `handbook' opens with the matriarchal Duchess ordering that a game be played and that signora Emilia decide the nature of it. It is first set to Count Lodovico to describe those qualities best attributed to a courtier with the rest of the `players' questioning or discussing his points further.
The Count states that a good courtier should possess charm, be handsome, be of noble birth, modest, physically fit, be good at sports, should both observe and imitate those good qualities of other courtiers, be a good dancer, have an appreciation of music, letters and art, not be affectatious, be an above average scholar in the humanities and that his first and truest profession be that of arms. Quite a long section is taken with a development on the theory of writing and letters which has many references to the desired quality of those in the ancient world. Indeed, Castiglione holds up those practices of the ancient world in high esteem as being worthy of the perfect courtier.
The second book is to be continued by Duke Federico as to how and when the courtier should put the desired courtier qualities into practice.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Murena Jr. on February 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Castiglione's "Courtier" is one of many books outlining protocol and proper behavior of the sophisticated elite. It might suffice to say that he was in some way the Emily Post of his era however, it seems that this work was more far reaching than this. The Courtier is a fascinating book that is actually more useful in studying the renaissance than Machiavelli's "The Prince" (which I do recommend as well) since its detail on why people should act as proscribed is directly taken from real events and people and it is less a work of philosophy and more a work centered about real action in living. I recommend this work highly to everyone wishing to learn more about this age. This version is far better than the one I first read and it offers decent commentary to help elucidate the reader.

Castiglione was extraordinarily fond of Federigo the duke of Urbino with whom he fictitiously converses in this work. I am inclined to believe, though possibly naively, that the fictitious conversations outlined in this work, though not actual, may have been a summation of actual conversations that Castiglione and Federigo actually had. We should remember that Federigo was a model duke and Urbino was the model court of renaissance Italy. Federigo was a lover of learning and the arts and an able ruler willing to give audience to any of his subjects. He also was a more than able military commander who was just in to his men and equally just to those whom he fought against. In short he was the finest example of a renaissance prince. Urbino, though far smaller than Florence, Venice, Genoa or Rome was a very well organized and lovely court that was a favorite place, not only for Castiglione, but also for many artists including Leonardo Da Vinci.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bill McGann on February 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
There really was a Camelot. But it was in Italy. Urbino in northern Italy to be exact, in the 1500s. Perched on top of a couple of hills in the region Le Marche, Urbino was ruled by the Montefeltro family. From 1444 to 1482 Federigo de Montefeltro skillfully steered his tiny domain through the rough storms of Italian Renaissance realpolitik. Federigo was a successful soldier of fortune yet maintained one of the largest libraries in Italy, spoke Latin, read Aristotle, helped orphans and in general earned the love of his people. He built a beautiful fairy-tale palace and had Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca decorate it.

His less fortunate son Guidobaldo inherited this charming and well-run dukedom. Guidobaldo married the cultivated Elisabetta of the Gonzaga family from Mantua. He was an invalid and not made of his father's stern military stuff. A victim of the brilliant military campaigns of Cesare Borgia that so enchanted Machiavelli, Guidobaldo was temporarily deposed. When the Borgias (Cesare and his father Pope Alexander VI) died, the people of Urbino rose up, drove out Borgia's soldiers and cheered Guidobaldo and Elisabetta upon their return.

For the next few years the court of Elisabetta and Guidobaldo was the most beautiful, enlightened, genteel place on earth. They attracted musicians, scholars and artists. Conversation was honed into a fine art. Into this paradise strode our Lancelot, Baldassare Castiglione, a diplomat descended from minor Italian nobility. He loved Elisabetta, but as far as we know the devotion remained platonic

It is because of Castiglione that we believe we have a sense of what the court of Montefeltro was like, or at least how they would have like to have been remembered.
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