It was the age in which Europe rediscovered antiquity even as it built the foundations of the modern world; when Christendom lost its eastern empire and conquered a new world to the west; an age in which Leonardo and Michelangelo glorified the human body while Andreas Vesalius stripped bare its skeleton; an age in which a revolution in scientific knowledge coexisted with a religious inquisition and the hysterical persecution of suspected witches. The 200 years we call the Renaissance were so eventful and contradictory that one man, Erasmus of Rotterdam, could decry their tyranny, avarice and iniquity, yet proclaim the "near approach of a golden age." This collection presents the gorgeous, troubled tapestry of European Renaissance in the words of more than a hundred of its monarchs, prelates, merchants, scholars, artists, poets, and ordinary citizens. It includes selections from writings by Pope Pius II, Miguel de Cervantes, Francesco Petrarca, Giovani Boccaccio, Albrecht Durer, Michelangelo Buonarrotti, Francis Bacon, John Calvin, Nicholas Copernicus, and St. Teresa of Avila.
Essential passages form the works of more than 100 fifteenth-and sixteenth-century thinkers and writers, including Erasmus, Cervantes, Boccaccio, Montaigne, Bodin, Dürer, Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Rabelais, Leonardo, Cellini, Copernicus, Galileo, Savonarola, Luther, and Calvin.