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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Nominee, History, 2013
Toby Lester, author of the award-winning The Fourth Part of the World, masterfully crafts yet another century-spanning saga of people and ideas in this epic story of Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic drawing of a man inscribed in a circle and a square. Over time, the nearly 550-year-old ink-on-paper sketch has transformed into a collective symbol of the nature of genius, the beauty of the human form, and the universality of the human spirit; it has also been replicated ad nauseam on mass-produced coffee cups, T-shirts, book covers, and corporate logos. With narrative flair and great intellectual sweep, Lester revives the rich history of Vitruvian Man and endows the drawing with renewed authenticity.
Not only did Leonardo subscribe to the idea—first conceived by the Roman architect Vitruvius—that the human body was a microcosm geometrically aligned with the divine circle and the earthly square, Lester reveals that by studying the body’s proportions and anatomy, the artist also felt he could obtain a godlike perspective of the world's makeup. Da Vinci's Ghost captures a pivotal time in the history of Western thought, when the Middle Ages was giving way to the Renaissance, when art and science and philosophy all seemed to be converging as one, and when it seemed possible, at least to Leonardo da Vinci, that a single human being might embody—and even understand—the nature of everything.
©2012 Toby Lester (P)2012 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

“One of the great contributions of books like this is to keep the reader from taking for granted a familiar object. Lester’s detective story has a satisfying number of insights…covers a broad swath of history…[and] braids intellectual threads—philosophy, anatomy, architecture, and art—together in a way that reaffirms not only Leonardo’s genius but also re-establishes the significance of historical context in understanding great works of art.” (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review)
"Every once in a while that rare book comes along that is not only wonderfully written and utterly compelling but also alters the way you perceive the world. Toby Lester’s Da Vinci's Ghost is such a book. Like a detective, Lester uncovers the secrets of an iconic drawing and pieces together a magisterial history of art and ideas and beauty." (David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z)
"Erudite, elegant, enthralling. This is a wonderful book. Toby Lester understands, and makes us understand, the unique intensity with which Leonardo saw the world. He saw it not only in its infinite diversity but also as an impression of his own self, an explanation of what it means to be human. Hence Vitruvian Man." (Sister Wendy Beckett, author of The Story of Painting)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Paul on 02-10-12

Haunting Expierience

Would you listen to Da Vinci's Ghost again? Why?

Would you look at the Vitruvian man again? So would I, yes and each look would add to the understanding that comes by deep and thorough self study. Yet the value of this book is the way the Author has placed Leonardo into the setting giving a perception of the development of his mind. Capturing the mind of Man where we can examine it in ourselves.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Leonardo's ever present notebook that witnessed his development, chronicled it , and eventually brought him back to life for us to study.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

From the moment I first saw the Vitruvian Man I was captured by it, I quickly found it was one of Leonardos. I always have wanted to speak with him and ask his motivation, The Ghost is in me.

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9 of 10 people found this review helpful


By David on 03-16-12

To me it was more of a history lesson.

It was not quite what I expected. Although the author is incredibly knowledgeable in art and architecture at that time it, I found it more a history lesson. I more enjoyed the the last third of the book as I found it took a long time to set the scene of life in those times. I guess I was thinking it would be more on Leonardo himself and how his particular mind worked. It was enlightening though and I was left with the impression that DaVinci was one of many brilliant minds of that era. I listen to most of my non-fiction books at least 3 times though this will be a one-off. Great for art/architecture history buffs.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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