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Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Pamela H. Smith (Columbia University): "Making and Knowing in Early Modern How-To Texts"

Imitation coral
Lifecast of a rose
Making and Knowing Team

Monday, January 24, 2022, 5:15pm, via Zoom*

*For Zoom information, please please contact Aylin Malcolm.

Our speaker writes:

An intriguing late sixteenth-century anonymous manuscript, Ms. Fr. 640 (now held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France), contains over 900 "recipes" for objects of art and of everyday use. In 2020, the Making and Knowing Project released a digital critical edition and English translation of this manuscript ( The technical and artistic content of Ms. Fr. 640 provides an opportunity to explore the meanings and conceptualization of making and materials in early modern how-to texts, as well as the type of knowledge they contain. The lecture will also introduce the digital edition of Ms. Fr. 640.

About our speaker:

Pamela H. Smith is Seth Low professor of history at Columbia University, and founding Director of the Center for Science and Society and of its cluster project The Making and Knowing Project ( Her articles and books examine craft and practice, and its relationship to scientific knowledge. The Body of the Artisan (2004), and her forthcoming From Lived Experience to the Written Word: Reconstructing Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern World (Chicago 2022) make a case for treating craft/art as a way of knowing. Her edited volumes, Ways of Making and Knowing (ed. with Amy R. W. Meyers and Harold Cook, pbk 2017) and The Matter of Art (ed. with Christy Anderson and Anne Dunlop, pbk 2016), treat materiality, making and meaning. An edited volume, Entangled Itineraries: Materials, Practices, and Knowledges across Eurasia (2019), deals with the movement of materials and knowledge across Eurasia before 1800. In the collaborative research and teaching initiative, The Making and Knowing Project, she and the Making and Knowing Team investigate the intersection of craft making and scientific knowing by text-, object-, and laboratory-based research on technical texts. In 2020 they released a digital critical edition and English translation of a sixteenth-century technical and artistic manual as Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France.

This talk will be held via Zoom (please contact us for details). All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on future talks, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press, Emeritus), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Aylin Malcolm.