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Out of the Flames


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LAWRENCE and NANCY GOLDSTONE are a husband-and-wife writing team who have authored multiple books on their book-collecting pursuits including Used and Rare, Slightly Chipped, and Warmly Inscribed.


The Goldstones, who have written previous volumes about book collecting, here offer a look at the turbulent 1500s and Michael Servetus, a Spanish lay theologian and physician of convictions and brilliance who was executed for his polemical writings. His early desire for a rebirth of Christianity resulted in condemnation, secret flight, and the assumption of a new identity as a medical student in Paris. His studies there resulted in a major medical discovery: understanding the function of our pulmonary circulation system. He became a celebrated physician and a sought-after editor, and moved from being a Catholic to being a reformer, with views of the Trinity that antagonized John Calvin. In the anonymously published Christianismi Restitutio, Servetus reworked additional contentious themes, but the ugly politics of the times caught up with him. He was condemned and burned at the stake, and all but three copies of his book were destroyed. Saved from the flames, these volumes speak triumphantly of the courage of Servetus and the power of the printed word; today, the early roots of the Unitarian Church are seen in his ideas. This fascinating account is recommended for historical and religious collections.-George Westerlund, formerly with Providence P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Rescuing author and book from modern obscurity, the Goldstones recount the engrossing tale of how Michael Servetus came to write his unparalleled compendium of Unitarian heterodoxy and revolutionary human anatomy...[A] fascinating study." --Booklist

When Michael Servetus was burned at the stake for heresy in 1553, he had spent much of his life running from the Church. Born into a noble Spanish family, he studied medicine and the humanities extensively. By age 20, he had written a treatise on the Trinity that incensed Church authorities and led him into self-imposed exile. But the book that doomed Servetus was Christianismi Restitutio (Christianity Restored), which challenged, among other ideas, John Calvin's doctrine of predestination and argued that God exists in all people and all things. The reaction to Servetus's text was so vehement that all copies discovered were destroyed. As the Goldstones (book collectors and authors of Used and Rare, etc.) reveal, three copies of the book still exist. In this lively account, the authors vividly recreate a Renaissance world of revolution and reform in which the dissemination of ideas flourished thanks to the printing press. They also trace the paths of the surviving copies of Christianismi Restitutio as they make their way through the hands of Voltaire, Rousseau, Jefferson and physician William Osler. More than a theological treatise, the Christianismi Restitutio contains a paragraph that explains pulmonary circulation, decades before William Harvey generally credited with this discovery announced his find. 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. Illus. (On sale Sept. 17) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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