There is growing historiographical interest in craft knowledge, techniques, and practices, especially in the early modern period. It is also becoming increasingly necessary to acknowledge the important role played in the so-called scientific revolution by certain groups of artisans who improved and extended their procedures and skills, as well as their linguistic and visual mechanisms for communicating and circulating their knowledge, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries.
Artisanal knowledge and practice was disseminated in printed books, of course, but also in manuscripts, which were produced in a wide variety of forms and had diverse contents. The book under review here is an excellent example of how to create an edition of this type of manuscript. The authors are acknowledged experts in the transmission of knowledge in the area of the western Mediterranean between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, both in university circles—especially in medicine and natural philosophy—and in artisan culture, which in this particular period underwent changes and developments that would transform the technological environment familiar to Europeans. Lluís Cifuentes leads an important project at Barcelona University that is building up a digital corpus, in Catalan, of science and technique in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Sciència.cat). It promises to be a model for similar future academic projects in other vernacular languages or in Latin. His coauthor, Ricardo Córdoba de la Llave of Córdoba University, is a renowned expert in the technical literature of medieval Spain, particularly in the Castilian language. The two of them have combined their complementary professional skills to edit with extreme care a hitherto unknown manuscript.
Tintorería y Medicina is a collection of 150 recipes for textile dyes, stain [End Page 968] removers, and medicinal remedies, especially aimed at ailments or health problems affecting dyers. The manuscript is primarily written in Catalan, although parts of it are written in an Aragonese heavily influenced by Castilian. Its author was Joanot Valero, a young dye-works apprentice originally from Aragon who was living in the city of Valencia when he wrote the manuscript’s sixty-eight pages between 1496 and 1501; at the end of it, Valero added four pages of accounts, which have proved to be very useful in the process of building a picture of the author and his context, in particular his relationship with his master in the Valencian dyers’ guild. Cifuentes and Córdoba have also managed to reconstruct part of Joanot Valero’s later professional life, which continued to be linked to the dyeing profession in the old kingdom of Valencia. The manuscript is preserved on a 1960s microfilm in the Biblioteca de Catalunya (National Library of Catalonia) in Barcelona, which granted permission for the publication of this edition, as the whereabouts of the original is not known.
The edition includes an extensive introductory study by the editors (pp. 13–140) that aims to set the manuscript in local, regional, European, and general contexts, rather like in a set of concentric circles, which means that the reader is able at any moment to compare the case at hand with other similar ones, and at the same time appreciate its peculiarities.
The editors show us that Valero’s manual should be understood in the context of two great intellectual and social processes taking place in western Europe from the mid-fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. The first is the appearance, growth, and circulation of what the classical Germanic historiographical tradition labeled Fachliteratur. The second is a historical process of broader scope for European history, what has come to be termed “the vernacularization of science, medicine, and technology.” Diverse social groups were involved in both processes; among them, artisans stood out, making a place for themselves in the traditional estates of feudal society and thereby transforming the social and cultural framework of latemedieval Europe.
Following the introductory study, the edition of the manuscript includes a transcription of the...