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 “recipes” contained in Ms. Fr. 640 provide an opportunity to explore the meanings and conceptualization of making and materials in the sixteenth century, and shed light on the type of knowledge possessed by handworkers, why their knowledge was of such interest to a literate audience, and how the work of making was related to knowing.
Pamela H. Smith, Seth Low Professor of History and Founding Director of the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University