Da Vinci's Ghost by Toby Lester
Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image

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In the richly rewarding history “Da Vinci’s Ghost,” Toby ­Lester, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, shows that Leonardo had long been fascinated by the concept of man as a microcosm of the universe.
-NY Times

Synopsis

In Da Vinci's Ghost, critically acclaimed historian Toby Lester tells the story of the world’s most iconic image, the Vitruvian Man, and sheds surprising new light on the artistry and scholarship of Leonardo da Vinci, one of history’s most fascinating figures.

Deftly weaving together art, architecture, history, theology, and much else, Da Vinci's Ghost is a first-rate intellectual enchantment.”—Charles Mann, author of 1493

Da Vinci didn’t summon Vitruvian Man out of thin air. He was inspired by the idea originally formulated by the Roman architect Vitruvius, who suggested that the human body could be made to fit inside a circle, long associated with the divine, and a square, related to the earthly and secular. To place a man inside those shapes was to imply that the human body could indeed be a blueprint for the workings of the universe. Da Vinci elevated Vitruvius’ idea to exhilarating heights when he set out to do something unprecedented, if the human body truly reflected the cosmos, he reasoned, then studying its anatomy more thoroughly than had ever been attempted before—peering deep into body and soul—might grant him an almost godlike perspective on the makeup of the world.

Written with the same narrative flair and intellectual sweep as Lester’s award-winning first book, the “almost unbearably thrilling” (Simon Winchester) Fourth Part of the World, and beautifully illustrated with Da Vinci's drawings, Da Vinci’s Ghost follows Da Vinci on his journey to understanding the secrets of the Vitruvian man. It captures a pivotal time in Western history when the Middle Ages were giving way to the Renaissance, when art, science, and philosophy were rapidly converging, and when it seemed possible that a single human being might embody—and even understand—the nature of the universe.
 

About Toby Lester

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Toby Lester is the author of The Fourth Part of the World (2009) and a contributing editor to The Atlantic. A former Peace Corps volunteer and United Nations observer, he lives in the Boston area with his wife and three daughters. His work has also appeared on the radio program This American Life.
 
Published February 7, 2012 by Free Press. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Arts & Photography, Travel, War. Non-fiction
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Reviewed by Jonathan Lopez on Feb 03 2012

In the richly rewarding history “Da Vinci’s Ghost,” Toby ­Lester, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, shows that Leonardo had long been fascinated by the concept of man as a microcosm of the universe.

Read Full Review of Da Vinci's Ghost: Genius, Obs... | See more reviews from NY Times

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