Ephemeral city

Cheap print and urban culture in Renaissance Venice

By Rosa Salzberg

Ephemeral city


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9344-3
  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £12.99
  • Published Date: May 2016
  • BIC Category: History & Archaeology, European history: Renaissance, Humanities / Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700, c 1500 onwards to present day, LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Journalism, HISTORY / Renaissance, Press & Journalism, Early Modern History, History


Ephemeral city explores the rapid rise of cheap print and how it permeated Venetian urban culture in the Renaissance. It offers the first view of one of the city's most productive and creative industries from the bottom up and a new and unexpected vision of Renaissance culture, characterised by the fluid mobility and dynamic intermingling of texts, ideas, goods and people.

Closely intertwined with oral culture and often peddled in the streets, cheap printed texts helped to open up new audiences for literature, providing information and entertainment to a diverse public and transforming the city into an epicentre of vernacular literature and performance. Examining the ways in which the production and dissemination of cheap print infiltrated Venice's urban environment and changed the course of its cultural life, the book also traces how local authorities responded by escalating censorship and control over the course of the sixteenth century.

Ephemeral city will be of interest to scholars and students of early modern European and Italian Renaissance culture and society and the history of the book and communication.


'This vivid study gives for the first time solid form to an elusive topic, viewing this thriving and distinctive sector of the city's commerce both from street level and from the perspective of the state and the Roman Church as they struggled to control it.'
Emeritus Professor Brian Richardson, University of Leeds

'It is only very occasionally that a book comes along that opens up an entirely new field, but this is certainly the case with this sparklingly original study. Rosa Salzberg brings this forgotten world vividly to life in a work of great charm and outstanding forensic skill.'
Professor Andrew Pettegree, University of St Andrews

'A hugely impressive work that throws new light on the less known aspects of the Renaissance's largest publishing centre... This is a brilliant example of the most beautifully written, and entertaining, scholarship.'
Filippo De Vivo, Birkbeck College, London|This book derives its value primarily from its close description of a dynamic process in one specific, but important, city. In doing so, Salzberg has produced an excellent, well-written, and informative introduction into the early modern world of cheap print culture., Jeroen Salman, Utrecht University, Humanities and Social Sciences Online, 5 March 2015|Studying the ephemeral presents serious challenges to historians, but Salzberg is able to weave fragmentary evidence together into a compelling narrative of how cheap print became omnipresent in the lives of most Venetians during the early sixteenth century. This well-written and researched work is an excellent example of the new scholarship on communication media and practices; it certainly will impact on future research agendas on this topic.
, Nina Lamal, University of St Andrews and University of Leuven, Library & Information History, 1 April 2015|...surely one of the most significant and impressive works on early modern European print culture to have been published in recent years. Its author, Rosa Salzberg, is an Assistant Professor of Italian Renaissance History at the University of Warwick. That this is a first monograph, emerging from the author's doctoral research, makes it a truly breathtaking accomplishment

....this is certainly one of the best and most original works on book history to appear in recent years. Ephemeral City is an outstanding piece of scholarship, and beautifully written.

It is essential reading for anyone interested in European print culture, and will almost certainly shape the field for a long time to come.
, Dr Alexander S. Wilkinson, University College Dublin, Reviews in History, 1 April 2015

'Salzberg offers a valuable and innovative study that takes us out of the libraries of the learned and into the streets to see how the printed word gradually wound its way into the lives of ordinary Venetians.'
Dennis Romano, Syracuse University, Renaissance Quarterly



The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation Book Prize 2017


1. 'Every piece of rubbish given to the press': defining and debating cheap print
2. 'Through the piazzas and on the Rialto Bridge': the landscape of the ephemeral city
3. 'A trade open to any mortal man': mobility and versatility in the Venetian printing industry
4. 'In the mouths of charlatans': pamphlets from print shop to piazza
5. 'Extreme disorder and confusion': policing the ephemeral city


Rosa Salzberg is Assistant Professor of Italian Renaissance History at the University of Warwick

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