“Dirty Books: Stains and Holes in 17th-and 18th-century Drawing Manuals“ – Bénédicte Miyamoto – Digital Materialities

Publié le 11 janvier 2021

11 janvier 2021 - 17 h 30 min - 18 h 30 min


Was reading actually a learning process for craftsmen? To answer Pamela Smith’s question, I have surveyed 10,000 pages of drawing manuals for their visual marginalia. What was done to books informs us of what was done with books, where they were read, and what the practical end of reading was. Paint stains, pin-pricks, graphite or gridding traces show these manuals were used to record the trial and error of professionals, rather than to transfer knowledge from master to apprentice. Many bear traces of expert use (authoritative corrections meant to improve plates, tables or texts for example) or intensive use (traces of drawing practice, of plates delineated for transfer, or of palette and pigment experiments). These user marks diverge with the traditional narrative according to which drawing manuals were primarily used by amateurs and youth, and hint at a use as reference tool and workshop staple.

Bénédicte Miyamoto is an Associate Professor of British History at the Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle, 2020 short-term Fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library and Resident Scholar at the Dibner Smithsonian Library. She co-edited with Louisiane Ferlier Forms, Formats and the Circulation of Knowledge: British Printscape’s Innovations, 1688-1832. Brill, Library of the Written Word – The Handpress World, 2020. Her research focuses on the artistic culture and trade of Britain, 1600-1800.