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On Divers Arts (Dover Art Instruction) Paperback – August 1, 1979

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On Divers Arts (Dover Art Instruction) + The Craftsman's Handbook: "Il Libro dell' Arte" + Vasari on Technique (Dover Art Instruction)
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Latin (translation)

From the Back Cover

"I have made it my concern to hunt out this technique for your study as I learned it by looking and listening." On Divers Arts, c. 1122, is the oldest extant manual on artistic crafts to be written by a practicing artist. Before Theophilus, manuscripts on the arts came from scholars and philosophers standing outside the actual profession. On Divers Arts describes actual 12th-century techniques in painting, glass, and metalwork, which the Benedictine author wished to pass on to those gifted by God with a talent for making beautiful things.
Theophilus teaches, with rigorous attention to fact but also with great reverence the making of pigments for fresco painting, the manufacture of glue, the technique of gold leaf on parchment (the first recorded European reference to true paper), how to blow glass and design stained glass windows, how to fashion gold and silver chalices, and how to make a pipe organ and church bells. Precise instruction on enameling, chasing, repoussé, niello, and beaded wire work prove Theophilus's first-hand knowledge of his craft.
While 90 percent of Theophilus's writing is sound technical knowledge, medieval folk lore occasionally spices his text: "Tools are also made harder by hardening them in the urine of a small red-headed boy than by doing so in plain water." But the magnificent fact of On Divers Art remains its status as the first technical treatise on painting, glass, and metalwork, for which actual specimens still survive. The editors have taken care to ensure both philological and technological accuracy for this authoritative edition of a medieval classic, a manual of great importance to craftsmen, historians of art and science, and all who delight in the making of the beautiful.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Art Instruction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (August 1, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486237842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486237848
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #715,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By CobaltCat on December 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
Written by a man of the medieval period, On Divers Arts (Hawthorne & Smith translation) offers instruction in several of the artisan crafts (e.g. stained glass vitrines, paint mixing, and silver work). In minute detail, it covers the creation process from the gathering of raw materials to the finished product. At times, this dialogue can be hard to follow; however, diagrams and b&w plates help the reader with these difficulties. Additionally, the translators provide notes for scholars, which give a brief overview of various editions and revisions, as well as a slew of footnotes to help with the sticky bits.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a must-have for anyone interested in early Medieval art or glassworking or metallurgy. It includes detailed how-to instructions and formulas - not all of which are safe to follow, however!
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on June 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
As you can guess, there is a story behind how exactly I came to own "The Foremost Medieval Treatise on Painting, Glassmaking and Metalwork". It really is not a book for me. I am not a very crafty person. I cannot even make jewelry with any reliability. While I have a healthy RPG based history with medieval trivia I would be laughed out of any good SCA convention and cannot claim enough interest to really own this book. I am an armchair historian, at very best. So. How did I get here?

While I was hiking through France several years ago, I made do with English books that I found/stole/bought/borrowed along the way. If I was in a major town, I would go to the bookstore and hope that they were big enough to have a few English books in stock.

Anyhow, when I arrived in Vezelay, I was excited because there were several bookstores in the center. They turned out, however, to be a bit of a disappointment. The first two I went to had no English books at all in stock. The third, run by an enthusiastic and friendly Frenchman in wire-rimmed glasses, also apparently had no English books. However, he remembered that somewhere in the store, he had an English book.

That man turned over boxes, looked behind shelves, peered in closets, ran upstairs and down. I wanted him to give up, but he would not hear of it. Nearly a half an hour later, he appeared triumphant from the upstairs waving this book: On Divers Arts by Theophilus. It was actually way too big to be carried while hiking and, as I said, not exactly my subject matter, but after all that fuss there was no way that I could not buy the book. He was so very very pleased.

Anyhow, the book went in the post back to the Netherlands and I begged a few romance novels left behind from one of the local hotels.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By invisible on September 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book was written in Latin about 1122 AD and translated to English in the late 1950's or early 1960's. It is one of the few remaining contemporary books dedicated to the technology of Medieval European art. As such it is a window into the complex and under-appreciated intellectual and creative world of the artisans who built the furnishings for the great cathedrals and castles to follow.

Using this book a modern artisan could reconstruct the processes of how most of the artistic furnishings of a twelfth century public building were built. One finds here the ancient ways of making stained glass windows, censers, chalices, paintings, jewelry, bells and organs.

Companion books to help the reader to gain more insight into the grand ability of the pre-industrial European mind include: The Treatises Of Benvenuto Cellini On Goldsmithing And Sculpture and A Needle in the Right Hand of God: The Norman Conquest of 1066 and the Making and Meaning of the Bayeux Tapestry=
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Sellers on May 6, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book for techniques of medieval artist. A must for the library of any medievalist.
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