'. . . the most remarkable work I have ever read, such encylopedic knowledge bubbling up effortlessly to create people, places, situations, dialogue, embellished with sharply observed vignettes of nature like decorated capitals in manuscripts. And so much thought on the meaning of life!' Dr Carol Kidwell
Although I've published ten books, this site is dedicated to 'The Botticelli Trilogy' and its prequel,A Gift for the Magus(published September, 2012). This sequence of historical novels is set in fifteenth century Florence. The trilogy, comprising A Tabernacle for the Sun, Pallas and the Centaur and The Rebirth of Venus, covers the golden age of Lorenzo de' Medici, a time of great art influenced by a very ancient wisdom tradition, and its extinction under the rise of fundamentalist religion. The main protagonist is an invention but everyone else lived and breathed (and died) in one of the most exciting periods of European history: the Florentine Renaissance. A Gift for the Magus is set earlier, in the time of Cosimo de' Medici, and is about Botticelli's master, Fra Filippo Lippi.
The trilogy was over thirty years in the making, from the original conception in 1974 to the publication of the final volume in 2008.
From the very start I found fact more interesting than fiction and decided not to make anything up unless I had to (i.e. if no facts exist, as happens with some of the characters, particularly the women). In a way, this goes against the grain of 'letting the story have its head' - a hoary dictum of creative writing. Hoary it may be, but true nonetheless. What I discovered, however, is that there is a difference between making something up and using the creative imagination.
I worked hard to find the truth in facts and, during this work, the imagination was at play, producing the story. The result, I hope, is readable history and reliable fiction.
'The historical detail in all three is exemplary, and each is a cracking good read.' Lonely Planet Guides, Florence and Tuscany.
Sometimes imagination contradicted the facts and I learned to trust it when it happened, because it often - usually - led to remarkable, serendipitous discoveries.
One of the results of this approach is that the books, whilst not hard to read, are dense in texture, the first volume in particular, where we accompany street-boy Tommaso in his belated education in the liberal arts, from truancy to truth, and his training in the art of the scribe.
Since the books teem with characters and are rich in references, particularly to Renaissance magic, neoplatonism, cabbala, etc. - as well as music, geometry, painting and poetry - not to mention philosophy and theology - because of that, the main purpose of this website is to provide additional materials.
At the moment we have a synopsis of each book, a travel itinerary for Florence and some random notes. Shortly there will be a bibliography and lists of characters. I'd like to go on and offer more materials in due course and am happy to receive suggestions.
The books have proved to be fave raves among the academics, are on the reading lists of several Renaissance art history courses, and in the syllabus of at least one university. I'd love to include additional materials from the scholars, whether amateur or professional, to build this site into a really useful resource for Renaissance study.
'The research in art, history and philosophy is breathtakingly thorough.' Ruth Padel (Daily Mail).
'Full of wisdom.' Tim Pears
'Historical fiction at its best.' Historical Novel Society
'A time-travelling trance of inspiration, straight to the heart of the Renaissance.' Noel Cobb in 'Sphinx 3'
'Astonishing tour-de-force.' Dr. Pamela Tudor-Craig
'Out of the myriad of fictions "inspired" by Florence, these seem to be of the most thoughtful, intelligent and artistic.' The Florentine, June 2007.
'There's a deal of discussion of philosophy here, but you come away feeling enlightened rather than bludgeoned. . .a book with that indefinable numinous something.' [review on Fictional Cities]
'A novel which affirms the spiritual intellect and the indomitable power of the compassionate imagination . . . ranks beside those of Mary Renault and Marguerite Youcenar.' Lindsay Clarke
The Botticelli Trilogy goes electronic
I don't get paid by Godstow Press but I do get presents, such as a Mac so big it's like editing on a cinema screen. Recently I was given a Kindle. I know why - it's to get me over my hoity, Tommaso-like disapproval of new technology and, also like him, learn to embrace the future. So just as my hero went from quill to compositor's stick, I'm reading on an e-book device and thanking God for opposable thumbs when it comes to making notes. But oh, what a joy on the bus or in bed not to have to struggle with a hefty book.
Of course the consequence is that we're now hurtling towards the trilogy being available on Kindle, Kobo etc. The actual process takes minutes, they tell me, but I'm taking the opportunity to do some revision and that will take months.
I've been greatly encouraged by two enquiries recently, one from Hungary. We're hoping e-books will solve all distribution problems and look forward to going global!
The Hunt for Juliana Hill Cotton
After years wondering what happened to Juliana Hill Cotton's thesis on Poliziano and his poetry after she died, I've been prompted to do something about it. The Bodleian Library is now engaged, a friend of mine who knows about historical records (such as probate), and several American scholars on the Italian Studies forum. There is a definitive, I hope, bibliography of her published works now on site. The story of the quest is to be found on my blog http://lindaproud.wordpress.com (entry March 2nd, 2012).
Found her! In the summer of 2012, her family got in touch. I'd had no idea we'd been living in the same city! I've introduced them to my contact at the Bodleian and I hope that the thesis, languishing in a family archive, is now on its way to public access.