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Materials and Expertise in Early Modern EuropeBetween Market and Laboratory$
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Ursula Klein Klein and E. C. Spary

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226439686

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226439709.001.0001

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Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards: Matter and Meaning in Metalworking

Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards: Matter and Meaning in Metalworking

Chapter:
(p.29) 2 Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards: Matter and Meaning in Metalworking
Source:
Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe
Author(s):

Pamela H. Smith

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226439709.003.0002

This article reconsiders the relationship between science and technology by analyzing how matter and its manipulation—making—are linked to deductive and propositional knowledge—knowing—in early modern Europe. Drawing on three essays—Science and Other Indigenous Knowledge Systems by Helen Watson-Verran and David Turnbull, Culture as Appropriation: Popular Culture Uses in Early Modern France by Roger Chartier, and Jean Lave's work on “everyday technology”—this article challenges conventional ideas about matter and natural materials. Focusing on vermilion and metalworking, it explores late-medieval and early modern artisans' ways of making, measuring, and naming materials along with their ontology, as well as their impact on the development of alchemical theory. Metalworking in the sixteenth century was part of a web that included vermilion, the color red, blood, mercury, gold, and lizards. This article discusses the intersections between artisanal techniques and the development of modern ways of investigating nature, and delineates a less familiar worldview or “vernacular science” of materials and nature that has apparently informed artisanal practices in pigment making and metalworking.

Keywords:   science, technology, matter, Europe, artisans, vermilion, metalworking, pigment making, vernacular science, natural materials

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