From Lived Experience to the Written Word: Reconstructing Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern World By Pamela H. Smith Cover Image

From Lived Experience to the Written Word: Reconstructing Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern World (Paperback)

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How and why early modern European artisans began to record their knowledge.

In From Lived Experience to the Written Word, Pamela H. Smith considers how and why, beginning in 1400 CE, European craftspeople began to write down their making practices. Rather than simply passing along knowledge in the workshop, these literate artisans chose to publish handbooks, guides, treatises, tip sheets, graphs, and recipe books, sparking early technical writing and laying the groundwork for how we think about scientific knowledge today.
Focusing on metalworking from 1400–1800 CE, Smith looks at the nature of craft knowledge and skill, studying present-day and historical practices, objects, recipes, and artisanal manuals. From these sources, she considers how we can reconstruct centuries of largely lost knowledge. In doing so, she aims not only to unearth the techniques, material processes, and embodied experience of the past but also to gain insight into the lifeworld of artisans and their understandings of matter.

About the Author

Pamela H. Smith is the 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. She is the author of The Business of Alchemy and The Body of the Artisan, the latter also published by the University of Chicago Press. She is the co-editor of Ways of Making and Knowing and The Matter of Art and editor of Entangled Itineraries.

Praise For…

"Smith’s study encompasses the period from 1400 to 1800, when practitioners increasingly sought to put their trades in words, composing and publishing craft manuals, guides, treatises, recipe books, tip sheets and diagrams... These texts, she argues, enrich our understanding of the theoretical world of European makers, the development of technical writing and, by extension, the birth of modern science."
— London Review of Books

“This book is a cogently original account of skilled practice, its expression in writing, and its significance for the culture of knowledge as the new sciences developed in early modern Europe. With roots in the world-renowned Making and Knowing Project, it offers an important addition to the histories of skilled craft practice, of science and technology, and of the premodern and early modern periods.”
— Pamela O. Long, author of Engineering the Eternal City

“This is a brilliant, groundbreaking, and timely book. Through a particularly novel and exciting approach, Smith offers the first book-length study on the way early modern practitioners wrote about their skills. It is a must read for the growing community of scholars interested in material culture and in the ways how bodies, minds, things, and materials interact with each other.”
— Christine Göttler, author of Last Things

Product Details
ISBN: 9780226818245
ISBN-10: 0226818241
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication Date: September 23rd, 2022
Pages: 352