Pamela H. Smith

Dec 19, 2022

From Lived Experience to the Written Word

Reconstructing Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern World

University of Chicago Press 2022

How and why early modern European artisans began to record their knowledge. In From Lived Experience to the Written Word: Reconstructing Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern World (U Chicago Press, 2022),  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. Please visit MS FR 640 at The Making and Knowing Project. 

Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.

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Jana Byars

Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.

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