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Re: VMs: Giordano Bruno, was Re: Astrology etc.
The following is a slightly edited version of a Bruno bibliography that I
posted to usenet some years ago. While some of the information is now a bit
dated (at least as concerns in-print status), some of it may be useful to
those interested in studying Bruno's life and thought. Apologies if some of
this is redundant.
Studies of Bruno, currently available, or easily to be found used:
[...following a recommendation by another poster for Frances Yates'
"Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition"...]
* Frances Yates has much additional material on Bruno in her "The Art
of Memory", published two years after GB&tHT, which is a valuable
work in its own right for any student of the Western Magical Tradition.
(1966 University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-95001-8)
Her remaining essays on Bruno, most of which were originally published
in the *Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes* from 1938 to
1943 were published in "Lull & Bruno: Collected Essays Vol.I".
(1982 Routledge & Kegan Paul, ISBN 0-7100-0952-6 [v. I])
* Ioan P. Culiano's "Eros and Magic in the Renaissance", in addition to
giving the most insightful interpretation of Bruno's Opus, is also
the only work I know of written about a gnostic martyr by a gnostic
martyr. Includes material examining some of Bruno's untranslated
Latin and Italian magickal works. So good in so many ways, it cannot be
too highly recommended. Also gives extensive consideration to other
important sources such as Iohannes Trithemius, Pico Della Mirandola and
Marcilio Ficino. Absolutely essential.
(1987 University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-12316-2)
* Dorothea Waley Singer's "Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought", though
out of print, is worth looking for as a major biography of Bruno, and
for her annotated translation of his "De l'Infinito Universo et Mondi"
("On the Infinite Universe and Worlds"), one of the cornerstones of his
philosophical thought, and one of the primary reasons he was burned at
the stake. (1950 Henry Schuman, Inc.)
* Hilary Gatti's "The Renaissance Drama of Knowledge_ examines Bruno's
influence on English literature and scientific philosophy. Subtitled
"Giordano Bruno in England", it studies his work with relation to the
manuscripts in the library of the Duke of Northumberland, and the work
of Christopher Marlowe ("Doctor Faustus") and William Shakespeare.
(1989 Routledge & Kegan Paul, ISBN 0-415-03207-5)
* John Bossy's "Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair", which posits that
Bruno worked as an intelligence agent for the British Secret Service to
frustrate Catholic attempts to overthrow Elizabeth. Interesting, whether
or not one accepts the author's conclusions, for its study of Bruno's
travels, contacts, and political opinions. Also contains transcriptions
and translations of much correspondence between "Henry Fagot" (who the
author identifies as Bruno) and members of Elizabeth's court.
(1991 Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-04993-5)
* I. Frith's "Life of Giordano Bruno the Nolan" (1887 Ticknor & Co.,
Boston) was the first notable biography of Bruno in English, and is
still the most exhaustive, running well over 300 pp. It is supplemented
with several interesting appendices, which identify the known works of
Bruno, and his surviving manuscripts in several collections. Worth
looking for in university libraries.
* Ramon G. Mendoza, PhD.'s "The Acentric Labyrinth: Giordano Bruno's
Prelude to Contemporary Cosmology" is the latest entry I am aware of.
In it, Mendoza argues that Bruno as the true founder of contemporary
cosmology. To quote briefly from the author's introduction:
"It generally escapes the notice of most contemporary historians of
science that it was Giordano Bruno who, for the first time in the
history of thought, both Western and Oriental, clearly and explicitly
formulated precisely these three fundamental metaphysical assumptions
of contemporary cosmology: the unity of the universe, its uniformity,
homogeneity and isotropy, and the universal validity and applicability
of its laws."
Mendoza refutes much of the material written on Bruno by Yates, and
utterly discounts Bossy's detective story. Notably, he is the second
Jesuit to write a biography of Bruno (the first being Gatti).
(1995 Element Books, Inc., ISBN 1-85230-640-8)
Also, works by Bruno available in English and either in print or reasonably
easy to find used:
* "The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast" ("Spaccio de la bestia
trionfante" 1584), translated and introduced by Arthur D. Imerti,
is an excellent starting place. Readily available in paperback for
under $10 in better bookstores, it is the work named specifically at
Bruno's final trial by the church tribunal that ordered him burned.
One of Bruno's Italian dialogues, the flyleaf describes it (in part):
"Allegorically, the "triumphant beast" signifies the multifarious
vices that have triumphed over man and society. Bruno's work is cast
in the form of dialogues which recount the deliberations of the Greek
gods who have assembled to banish from the heavens the constellations
that remind them of their evil deeds. Guided by these deliberations,
Jove commands that the moral virtues be elevated to the places of
Ursa, Gemini, Perseus, Hercules, and other constellations, thereby
establishing the premises upon which he will criticize not only the
Greek religion, but also, anachronistically, all of the Judaeo-
Christian religions. The crisis facing Jove, the aging father of the
gods, is symbolic of the crisis in the life of Renaissance man,
profoundly disturbed by new religious, philosophical, and scientific
(In reprint 1992 by the University of Nebraska, ISBN 0-8032-6104-7)
* "The Ash Wednesday Supper" ("La Cena de le ceneri" 1584), translated
and edited by Edward A. Gosselin and Lawrence S. Lerner, is another of
Bruno's Italian dialogues, and considered by many to be the one of
his finest. Again quoting from the flyleaf:
"Arguing for the physical reality of the infinite universe with no
centre, Bruno sought to prove that each man is every man, that
conflict would be resolved if all men accepted the unifying potential
of his hermetic religion. Using this radical cosmology, Bruno sought
to heal the secular and religious wounds of sixteenth-century Europe."
* "On the Composition Of Images, Signs & Ideas" ("De Imaginum, Signorum &
Ideorum Compositione" 1591), translated by Charles Doria, Edited and
Annotated by Dick Higgins, is the final work published by Bruno in his
lifetime, and it is in many ways his crowning achievement. Quoting (once
again) from the Introduction:
"...the careful reader must not skip the "Dedicatory Epistle" which
begins the work, since there Bruno describes what he is setting out to
do, namely to present idea, imagination, analogy, figure, arrangement
and notation, the universe of God and the world of nature and reason,
so that one may understand precisely how and why analogs among things
reflect and imitate divine action. In this way, he will reach a more
developed state of knowledge and enlightenment.
"'De Imaginum... Compositione' itself is divided into three books. The
first presents philosophical reasons and underpinnings, the second
provides a vision of the Olympian deities, and the third assembles a
methodology of mnemonics, games and ludibria, and diagrams..."
The book itself is a work of art, from the outer wrapper, which is silk-
screened onto clear latex, to the reproductions in the text of both the
original illustrations from the 1591 edition and the 1879 "Iordani Brvni
Nolani Opera Latina Conscripta". It is expensive ($39.95), but worth it.
(1991 Willis, Locker & Owens, ISBN 0-930279-18-2)
Lastly, two connected works of fiction in which Bruno plays a significant
role (along with John Dee and Edward Kelley) are John Crowley's excellent
"Aegypt" (1987) and "Love & Sleep" (1994). In particular, the scene where
Bruno looks up at the night sky and realizes that there is no circle of
fixed stars is memorable. Highly recommended.
There are several other of Bruno's works available either in used book
stores or in better libraries (e.g. another translation of his "Ash
Wednesday Supper" and at least two translations of his "De gli eroici
furori" ("The Heroic Frenzies") and a number of other biographical and
philosophical studies, but this is only intended to provide some starting
places. Excellent bibliographies can be found in several of the above.
* "The Ash Wednesday Supper" ("La Cena de le ceneri" 1584), translated
and edited by Edward A. Gosselin and Lawrence S. Lerner
1995 University of Toronto Press, ISBN 0-8020-7469-3
Also, to view some of Bruno's work online, direct your favorite browser
to Joseph Peterson's web-site:
where he has a number of Bruno's texts, some in English, and a number in
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