cover of book

Renaissance Fun: The Machines behind the Scenes
by Philip Steadman
University College London, 2021
Cloth: 978-1-78735-917-8 | Paper: 978-1-78735-916-1

An amusing account of the technology of Renaissance entertainment and the ancient influences that inspired it.

Renaissance Fun is about the technology of entertainment in the forms of stage machinery, theatrical special effects, gardens, fountains, automata, and self-playing musical instruments from the Renaissance. How did the machines behind these shows work? How exactly were chariots filled with singers let down onto the stage? How were flaming dragons made to fly across the sky? How were seas created on stage? How did mechanical birds imitate real birdsong? What was “artificial music,” three centuries before Edison and the phonograph? How could pipe organs be driven and made to play themselves by waterpower alone? And who were the architects, engineers, and craftsmen who created these wonders? While this book is offered as entertainment in itself, it also offers a more serious scholarly argument centered on the enormous influence of Vitruvius and Hero, two ancient writers who composed on the subject.

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