We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Openness, Secrecy, Authorship

Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance

Pamela O. Long

Publication Year: 2001

In today's world of intellectual property disputes, industrial espionage, and book signings by famous authors, one easily loses sight of the historical nature of the attribution and ownership of texts. In Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance, Pamela Long combines intellectual history with the history of science and technology to explore the culture of authorship. Using classical Greek as well as medieval and Renaissance European examples, Long traces the definitions, limitations, and traditions of intellectual and scientific creation and attribution. She examines these attitudes as they pertain to the technical and the practical. Although Long's study follows a chronological development, this is not merely a general work. Long is able to examine events and sources within their historical context and locale. By looking at Aristotelian ideas of Praxis, Techne, and Episteme. She explains the tension between craft and ideas, authors and producers. She discusses, with solid research and clear prose, the rise, wane, and resurgence of priority in the crediting and lionizing of authors. Long illuminates the creation and re-creation of ideas like "trade secrets," "plagiarism," "mechanical arts," and "scribal culture." Her historical study complicates prevailing assumptions while inviting a closer look at issues that define so much of our society and thought to this day. She argues that "a useful working definition of authorship permits a gradation of meaning between the poles of authority and originality," and guides us through the term's nuances with clarity rarely matched in a historical study.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.2 KB)
pp. i-v


pdf iconDownload PDF (59.8 KB)
pp. vii

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (47.8 KB)
pp. ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (36.6 KB)
pp. xi-xii

Writing this book has been a long-term project during which I acquired numerous debts, used many libraries and archives, both in the United States and in Europe, and developed many friendships. It has been supported by a number of grants and fellowships, many of which arrived at precisely propitious moments. I am indebted to friends and colleagues who have discussed and critiqued my work and to my students, from whom I have learned much, especially...

Note on Editions and Translations

pdf iconDownload PDF (44.8 KB)
pp. xiii

read more

INTRODUCTION: Categories and Key Words: Local Meaning in Long-Term History

pdf iconDownload PDF (93.6 KB)
pp. 1-15

This book investigates openness, secrecy, authorship, and ownership—what we now call intellectual property. Ranging from antiquity to the early seventeenth century, it draws substantially on writings from technical, craft, and practical traditions. Sources include books on catapults, agriculture, and generalship; evidence derived from artisanal contexts, such as ancient and medieval craftguild records; treatises on painting, architecture, machines, mining, and pottery...

read more

1 Open Authorship within Ancient Traditions of Technē and Praxis

pdf iconDownload PDF (155.9 KB)
pp. 16-45

In mid-fifth-century B.C.E. Athens, architecture, sculpture, and other technical arts came to be closely allied with political practice. Pericles’ vast program of building construction on the Acropolis supported and indeed was intrinsic to his rulership of democratic Athens. Pride in Athenian democracy, successful political control, and spectacular new building construction all went hand in hand. Yet the alliance of technē and praxis did not last. A hundred years...

read more

2 Secrecy and Esoteric Knowledge in Late Antiquity

pdf iconDownload PDF (133.6 KB)
pp. 46-71

Late antiquity, between about 200 and 500 C.E., was an era of changing boundaries, including psychological boundaries. For many individuals the personal significance of the extended horizontal expanse of the Roman empire contracted in favor of small, intimate groups that functioned outside the formal structure of the state. Yet closer horizontal boundaries were compensated by greatly expanded vertical ones. That is to say, individuals greatly augmented their...

read more

3 Handing Down Craft Knowledge

pdf iconDownload PDF (149.4 KB)
pp. 72-101

Making things involves a complex set of activities that developed gradually and intermittently along with human evolution itself. The construction and use of tools, the fabrication of textiles, pottery, and implements of various kinds, and the working of stone, metal, and other materials require intricate operations, each of which has its own history. Complex craft technologies developed millennia before the invention of writing, which occurred in Mesopotamia...

read more

4 Authorship on the Mechanical Arts in the Last Scribal Age

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.1 MB)
pp. 102-142

Writings on the mechanical arts expanded greatly in the fifteenth century, especially in northern and central Italy and southern Germany. Throughout the century, authors created pictorial and textual books on machines of various kinds, gunpowder artillery, fountains and pumps, hydraulic works, painting, sculpture, architecture, and fortification—an array of disciplines classified as mechanical arts. This activity of authorship emerged from within manuscript culture...

read more

5 Secrecy and the Esoteric Traditions of the Renaissance

pdf iconDownload PDF (155.7 KB)
pp. 143-174

As open authorship on the mechanical arts expanded beginning in the early fifteenth century, books concerning alchemy and other traditions usually labeled “occult” also proliferated. Alchemy, Neoplatonic philosophy, Hermeticism, the cabala, and astral magic were sometimes overlapping but not identical traditions and systems of belief. Each represented a complex legacy with its own corpus of texts and its own practices. Alchemical texts from Islamic cultures...

read more

6 Openness and Authorship I: Mining, Metallurgy, and the Military Arts

pdf iconDownload PDF (679.1 KB)
pp. 175-209

Sixteenth-century writings on mining, metallurgy, artillery, and fortification emerged as a result of specific economic, social, and technological developments. Many of these books contained detailed technical information, which their authors for the most part purveyed openly. Print made possible the rapid reproduction of multiple copies, facilitating wide dissemination. Yet printing by itself should not be credited with the promulgation of the value of openness...

read more

7 Openness and Authorship II: Painting, Architecture, and Other Arts

pdf iconDownload PDF (772.3 KB)
pp. 210-243

During the sixteenth century, artisan practitioners and their patrons increasingly construed arts such as painting, sculpture, and architecture as liberal arts, characterized by both learning and skill. This rising cultural status came about for complex reasons, including the appearance of books devoted to such arts; the development of theories of art and architecture that stressed their foundation in mathematics; a growing emphasis on the ingenuity and originality of...

read more

EPILOGUE: Values of Transmission and the New Sciences

pdf iconDownload PDF (61.8 KB)
pp. 244-250

This study investigates values concerning the possession of knowledge and its communication as phenomena that are contextually grounded and involve both written authorship and oral transmission. It addresses not just the substantive content of books but the social and cultural circumstances of their production. It also focuses on the technical arts and investigates the influence of craft and engineering traditions beyond specific activities of construction and fabrication. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (213.8 KB)
pp. 251-297


pdf iconDownload PDF (211.4 KB)
pp. 299-350


pdf iconDownload PDF (985.9 KB)
pp. 351-364

E-ISBN-13: 9780801872822
E-ISBN-10: 0801872820
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801880612
Print-ISBN-10: 0801880610

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 9 halftones, 8 line drawings
Publication Year: 2001