Journal article Open Access

Learning a Craft from Books: Historical Re-enactment of Functional Reading in Gold- and Silversmithing

Hagendijk, Thijs


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    <subfield code="a">Technique in the Arts. Concepts, Practices, Expertise (1500-1950)</subfield>
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    <subfield code="a">&lt;p&gt;The early modern period witnessed a great increase in the production and dissemination of artisanal handbooks, manuals and recipes. A central question is what role these texts played in the transmission of artisanal knowledge. This study explores the case of Dutch silversmith Willem van Laer (1674-1722) who published a&amp;nbsp;&lt;em&gt;Guidebook for upcoming gold- and silversmiths&lt;/em&gt;(1721), a comprehensive and well-received manual of the craft. To assess the role of the&amp;nbsp;&lt;em&gt;Guidebook&lt;/em&gt;in the acquisition of practical skills in the eighteenth century, this study employs traditional historical methods combined with historical re-enactment. I argue that effective use of the&amp;nbsp;&lt;em&gt;Guidebook&lt;/em&gt;depended on complementary hands-on education of master craftsmen, which suggests that the&amp;nbsp;&lt;em&gt;Guidebook&lt;/em&gt;was far from a DIY crash course and illustrates that the textual transmission of craft knowledge depended upon, rather than threatened, established routes to craft learning, such as apprenticeships.&lt;/p&gt;</subfield>
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