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Publisher's Summary

"See for yourself!" was the clarion call of the 1600s. Natural philosophers threw off the yoke of ancient authority, peered at nature with microscopes and telescopes, and ignited the scientific revolution. Artists investigated nature with lenses and created paintings filled with realistic effects of light and shadow. The hub of this optical innovation was the small Dutch city of Delft.

Here Johannes Vermeer's experiments with lenses and a camera obscura taught him how we see under different conditions of light and helped him create the most luminous works of art ever beheld. Meanwhile his neighbor Antoni van Leeuwenhoek's work with microscopes revealed a previously unimagined realm of minuscule creatures. The result was a transformation in both art and science that revolutionized how we see the world today.

©2015 Laura J. Snyder by arrangement with W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. (P)2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Memi
  • Israel
  • 04-12-17

Historical book about the evolution of optics through the eyes of two geniuses

I came to this book through my love of Vermeer, hoping to learn more about this genius. I got to know Van Leeuwenhoek through the process. However as I'm not an optics fan. I found the book to be very technically detailed and..a bit boring. The amount of physicists, philosophers and others mentioned was a bit too much. All in all a good book. Just not for the layperson art lover

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Historical knowledge

Historical knowledge put together in an entertaining manner to provide interesting story. I wanted to gather more information. Amazing 17th century inventions.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Unique perspective, but needs to be tightened up

For Vermeer fans, this book offers a sort of mini-biography, including lots of little everyday details as the cost of bread, the magnitude of his debts, the typical price of his paintings, etc. For those (like me) who knew nothing about van Leuwenhoek, it give a lot of insight into a man who, though less enigmatic than Vermeer and whose life is far better documented, is fully as intriguing and interesting a character. There are no breakthrough revelations about Vermeer, but one gets a very rich picture of what his life may have been like.

But the book drags on, it goes too far afield in chasing down details. I found myself skipping forwards repeatedly, and not feeling like I had missed anything. Would have been far better at 2/3 its current size. The narrator does very well, and to her credit tells us when she is on a footnote and when the note has ended, something other narrators are (incredibly) unable/unwilling to do. She keeps sounding interested in the subject, even when I've lost interest.

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interesting but repetitive

Interesting and informative with an intriguing view into the era yet not particularly engaging and often repetitive.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful