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Giordano Bruno

Philosopher / Heretic

Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) is one of the great figures of early modern Europe, and one of the least understood. Ingrid D. Rowland’s biography establishes him once and for all as a peer of Erasmus, Shakespeare, and Galileo—a thinker whose vision of the world prefigures ours.

Writing with great verve and erudition, Rowland traces Bruno’s wanderings through a sixteenth-century Europe where every certainty of religion and philosophy has been called into question, and reveals how he valiantly defended his ideas to the very end, when he was burned at the stake as a heretic on Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori.


“A loving and thoughtful account of [Bruno’s] life and thought, satires and sonnets, dialogues and lesson plans, vagabond days and star-spangled nights. . . . Ingrid D. Rowland has her reasons for preferring Bruno to Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, even Galileo and Leonardo, and they’re good ones.”—John Leonard, Harper’s

“Whatever else Bruno was, he was wild-minded and extreme, and Rowland communicates this, together with a sense of the excitement that his ideas gave him. . . . It’s that feeling for the explosiveness of the period, and [Rowland’s] admiration of Bruno for participating in it—indeed, dying for it—that is the central and most cherishable quality of the biography.”—Joan Acocella, New Yorker

“Rowland tells this great story in moving, vivid prose, concentrating as much on Bruno’s thought as on his life. . . . His restless mind, as she makes clear, not only explored but transformed the heavens.”—Anthony Grafton, New York Review of Books

“[Bruno] seems to have been an unclassifiable mixture of foul-mouthed Neapolitan mountebank, loquacious poet, religious reformer, scholastic philosopher, and slightly wacky astronomer.”—Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times Book Review

“A marvelous feat of scholarship. . . . This is intellectual biography at its best.”—Peter N. Miller, New Republic

“An excellent starting point for anyone who wants to rediscover the historical figure concealed beneath the cowl on Campo de’ Fiori.”—Paula Findlen, Nation

Reviews

“A loving and thoughtful account of [Bruno’s] life and thought, satires and sonnets, dialogues and lesson plans, vagabond days and star-spangled nights. . . . Ingrid D. Rowland has her reasons for preferring Bruno to Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, even Galileo and Leonardo, and they’re good ones.”

John Leonard | Harper’s

“Whatever else Bruno was, he was wild-minded and extreme, and Rowland communicates this, together with a sense of the excitement that his ideas gave him. . . . It’s that feeling for the explosiveness of the period, and [Rowland’s] admiration of Bruno for participating in it—indeed, dying for it—that is the central and most cherishable quality of the biography.”

Joan Acocella | New Yorker

“Rowland tells this great story in moving, vivid prose, concentrating as much on Bruno’s thought as on his life. . . . His restless mind, as she makes clear, not only explored but transformed the heavens.”

Anthony Grafton | New York Review of Books

"In her provocative biography, a marvelous feat of scholarship, Ingrid D. Rowland brings before us today the pieces of an extraordinary sixteenth-century life. . . . This is intellectual biography at its best."

Peter N. Miller | New Republic

"[Rowland’s] lively and learned biography removes Bruno from myth and polemic . . . and restores him to the time and place that inspired his dual passion for knowledge as well as faith. She also offers a far richer and multidimensional account of Bruno’s peculiar and complex intellectual itinerary than earlier scholars. . . . She takes us inside his head to see the interplay of theology, philosophy and poetry that shaped his worldview."

Paula Findlen | Nation

"Informative, engaging, and accessible. . . . Rowland’s Giordano Bruno deserves to be recognized for making Bruno’s life—from his quiet birth in Nola to his wretched death in Rome—accessible to an Anglophone audience as never before."

David J. Collins | H-Net Review

Table of Contents

A Note on Translation

Prologue: The Hooded Friar

1. A Most Solemn Act of Justice

2. The Nolan Philosopher

3. "Napoli e tutto il mondo"

4. "The world is fine as it is"

5. "I have, in effect, harbored doubts"

6. "I came into this world to light a fire"

7. Footprints in the Forest

8. A Thousand Worlds

9. Art and Astronomy

10. Trouble Again

11. Holy Asininity

12. The Signs of the Times

13. A Lonely Sparrow

14. Thirty

15. The Gifts of the Magi

16. The Song of Circe

17. "Go up to Oxford"

18. Down Risky Streets

19. The Art of Magic

20. Canticles

21. Squaring the Circle

22. Consolation and Valediction

23. Infinities

24. Return to Italy

25. The Witness

26. The Adversary

27. Gethsemane

28. Hell’s Purgatory

29. The Sentence

30. The Field of Flowers

Epilogue: The Four Rivers

Appendix: Bruno’s Sentence

Notes

Bibliography

Acknowledgments

Index

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