New Book | Ways of Making and Knowing

Posted in books by Editor on June 5, 2014

From the University of Michigan Press (with an excerpt and more information available at the website for the series, The Bard Graduate Center Cultural Histories of the Material World) . . .

Pamela H. Smith, Amy R. W. Meyers, and Harold J. Cook, eds., Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014), 448 pages, ISBN: 978-0472119271, $60.

9780472119271“Making” and “knowing” have generally been viewed as belonging to different types and orders of knowledge. “Craft” and “making” have been associated with how-to information, oriented to a particular situation or product, often informal and tacit, while “knowing” has been related to theoretical, propositional, and abstract knowledge including natural science. Although craftspeople and artists have worked with natural materials and sometimes have been viewed as experts in the behavior of matter, the notion that making art can constitute a means of knowing nature is a novel one.

This volume, with contributions from historians of science, medicine, art, and material culture, shows that the histories of science and art are not simply histories of concepts or styles, or at least not that alone, but histories of the making and using of objects to understand the world. The common view of craftspeople more or less mindlessly following a collection of recipes or rules—which are said to be fundamentally different from “science” and “art”—has greatly distorted our understanding of the growth of natural knowledge in the early modern period. More intensive examination of material practices makes it clear that the methods of the artisan represent a process of knowledge-making that involved extensive experimentation and observation, in addition to generalizations about matter and nature. As increasing numbers of people came to be immersed in such activities, whether as craftspeople, medical practitioners, merchants, nobles, magistrates, reformers, collectors, or even scholars, the attributes of “nature” were not only articulated in a variety of ways, and not only seen as a resource for human use, but came to be identified with a variety of “goods.” Knowing nature could of course lead to material betterment but for many, living according to nature’s dictates also led to the development of personal ethics and the public good. As natural knowledge became increasingly important in society in these various ways, it forged new connections among groups, helped create new identities, brought about new kinds of claims to authority and intellectual legitimacy, and gave rise to new ways of thinking about the senses, certainty, and epistemology. None of this could have happened without the conversations and controversies that enabled the assessment of objects in novel ways.

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Introduction: Making and Knowing
Harold J. Cook, Pamela H. Smith, and Amy R.W. Meyers

1. Making as Knowing: Craft as Natural Philosophy
Pamela H. Smith

2. From Skills to Wisdom: Making, Knowing and the Arts
Suzanne B. Butters

3. Between Trade and Science: Dyeing and Knowing in the Long Eighteenth Century
Alicia Weisberg-Roberts

4. How to Cure the Golden Vein: Medical Remedies as Wissenschaft in Renaissance Germany
Alisha Rankin

5. Evidence, Artisan Experience and Authority in Early Modern England
Patrick Wallis and Catherine Wright

6. American Roots: Technologies of Plant Transportation and Cultivation in the Early Atlantic World
Mark Laird and Karen Bridgman

7. Inside the Box: John Bartram and the Science and Commerce of the Transatlantic Plant Trade
Joel Fry

8. From Plant to Page: Aesthetics and Objectivity in a Nineteenth-Century Book of Trees
Lisa Ford

9. The Labor of Division: Cabinetmaking and the Production of Knowledge
Glenn Adamson

10. Making Lists: Social and Material Technologies in the Making of Seventeenth-Century British Natural History
Elizabeth Yale

11. The Preservation of Specimens and the Take-Off in Anatomical Knowledge in the Early Modern Period
Harold J. Cook

12. Conrad Gessner on an ‘ad vivum’ image
Sachiko Kusukawa

13. Corals versus Trees: Charles Darwin’s Early Sketches of Evolution
Horst Bredekamp

14. Decaying Objects and the Making of Meaning in Museums
Mary M. Brooks

Malcolm Baker

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