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March 8, 2011

"Jews and Magic in Medici Florence" is Subject of April 13 Book Talk

Between 1615 and 1620, Benedetto Blanis (c.1580-c.1647), a Jewish scholar and businessman in the Florentine ghetto, sent 196 letters to Don Giovanni dei Medici (1567-1621), an influential member of the ruling family. Blanis served Don Giovanni as palace librarian—organizing and cataloging the library’s contents, acquiring books from various sources and sharing his patron’s most esoteric interests. Together they ventured into dangerous and often forbidden territory—astrology, alchemy and the Kabbalah.

Discovered nearly four centuries later by art historian Edward Goldberg during his research in the Medici Granducal Archive, Blanis’ letters provide a portrait of a man struggling to survive in a strange no-man’s land between the Jewish ghetto and the Medici court. The letters also reveal the bond between two figures who strove to explain the world through the language of magical power.

Goldberg will discuss his new book, "Jews and Magic in Medici Florence" (University of Toronto Press) at the Library at noon on Wednesday, April 13 in the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room, located in Room 220 of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division and the European Division. Tickets are not required, but seating is limited.

Edward Goldberg received a Ph.D. in modern history from Oxford University in 1979 and taught in the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University from 1981 through 1987. He has published widely in the course of his 30 years of archival research in Florence. In 1995, Goldberg founded the Medici Archive Project to provide worldwide public access to the historical data in the Medici Granducal Archive through a fully searchable database at www.medici.org (external link). Established by Grand Duke Cosimo I in 1569, the archive of the Medici Grand Dukes offers the most complete record of any princely regime in Renaissance and Baroque Europe. The 3 million letters contained in more than 6,000 volumes richly document more than 200 years of human history (1537-1743).

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

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PR 11-051
03/08/11
ISSN 0731-3527

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