The Elder Pliny became the victim of his own scientific curiosity while studying the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD. The year before he had completed his major work, the Naturalis Historia in which he set himself the ambitious task of recording all that was known of the world in his own time.
Pliny on Art and Society is the first complete examination of all those sections of the Naturalis Historia which deal with art, artistic techniques, works of art and with Pliny’s reasons for discussing art at all. It covers the extraction of gold, silver and marble, the discovery of bronze and painting and the artistic treatment in general. The core of the book is a running explanation and commentary on the text, with ample notes at the foot of the page. Isager also shows that in dealing with written sources, no references can be taken at face-value: social and political contexts must be taken into account.
The book is provided with translations of quotations, proceeds systematically and is furnished with clear summaries. It provides a useful commentary on particular books and passages of Pliny’s text.