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Real Rule of Four: The Unauthorized Guide to the New York Times #1 Bestseller Paperback – November 1, 2005

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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About the Author

Joscelyn Godwin was a scholar of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and holds a PhD from Cornell University. Since 1971 he has taught at Colgate University, where he is a professor of music. In 1999 Godwin published the first complete English translation of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, called "a masterpiece of clarity and scholarship" by Andrew Graham-Dixon in the London Daily Telegraph. Godwin's other books The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Disinformation Books (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932857087
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932857085
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,525,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Any best-seller nowadays can be expected to generate a side industry of books, films, computer games, plastic toys and so on, trying to capitalize on the success of the original. It would be a great mistake, however, to dismiss Joscelyn Godwin's magnificent guide as just a spin-off from the success of the Rule of Four. For one thing, its author not only follows but also preceded the novel, because as author of the only modern English translation of Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili he provided the best source of knowledge of the inspiration for the Rule of Four available to people who don't read mediaeval Italian.

It would have been easy, and perhaps tempting, for a scholar of Godwin's knowledge and ability to be patronizing about the Rule of Four, concentrating on correcting its errors and misinterpretations and on displaying his own superior understanding of the Hypnerotomachia, but Godwin does not do that. On the contrary, his attitude to the novel is thoroughly generous and positive. He starts by assuring us that the Hypnerotomachia is a real book, not a fictional invention of Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, explains its importance in the history of typography and erotic literature, and describes what it is all about. He goes on to analyse the structure -- unusually complex for a popular novel -- of the Rule of Four, and to examine the evidence for the identity of the real author of the Hypnerotomachia. In this his conclusion is different from that reached in the Rule of Four, but he does not dismiss other possibilities as absurd. He describes the historical context in which the Hypnerotomachia was written, including the famous "bonfire of the vanities" of Savonarola.
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Format: Paperback
Joscelyn Godwin has published a number of excellent books, the most important of which is probably his first ever English translation of the famous and mysterious Renaissance epic, the "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili". This book, with its clouded origins and hidden meaning, forms the basis of the novel "The Rule of Four" which has managed to work itself onto bestseller lists on the coattails of "The Da Vinci Code", though its obscure esocteric subject is much less controversial. Here Godwin explores the origins and authorship of the "Hypnerotomachia" in detail for the layreader and provides much interesting insight into this most beautiful and strange book.

The "Hypnerotomachia" was published in Venice by the famous Renaissance humanist printer Aldus Manutius in 1499 and has intrigued and confounded readers and scholars alike for 500 years. Godwin first gives an overview of the book's plot and discusses the 172 beautiful woodcut engravings that have made the book so fascinating to five centuries of readers. The book is filled with long and painstakingly detailed descriptions of architecture, statues, parades, ruins, pagan rituals, and beautiful, ethereal, naked nymphs and goddesses. In fact, it is this rather blatant erotic element that has certainly helped to make the book so popular. This scandalous aspect of the book made it so popular in fact, that today it is almost impossible to find original copies with all of its engravings intact or without censorship. Godwin also discusses at length the controversy regarding the authorship of the tome, today largely accepted by scholars and historians as the Venetian monk Francesco Colonna.
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Format: Paperback
Perhaps Professor Godwin ought to have written the novel himself! Certainly, by translating into English the entire text of the "Hypnoerotomachia Poliphilli", he was the condicio sine qua non for "The Rule of Four". I recommend this guide wholeheartedly, it is brilliant.
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Format: Paperback
A pretty good background of the novel, explaining the book and the book behind the book. This is the part I found most interesting, though it dragged a bit in places. It includes a glossary of allusions and scholarly terms found in the book, as well as a useful index of the novel itself. There are several illustrations from the "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili" not reproduced in the novel, and photographs of the main buildings in the novel. Most useful, perhaps, is the map of Princeton that helps a reader unfamiliar with the place get his bearings. There is a good bibliography. What keeps it from getting five full stars is that the author gets a little chatty at times, using contractions and, perish the thought, exclamation points!
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