6BBF Author Profile: Ross King
Ross King is the award-winning author of books on Italian and French art, including Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling. His latest, a story that could only be told by an art historian, The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance, which is the result of over four years of research and writing.
The Bookseller of Florence tells the remarkable story of Vespasiano da Bisticci, a manuscript dealer in fifteenth-century Florence whose clients included kings, popes and three generations of the Medici family. He reached the summit of his powers as Europe’s most prolific merchant of knowledge when a new invention appeared: the printed book.
CALS was able to ask King a few questions through email prior to this year’s Six Bridges Book Festival.
CALS: What was your process like writing this book?
King: The process was long and involved. The book took about four years to research and write. Ultimately, like so much else these days, my research was impacted by Covid! My work involved going to a lot of libraries in both Italy and England. But of course I couldn’t do that as I was finishing up the book last year. So I had to rely on the proverbial “kindness of strangers”—librarians who very kindly gave me information and images that I couldn’t otherwise have accessed.
CALS: What was your favorite part of the writing process?
King: The best part for me is always the beginning. That’s when I entertain the highest hopes—the belief that I’m finally going to write something fantastic.
CALS: What inspired you?
King: I’ve always wanted to write a book about how the discovery of ancient manuscripts kick-started the Italian Renaissance and, therefore, the modern world. Luckily I found a character to help me tell the story, the magnificent bookseller Vespasiano da Bisticci. I was inspired by bringing him back to life and telling his story.