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Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

Practices, Objects, and Texts, 1400 - 1800

The fruits of knowledge—such as books, data, and ideas—tend to generate far more attention than the ways in which knowledge is produced and acquired. Correcting this imbalance, Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe brings together a wide-ranging yet tightly integrated series of essays that explore how knowledge was obtained and demonstrated in Europe during an intellectually explosive four centuries, when standard methods of inquiry took shape across several fields of intellectual pursuit.

Composed by scholars in disciplines ranging from the history of science to art history to religious studies, the pieces collected here look at the production and consumption of knowledge as a social process within many different communities. They focus, in particular, on how the methods employed by scientists and intellectuals came to interact with the practices of craftspeople and practitioners to create new ways of knowing. Examining the role of texts, reading habits, painting methods, and countless other forms of knowledge making, this volume brilliantly illuminates the myriad ways these processes affected and were affected by the period’s monumental shifts in culture and learning.

336 pages | 4 color plates, 51 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2008

History: European History

History of Science

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


“Pamela Smith and Benjamin Schmidt have gathered together a wide-ranging and provocative set of original essays that successfully demonstrate how contingent the process of making knowledge was during a period of fundamental epistemological change. This is a finely crafted and conceptualized collection.”

Deborah Harkness, University of Southern California

“The major transformations of knowledge and social order in early modern Europe have long posed exciting and challenging problems for historians. This carefully organized new collection addresses these problems by focusing on the ways in which knowledge was then produced and how the status of knowledge was thus changed. Contributors show impressively how a much broader range of kinds of knowledge must be studied, juxtaposing the ways of knowing of painters and travelers, of chemists and midwives. They also show how a decisive aspect of knowledge making depended on innovativeand intense relations between scholars and artisans: traditions of recipe-making and of artful design were essential to the most important developments in ways of knowing.”

Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge

"This text is recommended for both specialists and non-specialists alike because of both the breadth of the contributions and the key lesson that it teaches: namely, that knowledge can be the result of a bewildering and surprising variety of processes. . . . In general, all the contributions make for stimulating reading and serve as useful introductions to current debates and problems."

Michael J. Sauter | H-Net Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Knowledge and Its Making in Early Modern Europe
    Pamela H. Smith and Benjamin Schmidt
Making Knowledge from the Margins

1. Women Engineers and the Culture of the Pyrenees: Indigenous Knowledge and Engineering in Seventeenth-Century France
    Chandra Mukerji

2. Visual Representation as Instructional Text: Jan van Eyck and The Ghent Altarpiece
    Linda Seidel

3. Explosive Affinities: Pyrotechnic Knowledge in Early Modern Europe
    Simon Werrett

4. Naming and Knowing: The Global Politics of Eighteenth-Century Botanical Nomenclatures
    Londa Schiebinger

Practices of Reading and Writing

5. Novel Knowledge: Innovation in Dutch Literature and Society of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
    Herman Pleij

6. Watches, Diary Writing, and the Search for Self-Knowledge in the Seventeenth Century
    Rudolf Dekker

7. The Moral of the Story: Children’s Reading and the Catechism of Nature around 1800
    Arianne Baggerman

8. Method as Knowledge: Scribal Theology, Protestantism, and the Reinvention of Shorthand in Sixteenth-Century England
    Lori Anne Ferrell

9. Boyle’s Essay: Genre and the Making of Early Modern Knowledge
    Scott Black

The Reform of Knowledge

10. Making Sense of Medical Collections in Early Modern Holland: The Uses of Wonder
    Claudia Swan

11. In Search of True Knowledge: Ole Worm (1588-1654) and the New Philosophy
    Ole Peter Grell

12. Stone Gods and Counter-Reformation Knowledges
    Carina L. Johnson

13. Temple and Tabernacle: The Place of Religion in Early Modern England
    Jonathan Sheehan

14. The Fiscal Logic of Enlightened German Science
    André Wakefield

List of Contributors

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