cover of book

From Lived Experience to the Written Word: Reconstructing Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern World
by Pamela H. Smith
University of Chicago Press, 2022
eISBN: 978-0-226-81823-8 | Cloth: 978-0-226-80027-1 | Paper: 978-0-226-81824-5
Library of Congress Classification T11.S575 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 808.0666

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.
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