George Bull OBE 1929 - 2001

The Times Monday April 9 2001

George Bull Reconciliation between cultures

When the Japanese Ambassador commended George Bull as a Renaissance man at the ceremony in 1999 to bestow upon him the Emperor's highest honour, the epithet was unusually appropriate.

For, as well as being immersed in the Italian Renaissance (he was, for instance, honorary treasurer of the Society for Renaissance Studies for 21 years) Bull was fascinated by business, diplomacy and politics.

Not many directors of the Insititute of Public Enterprise Studies achieve such literary eminence as to be made Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature, but Bull served on its council and was for six years its honorary treasurer. But, as well as being the translator of Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Vasari, he was involved in an extraordinary number of business and trading publications and organisations, particularly promoting relations with Japan.

He had a wider circle of acquaintances than most, and always showed interest in other people's thoughts and activities. He could switch in a flash from the latest City scandal and today's political nuances to the inner meaning of international reconciliation.

Born into an Irish Catholic family living in London, George Anthony Bull was educated at Wimbledon College and Brasenose College, Oxford and after his national service in the Royal Fusiliers he went to work on the Financial Times in 1952, first as a reporter, then on Foreign News. Meanwhile, he was working on the translation of the Life of Cellini which was published by Penguin Classics in 1956, inaugurating a long association with that series.

After a short spell as News Editor in the London bureau of McGraw-Hill World News, he spent 24 years with The Director, rising from Deputy Editor to Editor and then Editor-in-Chief. From 1986 he was Director of the Anglo Japanese Economic Institute and from 1989 he was Editor of International Minds. Having become president of Central Banking Publications in 1990 he was publisher of insight Japan from 1992 onwards, the Euro Japanese Journal from 1994 and innovation and insight Europe from 1999.

Other commitments were more European in focus. He was a member of the UK committee of the European Cultural Foundation from 1987, and vice-president of the British\Italian Society from 1995 onwards. Part of the Japanese side of his life too involved him in cultural affairs, and he had a long friendship with the Catholic novelist Shusuko Endo.

A lifelong Roman Catholic himself, Bull took on many commitments connected with the Church. For three yea rs he chaired the International Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales. He was a director for 17 years of The Tablet, and a trustee from 1976, and for 16 years he was also a trustee of The Universe. In addition he was a governor of three Catholic schools.

But all this went hand in hand with a literary and scholarly career which might on its own have kept a less industrious man busy. His intersecting interests made him peculiarly well qualified to write on the complexities of Vatican Politics (1966) and he returned to the subject with Inside the Vatican (1982), which was translated into several other languages. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory in 1999.

In the meantime he had published a study; The renaissance (1968, with a new edition in 1973), and Venice: the Most Triumphant City, which was published by the Folio Society in 1980 and later in the United States.

Between these Italian books, he was also writing business and social studies, including The Director, his Money and his Job (1970) and, with Peter Hobday and John Hamway, Industrial Relations: The Boardroom Viewpoint (1972).

His next work for Penguin Classics was Machiavelli's The Prince, first published in 1961 and still in print, which was followed by Vasari's Lives of the Artists (Volume 1, 1965 volume 2, 1987) and Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier in 1967. Also for Penguin he compiled a selection of Aretino's letters (1976).

For other publishers he translated Artists of the renaissance, The Life, Letters and Poetry of Michelangelo (with Peter Porter, 1987), and The Travels of Pietro della Valle (1989). Michelangelo: A Biography, his latest book, was well-received when it appeared in 1995, and at the time of his death he was well advanced with a biography of Dante.

He lectured, broadcast and wrote articles and reviews on a wide range of subjects, among them the restoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, on which he became an expert, and was active in public events of all sorts. Last year, for example, on the 500th anniversary of the birth of Cellini, he organised a commemoration day at Goldsmith's Hall, with six lectures, one of which he gave himself.

His work naturally involved a great deal of travel and the amassing of a fine library. He was also an active member of three London clubs, the Garrick, the Savile and the Beefsteak. He was appointed OBE in 1990.

George Bull married Doreen Griffin in 1957, she survives him with their two sons and two daughters.