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On Divers Arts [Hardcover]

5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 1963
First printed in the 12th century, here is the earliest treatise on the arts written by a practicing artist. Offering an essential understanding of pre-Renaissance art and technology, the Benedictine author details pigments, glass blowing, stained glass, gold and silver work, and more — information of great importance to craftsmen and historians of art and science. Includes 34 illustrations.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 251 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (Dec 1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226320111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226320113
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compulsory read 20 May 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are interested in medieval technology, you wont find many more books which offer such an insight.

Roger of Helmerhausen (Theophilus) was a true polymath.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 17 Mar 2013
By Mike
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent 'must have' reference book for anyone wanting to explore early medieval arts. I have used original latin copies before and find the addition of illustrations to be very useful.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
For those intrested in the technology of pre renissnce art this book in a facinating must. While giving standard technacal information (admitaly often with out any form of mesurment) it is also littered with 12th-century folk lore or fact such as "tools are made harder buy hardening them in the urine of a small red-headed boy". I must admit as of yet I had not tested this.
I was facenated and inspird by the section on the making of pigments and enamamelling.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have medievalist 25 Dec 2003
By CobaltCat - Published on Amazon.com
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.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! 15 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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!
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really rather cool. 15 Jun 2008
By frumiousb - Published on Amazon.com
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. And here On Divers Arts has sat, to this very day, beaming guilt at me from my to-be-read shelf. While sick in bed this year, I decided to finally give in and read the darned thing.

It was surprisingly interesting. I will freely admit to not following the technical details of Theophilus and his work. However, I really appreciated the glimpse that it gave me of the medieval craftsman's mind. And despite myself the listings of exotic techniques and ingredients were really rather cool.

This is a completely vacuous review-- "really rather cool" as a key message. But there you are. I do not have anything smarter to say on the subject.

The book (in the Dover edition) is translated and edited by John G. Hawthorne and Cyril Stanley Smith. It comes with a neat bibliography at the back. I very much appreciated that the footnotes were apportioned per page rather than making me flip back and forth to the later pages.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Medieval Genius! 16 Sep 2007
By invisible - Published on Amazon.com
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=
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Divers Arts 6 May 2007
By M. Sellers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great book for techniques of medieval artist. A must for the library of any medievalist.
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