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.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Out of the Flames|
|Release Date: 12-10-2008|
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Out of the Flames
MICHAEL SERVETUS WAS born Miguel Serveto Conesa alias Reves on Saint Michael's Day, September 29, 1511, in the small town of Villanueva de Sijena, in the province of Huesca. Huesca is in Aragon, at the northeast corner of Spain, just east of Navarre and about fifty miles south of the border with France. The house in which he was born still stands.
The Servetos were gentry of long standing. There is evidence of their having been given their title, infanzones, or nobles of the second category, as early as 1327. Miguel was the oldest of three sons. His father, Anthon, was a notary; his mother, Catalina Conesa, was also born of noble blood. The second son, Pedro, became a notary like his father; the youngest, Juan, stayed home and became a priest and was appointed rector of a nearby church.
The early sixteenth century was the crossroads where the medieval world, the Renaissance, the Inquisition, the New World, and the modern world all met. Although to most Americans the preeminent figure of the period was England's King Henry VIII, for most of his reign, Henry, despite the six wives, court intrigues, and general theatrics, was an afterthought in European politics. It was Charles V, the last of the Holy Roman Emperors, who dominated the stage. The Holy Roman Empire was the superpower of its time, stretching from Spain to the Balkans, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic.
Charles was a Hapsburg, born into one of the great ruling dynasties of Europe in 1500. His father was Philip the Fair, king of Castile, son of the emperor Maximilian, and his mother was Juana the Mad, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. Juana, unattractive and highly unstable, had fallen madly in love with a husband w...