Synopses & Reviews
Michael Servetus is one of those hidden figureheads of history who is remembered not for his name, but for the revolutionary deeds that stand in his place. Both a scientist and a freethinking theologian, Servetus is credited with the discovery of pulmonary circulation in the human body as well as the authorship of a polemical masterpiece that cost him his life. The Chrisitianismi Restituto
, a heretical work of biblical scholarship, written in 1553, aimed to refute the orthodox Christianity that Servetus' old colleague, John Calvin, supported. After the book spread through the ranks of Protestant hierarchy, Servetus was tried and agonizingly burned at the stake, the last known copy of the Restitutio
chained to his leg.
Servetus's execution is significant because it marked a turning point in the quest for freedom of expression, due largely to the development of the printing press and the proliferation of books in Renaissance Europe. Three copies of the Restitutio managed to survive the burning, despite every effort on the part of his enemies to destroy them. As a result, the book became almost a surrogate for its author, going into hiding and relying on covert distribution until it could be read freely, centuries later. Out of the Flames tracks the history of this special work, examining Servetus's life and times and the politics of the first information during the sixteenth century. Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone follow the clandestine journey of the three copies through the subsequent centuries and explore its author's legacy and influence over the thinkers that shared his spirit and genius, such as Leibniz, Voltaire, Rousseau, Jefferson, Clarence Dorrow, and William Osler.
Out of the Flames is an extraordinary story providing testament to the power of ideas, the enduring legacy of books, and the triumph of individual courage.
"In this lively account, the authors vividly recreate a Renaissance world of revolution and reform....The Goldstones offer both a portrait of an important but neglected Renaissance humanist and a testimony to the power of books to shape minds and hearts." Publishers Weekly
"[An] engrossing tale....The Goldstones' taut narrative builds to the high drama of Servetus' final days in Geneva....Though once an influence on Voltaire, Jefferson, and Emerson, Servetus has received little attention in recent decades. This fascinating study should help remedy that neglect." Bryce Christensen, Booklist
"[F]ascinating..." Library Journal
"Out of the Flames is a fresh departure for the Goldstones. It's an ambitious foray into serious historical scholarship....[The Goldstones] tell Servetus' story with an immediacy and ironic humor that make this book a delight to read." Matt Buckingham, Willamette Week (Portland, OR.)
"The Goldstones' rousing title reflects both the style and confidence of their work: Bigots don't stand a chance against this brisk and wonderfully readable account of perfidy and murder in the Protestant Reformation....I guarantee you won't read a more entertaining story this season part biography, part history, part mystery and part plea for justice, told in a style so cheerful and clear that you can almost forget the hideous nature of Servetus' fate." Peter Kurth, Salon.com
About the Author
Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone are a husband-and-wife writing team who have authored three books on their book-collecting pursuits: Used and Rare (St. Martin's, 1977), Slightly Chipped (St. Martin's, 1999), and Warmly Inscribed (St. Martin's, 2001).