128 pages, illustrated throughout. £10 + £1.50 pp (inland)
Thomas Coryate (1577?-1617), who hailed from Odcombe in Somerset, was one of the more eccentric and fascinating figures of the court of James I and Henry, Prince of Wales (where he acted as wit and unofficial buffoon). In 1608 he travelled all over Europe, mainly on foot (hence his nickname ‘the Odcombian Leg-stretcher’). This resulted in his celebrated book Coryats Crudities, published in 1611, which laid the foundations for the Grand Tour. The highlight of his trip was the six weeks he spent in Venice. An acutely perceptive observer, writing with infectious enthusiasm, Coryate’s lively account includes art, architecture, economy, politics, history, fashion, food and drink, gondolas, churches, music, theatre, executions, courtesans, the Jewish Ghetto, and the bustling activities of Piazza San Marco. He paints an intriguing picture of life in one of the world’s most extraordinary and mysterious cities. This was the first detailed description of Venice written by an Englishman.
Most Glorious & Peerless Venice re-presents that section of the Crudities (out-of-print and almost forgotten for more than a century) for the modern reader. Attractively illustrated throughout with photographs by David Whittaker and various historical engravings, as well as notes, a glossary and a sketch of Coryate’s remarkable life. The book is a compelling read for anyone interested in early travel writing – as a unique eyewitness narrative it has never been surpassed – it also demonstrates how surprisingly little Venice has changed in more than 400 years.
Until now Coryate’s trip to Venice has only been accessible in the two complete editions of the Crudities, the Jacobean original and Maclehose’s two-volume reissue from 1905. David Whittaker’s presentation of the footloose Odcombian’s Venetian rhapsody, generously illustrated and with modern spelling, is essential reading for those following him to the peerless city.
Jonathan Keates – Times Literary Supplement
A very nice edition. Coryate is fascinating and full of fun. Jan Morris – Author
David Whittaker offers a rich selection of Coryate’s text, all richly illustrated and with an excellent introduction. This beautiful book is a bargain.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Excellently done. Professor Jonathan Bate – University of Oxford
A very attractive book. Professor Stanley Wells – Author
What a delightful book. I’ve always loved Coryate, and am enchanted to have this superbly illustrated account of his stay in Venice. John Julius Norwich – Author
It is a precious book and deserves to be known and read.
Professor Shaul Bassi - University of Venice
A wonderful book. Alberto Toso Fei – Author
The book looks splendid and is a great reminder of my favourite city. I do hope it makes Coryate popular, as he is such a wonderfully odd figure full of insights, that he deserves to be much better known.
Professor Andrew Hadfield – University of Sussex
So, praise to David Whittaker who has collected the Venetian section of the Crudities into one handsome paperback and in the process made the language more comprehensible, without losing its quirk or charm.
All good eccentric stuff, and genuinely and fragrantly evocative of its time.
Jeff Cotton (www.fictionalcities.co.uk)