Mr. Cronin presents Florentine civilization for the general reader as if ""it were a mural."" He sees and shows the 15th century as a watershed ""from which flow many of the beliefs and values we treasure most."" It is a popular exposition of a luminous age--the Florence of the Medici; of historians Bruni and Valla; philosophers Ficino and Pico; astronomer and ipso facto astrologer Toscanelli who encouraged Columbus; Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, Donatello, Michelangelo, Botticelli. Not a mere compendium of names, this animates the period when the Church taboos fell away and men could confront the physical world, when Florence Justified her name (flowered) through art and science. Lorenzo's Florence, characterized by freedom, versatility, the active life and love of God (his own qualities) gave way to that of Savonarola.... A live, quick study which may raise questions (the political-philosophical interpretation of art, for example) as well as answer them.