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Distributed for UCL Press

Renaissance Fun

The Machines behind the Scenes

Distributed for UCL Press

Renaissance Fun

The Machines behind the Scenes

An amusing account of the technology of Renaissance entertainment and the ancient influences that inspired it.

Renaissance Fun is about the technology of entertainment in the forms of stage machinery, theatrical special effects, gardens, fountains, automata, and self-playing musical instruments from the Renaissance. How did the machines behind these shows work? How exactly were chariots filled with singers let down onto the stage? How were flaming dragons made to fly across the sky? How were seas created on stage? How did mechanical birds imitate real birdsong? What was “artificial music,” three centuries before Edison and the phonograph? How could pipe organs be driven and made to play themselves by waterpower alone? And who were the architects, engineers, and craftsmen who created these wonders? While this book is offered as entertainment in itself, it also offers a more serious scholarly argument centered on the enormous influence of Vitruvius and Hero, two ancient writers who composed on the subject.

418 pages | 213 color plates | 6.14 x 9.21 | © 2021

Art: European Art

History: European History

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"Uniquely important... should be useful in challenging modern theatrical designers and engineers who are stalled in their creativity... [and] scholars of Renaissance drama..."

Pennsylvania Literary Review

Table of Contents

List of figures
Part I: The machine in the theatre
1. Changing the scenes Intermezzo: Moving pictures
2. Theatres of machines Intermezzo: Artificial weather
3. The automata of Hero of Alexandria
Part II: The machine in the garden
4. Artificial creatures Intermezzo: Talking heads
5. Water in the air Intermezzo: Surprise soakings
6. Artificial music
Part III: A garden and an opera
7. The ‘garden of marvels’ at Pratolino
8. Mercury and Mars in Parma, 1628
Reprise: Hero as unlikely hero
Selct bibliography

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