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Out of the Flames: The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar, a Fatal Heresy, and One of the Rarest Books in the World
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Out of the Flames: The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar, a Fatal Heresy, and One of the Rarest Books in the World

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  409 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Michael Servetus is one of those hidden figureheads of history who is remembered not for his name, but for the revolutionary deeds that stand in his place. Both a scientist and a freethinking theologian, Servetus is credited with the discovery of pulmonary circulation in the human body as well as the authorship of a polemical masterpiece that cost him his life. The Chrisit ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 2nd 2003 by Broadway Books (first published 2002)
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- Just realized I forgot to rate this.

I love everything I've read by the Goldstones and this is starting out as no exception. They begin with a fascinating account of Gutenberg's invention (his patron Johann Fust attempted to take all the credit for it) of movable type. He did more than just that though, inventing the ink and a new press, as well. I was struck by the fact that he presented some of his first printed books at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1640. I had the good fortune to atten
Feb 15, 2008 Lexi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Michael, Laurie, Tomiko, Monica, Saad
Recommended to Lexi by: Mom
Seriously--I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is FACINATING and keeps your attention--not boring at ALL (believe me, I know from bording)!

This is a well-researched but dramatic and interesting telling of the life and death of Michael Servetus--and the 450 year history of his written works. The authors do an amazing job of putting his story (and his heretical ideas) in the context of religious ideological wars, the scientific and social revolutions in Europe caused by books, and the h
Dec 27, 2009 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone!
"History is an Ocean that books help us navigate. It is the permenence of the printed word that has allowed ideas to travel from place to place, from age to age. It is easy to dismiss the sixteenth century as the distant past, but Servetus, Calvin, Luther, Erasmus, Charles, Francis and the rest were dealing with the forces of an emerging technology much as we are today."

Out of the Flames is certainly a fascinating tale of one man, Michel Servetus, a Spanish Physician, whose theories about philo
n 2002, I read a review in Salon of "Out of the Flames: The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar, a Fatal Heresy, and One of the Rarest Books in the World", and I was determined to read it as soon as I could. Well, there are a lot of good books out there, so I didn't get around to picking up a copy until this spring, and I finally read it this summer.

It was well worth the wait. "Out of the Flames" is a page-turner that tells the story of Michael Servetus, a 16th-century Spanish physician and t
I read this for a class, but it's an excellent work of nonfiction. It follows a scholar who was burned at the stake in the 1500s for his heretical writings, the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, the start of the Reformation and some of the greatest minds in the last 500 years. I enjoyed the writing so much that I plan to read several more books by this husband-and-wife writing team. "Out of the Flames" is a good companion to William Manchester's "A World Lit Only by Fire," which is also ...more
Derelict  Buddha
What is it to think for yourself in the face of violent opposition? Well researched and well written...!!! This delectable and wicked historical narrative places the reader firmly into the late Medieval period and the Reformation, a time when the most subversive thing you could do was to read the Bible and interpret it for yourself, when only the clergy or self-appointed prophets were allowed to do so.

What does it mean to think for yourself? Do we have freedom of conscience? In what are our cho
Quite the fascinating perspective on life -- and death -- in the time of the early availability of printing, John Calvin, and the Inquisition. On one hand, the author does a superb job painting a picture of the forces at work at the time as well as key individuals and institutions. On the other hand, the story is of suppression of free thought in the most brutal manner possible, which certainly colored my reaction.

Nevertheless, a worthwhile book to peruse for anyone interested in the forces tha
Michael Soros
I found this book particularly interesting. I knew nothing about Servetus before reading it but feel I have had a very good, wide-ranging introduction to the man. The book title may be a little misleading in some respects though because it actually doesn't deal in any great depth with the contents of the book itself. It covers when and why it was written and the circumstances of the time but it barely covers the contents so you would not be any the wiser on Servetus' academic views on the Trinit ...more
Brandee Price
So I read another rather interesting book lately...another that I would have never chosen on my own but it was recommended by a co-worker and he hasn't steered me wrong yet. =) It was non-fiction - basically about a book that was almost lost to us forever. But it was about SOOOO much more. It takes place during the reformation and I have to tell you that it's made me want to do so much more reading on this period of time. I mean, I knew about Pope Leo and I knew about the Medici family but I had ...more
I really, really, really liked this book. It's about Michael Servetus, the who founded the movement that would become the Unitarians. Basically, he wrote a book, which Calvin found heretical, he was burned for it, his books were burned for it, but Calvin kept his copy, and that is one of the something like four copies that exist today. The book spoke out about the non-biblical origin of the trinity, that it was wrong to baptize babies and other things that didn't jive with the established dogma ...more
Michael Servetus was burned at the stake at the behest of John Calvin in Geneva in 1553. All copies of his heretical book were to be destroyed with him.

This is a fascinating history of the Reformation--how it was in part created by the invention of movable type--and the men who created the religious world in which we live. Michael Servetus was perhaps a genius--he was certainly adept at languages, medicine, and theology. He discovered the circulation of the blood through the lungs, but the descr
If the editors synopsis doesn't interest you then move on, not for you.

Otherwise, pivotal information regarding how we got to the world we live in today (Gutenberg, European culture wars, rise of university scholarship) and the ultimate incompetence of evil.

The ultimate message, if you search for truth, you can find it.

I enjoyed this book so much I'm ready to start reading it again on Monday. It packs a incredible, sweeping history into a single volume, providing an engaging story and a wonderful sense of the personalities involved in almost 500 years of antitrinitarian thought, conversation, debate, and commitment. Inspiring!
This book is well written and very readable taking the reader down the less trodden paths of history, namely, the obscurer parts of the reformation, book collecting and a short history of the unitarian movement. Read this if you want something a little different.
The story of Michael Servetus really is remarkable and these authors told it very well. I hadn't even known that this man existed, yet his story is absolutely absorbing.
Clark Hays
"History is a sea that books help us navigate”

That was a great “sticker” of a line from Out of the Flames: The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar, a Fatal Heresy, and One of the Rarest Books in the World (I also particularly liked their use of “outmonked”), but after reading the book, I am tempted to add that books are also the rivers from which the sea of history emanates.

I say that because so much of this particular story hangs on the way knowledge is disseminated through, and built upon,
Paul Brandel
I'm at 75% through with this great book about Servetus,Calvin and the Reformation.What a frightful
time to live,to have spoken or written an unorthodox belief you could be burned at the stake!
"The result was a frenzy of slaughter rarely seen even in the most frocious battles of war.Of the
five thousand Protestants who had come to Paris,perhaps fewer than ten percent escaped alive.
They were killed with swords,clubs and knives;thrown from windows or drowned in the Seine.
Bodies were hacked at and d
This was a fascinating account of a Christian I never heard of before. Michael Servetus was a Spanish theologian, physician, author and cartographer who was hunted down and burned at the stake in 1553 by John Calvin, solely because of his beliefs. I was previously unaware of Calvin's many, appalling atrocities in the name of Christ.

As usual, the Goldstone's take the reader down many rabbit trails, but they do bring them back to the main theme. I learned also about many early Lutherans, Calvinist
Rebekah Ray
This is one of those books that make you feel like you are getting the BIG picture. It pulls so many things together: the history of printing and the book,the march of religious orthodoxy and its critics, medicine, geography, wars and rumors of wars throughout the centuries in Europe... I could not put it down. It kept me up way past any reasonable bedtime, and then kept me awake thinking about it.
Denise Louise
An excellent book about Michael Servetus, who was burned as a heretic, at the hands of John Calvin of all people, and then traces the paths of the last three remaining copies of the book that led to his condemnation. It's really a Who's Who of 400 years of history just before, during and after the Reformation and Enlightenment eras. The influence of Servetus is even traced to the U.S., thru Unitarianism, which is rooted in Servetus' book and promotes radical ideas against the concept of the Trin ...more
Doc Kinne
This book gains one of my rare five stars; it was fantastic. The writing was engaging, and the story was both wonderfully told & harrowing. The Goldstones have a way of really getting into the background of a story. With lesser authors this would just turn into fluff or be distracting. Here, while ranging far afield of their subject, sometimes, it all feels like relevant background information, and all of it is fascinating. The book provides the vehicle. The story is actually the Protestant ...more
Hanley5545 Hanley
This book was one of my all time favorites!
I recommended this when I first read it to the Dean of Library at Cal his retirement party He told be it was the best recommendation he had ever had.
I have continued to reflect on it and recommended it to a woman I met this week and dug it out for her,too.
Her Grandparents migrated (all 4) from Switzerland and crossed the Isthmus of Panama wayyy back when to reach California.
She jumped on it with her her late 70's... because the
Inken Purvis
I'm already a big fan of Nancy Goldstone who has written two of my favourite historical biographies and now I've discovered that her husband writes equally fun and fascinating books.

I didn't know anything about Michael Servetus until I read this story and couldn't put it down. Servetus suffered a horrible death at the hands of a man who comes across as devout but also petty, cruel and jealous: John Calvin. Despite Servetus' theories being the foundation of Unitarianism and his major physiologica
Allan Jones
I found this an excellent book both in its depth of research around the life and 'heresy' of Servetus and its description of the times in which he lived. That we have the freedom today to say whether we believe that God lies within us or not, or discuss our individual perspectives on the concept of the Trinity, is taken for granted. Looking back to Servetus' time shows how challenging that was.

In Geneva the statue of Servetus and an older monument to him are near the hospital, nowhere near the C
John G.
This is an interesting book, a book about the history and import of another book, but really it's about the battle between free and critical thinking and it's expression and articulation versus the forces of suppression and censorship. About the power of reading and formulating your own ideas and theories (heresy) against the "accepted" or "correct" mode of thought (orthodoxy). The book is a historical account of Micheal Servetus, a founding father of the present day Unitarian Universalist Churc ...more
Andy Plonka
Despite the blurb that says it is fast paced (which is only true if you are a history buff and are familiar with all of the players) this is an interesting look at a man, Michael Servetus, who wrote a book proclaimed as heresy, for which he liereally was burned at the stake.
Michael Connolly
During the 16th century in Europe, the Gutenberg printing press was the main enabler for the spread of ideas to reform the Roman Catholic church. But there was no freedom of the press and the Vatican prevented the publication of what it deemed to be heresy. A Spanish scholar named Michael Servetus, published a book critical of the doctrine of the trinity, which, in fact, has no foundation in scripture. John Calvin of Geneva, a less liberal reformer, had almost all copies of this book burned and ...more
Jan 25, 2008 Kerry rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Kerry by: stumbled across this one
Fabulous read. Witty, engaging, and yet simple. I didn't really understand the power of the printed word until I read this. At a time when religion and the Catholic Church dominated everything it was the printing press that brought about the reformation and spread ideas faster than could have ever been imagined. Even if you don't like history the Goldstones have a writing style that is easy and very engaging. As I read this book I often wonder what our modern world would be like if the printing ...more
This is one of those books that makes you wished you paid more attention in school. There's a lot of history in a rather small volume, and it takes some time to read this (which is why it was on my "currently reading" list for three months). The authors, rare book dealers, did an excellent job of tracing the history of the book and filling in all the relevant historical details. You'll be surprised how much you learn--not just about what happened to the book, but also about religion, history, po ...more
Greg Sudmeier
Hero: Michael Servetus
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Lawrence Goldstone is the author of fourteen books of both fiction and non-fiction. Six of those books were co-authored with his wife, Nancy, but they now write separately to save what is left of their dishes.
Goldstone's articles, reviews, and opinion pieces have appeared in, among other publications, the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Hartford Courant, and Berkshi
More about Lawrence Goldstone...
The Anatomy of Deception Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading The Astronomer

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