An anonymous late sixteenth-century French technical manuscript, Ms. Fr. 640 (now held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France), has been the subject of research by the Making and Knowing Project since 2014. This intriguing manuscript provides important insights into the material, technical, and intellectual world of late sixteenth-century Europe, and sheds light on how and why nature was investigated, used in art, and collected and appreciated in early modern Europe. The laboratory reconstruction by the Making and Knowing Project of the technical and artistic “recipes” contained in Ms. Fr. 640 provides further knowledge about the manuscript, as well as of materials and processes, but it also raises a host of questions. The manuscript can be read as part of the digital critical edition Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France.
Pamela H. Smith, Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University and Founding Director of the Center for Science and Society