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To Wake the Dead: A Renaissance Merchant and the Birth of Archaeology Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 31, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, August 31, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cyriacus Pizzecolli of Ancona was the first to travel solely to discover, observe and analyze historic monuments and, Belozerskaya convincingly argues in this charming and intriguing book, a key figure in the birth of archeology. A clerk in the bustling Renaissance port city, Pizzecolli's business trips took him to Greece and Asia Minor. He was unrelentingly curious and restless and while fascination with classical texts was widespread in the mid-15th century, few investigated the ancient physical remains. Pizzecolli educated himself in classical civilization in order to understand and preserve thousands of artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome, his true profession being, according to Cyriacus himself, to wake the dead of antiquity. Art historian Belozerskaya (The Medici Giraffe) writes with verve and aplomb, transporting us to 15th-century Rome, Constantinople, Florence, Greece and its islands, where he made sketches of antiquities later used by Raphael and da Vinci. Belozerskaya has written a well-researched history of an important yet relatively unknown figure that deftly integrates Renaissance social, cultural and political history. 25 illus. (Aug.)
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About the Author

Marina Belozerskaya is the author of The Medici Giraffe: And Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power, The Arts of Tuscany from the Etruscans to Ferragamo, and Luxury Arts of the Renaissance. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393065545
  • ASIN: B005HKSZF0
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,301,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful journey into the past. Your tour guide is the enthusiastic, romantic Cyriacus of Ancona, a 15th century Italian port master that developed a passion for ancient Greek and Roman architecture. His detailed record-keeping and sharp mind earned the trust of the local merchants and authorities. He adroitly used that trust to gain passage and access to ancient sites all over the Eastern Mediterranean. He was a careful, meticulous chronicler of all he surveyed. Many of the sites he visited have since been destroyed by war, earthquake or pilferage. His detailed renderings and descriptions are often the only surviving record of these ancient treasures.

Belozerskaya offers us a ticket to ride along with Cyriacus on his many adventures. Her outstanding research and engaging writing style combine to make this a fun book about the amazing, mostly forgotten "father of archaeology." The book does lack one thing: a reference map.
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Format: Hardcover
"To Wake the Dead," a fascinating tale of a little-known Italian renaissance merchant who somehow made himself into the world's first archaeologist, is the latest release from Moscow-born Marina Belozerskaya. She has previously penned The Medici Giraffe;Luxury Arts of the Renaissance; Ancient Greece: Art, Architecture, and History (Getty Trust Publications: J. Paul Getty Museum), (with Kenneth Lapatin); and The Arts of Tuscany: From the Etruscans to Ferragamo. And she has been an award-winning teacher at Harvard, Tufts, and Boston Universities.

The author here gives us the life of Cyriacus Pizzecolli, who was born at Ancona, in southern Italy. In autumn 1421, young Cyriacus, apprenticed to a merchant from a young age, who was himself to become a most successful merchant, looked up from his business at the port of Ancona, and noticed something the users of the port had long ignored, a Roman triumphal arch rising high overhead. The young merchant would do some research, and realize that it was dedicated to the Roman emperor Trajan. From this would develop a lifelong, extremely productive mission of finding and preserving classical monuments wherever he could: and his business as a merchant enabled - paid -- him to travel widely.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I have been aware of Cyriacus and his drawings for many years, it was sheer transendental joy to find someone from our distant past whose enthusiasms for antiquity matched my own. Ms. Belozerkaya has brought to life one of the most infuential precusers of the Italian Renaissance to exubrant life in a matchless book that was hard to put down. For me, it was one of those tomes that you found yourself literally slowing down as it approached it's last pages as you didn't want it ever to end. Through her evocation of Cyriacus travels, the doomed, surrounded and dying city of Constantiople came back to it's bittersweet life before an avid readers eyes. It is such a pity that because of an archival fire, there doesn't seem to be an extant depiction of the great temple of Zeus at Cyzicus, or the equally glorious one dedicated to Apollo at Didyma as they were mostly entire and intact during Cyzicus' lifetime. There was not a dry, air sucking page in this entire book, as it was written with grace and heartfelt empathy by such a gifted and talented writer.
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Format: Hardcover
This book illuminates a period in history of which I was well aware in a general sense, but completely oblivious to its particular importance to the world of archaeology. In very animated and often gripping prose, the author recounts the birth of archaeology through the life and efforts of the Italian merchant/bookkeeper who was responsible for it: Cyriacus of Ancona. By making detailed drawings of ancient monuments, mainly throughout Greece, Italy and Asia Minor, and copying inscriptions that he found on them as well as on building stones that had been scavenged for use in new structures, he made the ancient past come alive for his intellectual contemporaries.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Cyriacus' work for today's archaeologists. One significant reason for this is that many of the structures that he carefully drew and documented were subsequently severely damaged and some were completely destroyed in the subsequent decades and centuries. Thus, his records became the only remaining reliable detailed descriptions available. This book also presents a snapshot of the Renaissance in the mid-fifteenth century, complete with the religious and political turmoil that played an important part in Cyriacus' life and times.

The writing style is clear, friendly, accessible, lively and immensely captivating. This is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone who likes a good adventure story; archaeology/history buffs in particular will be in for a treat.
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