Abstract

abstract:

This article uses a locksmith's design for a mechanical hand in the surgeon Ambroise Paré's widely influential Oeuvres (1575) to examine the transmission of technical knowledge in early modern Europe. The article interprets Paré's chapter on artificial limbs through the lens of material culture, and then uses its findings to explore the movement of craft knowledge through print. A comparison between Paré's woodcut image of the prosthesis and an extant sixteenth-century mechanical hand from Kassel, Germany grounds Paré's woodcut in ongoing practices of making prosthetic technology. Analyzing the transmission of Paré's Oeuvres in light of the creative environment of artificial limb design and construction transforms our understanding of the potential utility of the printed image for different viewers. The dissemination of this woodcut design reveals a form of technical knowledge transfer that was endlessly adaptable to the experiences of artisans from different craft groups.

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