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

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

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.
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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

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (133 )
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3.8 (109 )
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  •  
    Paul United States 02-10-12
    Paul United States 02-10-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    4
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    "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.


    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Hervey Bay, Australia 03-16-12
    David Hervey Bay, Australia 03-16-12

    Be the master of your fate; the captain of your soul.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HIII Grants Pass, OR, United States 06-27-12
    HIII Grants Pass, OR, United States 06-27-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Loving Leonardo!"

    Leonardo DaVinci is interesting! This book brings him more into life. Probably a book that is better read than listened to it still is good. I will listen to it several more times!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cherie Estill Cincinnati, Ohio United States 05-05-12
    Cherie Estill Cincinnati, Ohio United States 05-05-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I liked it."

    I am listening to this now a second time to absorb more of the details. I really enjoyed this because Leonardo DaVinci's life is so interesting. This book is about the Vetruvius Man mostly - which I thought was great! It left me wanting to know more about his life. I'm now going to find other books about leonardo DaVinci. Narrator was good.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 04-11-13
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 04-11-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unimpressive"

    Some Art History 101. Not particularly interesting. At all. The author could have made much more of this, by incorporating Renaissance symbolism relating to the circle and the square, the new religious outlook and ascendancy of Man in that era, and the effect it still has on modern times.

    Instead, he drones on about the various historical personages and art sponsors. The same old same old. I remain unimpressed.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry United States 03-26-12
    Terry United States 03-26-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Amazing man"
    If you could sum up Da Vinci's Ghost in three words, what would they be?

    I never knew


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Da Vinci's Ghost?

    He could have drawn the Mona Lisa as a joke self portrait.


    Have you listened to any of Stephen Hoye’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Fantastic


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The Smartest Man of the Last Thousand Years.


    Any additional comments?

    Awesome History

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Acteon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 12-09-13
    Acteon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 12-09-13 Member Since 2009

    Acteon

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A very enriching tour de force"
    Where does Da Vinci's Ghost rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Among the definitely worthwhile though perhaps not at the very top (I've listened to quite a few: let's just say that I would gladly pay twice the price for this one). Lester is great at drawing different elements together in a way that enriches our understanding. I cannot wait for his next book. I don't know what illustrations the paper version contains but if there are some, it might be worth while getting the hard copy. I hope that audible will include more downloadable pdfs.


    Which character – as performed by Stephen Hoye – was your favorite?

    Hoye is a good reader. Names are mostly correctly pronounced, one exception being William of Conches (Conches is in Normandy but Hoye pronounces it as if it were a Spanish name).


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

    I was very excited at certain moments.


    Any additional comments?

    Definitely a must for someone interested in the Renaissance or European history/culture in general.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy STEEP FALLS, ME, United States 06-25-12
    Amy STEEP FALLS, ME, United States 06-25-12
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    "Eh. . ."
    Would you try another book from Toby Lester and/or Stephen Hoye?

    I probably would not try another book from Toby Lester.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    The Lost Painting


    Do you think Da Vinci's Ghost needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No. Lester wrapped it up at the end, despite the book's meandering.


    Any additional comments?

    The premise of the book seemed clear at the beginning, but the issue was actually complex and I would suggest reading a hard copy.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dina LAKE ZURICH, IL, United States 04-19-12
    Dina LAKE ZURICH, IL, United States 04-19-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very Disappointing"

    I bought this book in preparation for a trip to Rome and Florence. What a disappointment! When the author revealed interesting kernels about DaVinci's life, the story was interesting. But, those we few and far between. The rest of details about building and architecture were very boring. I decided not to finish the book.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mayet8 Randwick, Australia 09-11-12
    mayet8 Randwick, Australia 09-11-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "great and imformative"
    If you could sum up Da Vinci's Ghost in three words, what would they be?

    great,interesting an imformative


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    the great leonardo Da Vinci


    Have you listened to any of Stephen Hoye’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    good, very clear not boring.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    very much so..


    Any additional comments?

    just another enjoyable book thank you.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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