Bibliography and sources

Works added to the ARTECHNE database since June 2016

This is a work in progress; please check on a regular basis for new additions

Berger, Ernst, Beiträge zur Entwickelungs Geschichte der Maltechnik: Quellen von Maltechnik während der Renaissance und deren folgezeit (XVI.-XVIII, Jahrhundert) in Italien, Spanien, den Niederlanden, Deutschland, Frankreich und England. Nebst dem De Mayerne manuskript. Munich: Verlag von Georg D. W. Callwey, 1901.

Beurs, Willem, De Groote Waereld, in 't kleen geschildert, of schilderagtig tafereel van ’s Weerelds schilderyen. Kortelijk vervat in Ses Boeken. Verklarende de hooftverwen, haare verscheide mengelingen in Oly, en der zelver gebruik. Amsterdam: Johannes en Gilles Janssonius van Waesberge, 1692.

Cennini, Cennino, Trattato della pittura, messo in luce la prima volta con annotazioni, dal cavaliere Guiseppe Tambroni, socio onorario dell’ accademia di S. Luca della I.R. delle Belle arti di Vienna, Dell’Archeologica di Roma, Della R. di scienze lettere ed arti di Paragi ec. Rome: co’torchi di Paolo Salviucci, 1821.

Dossie, Robert, The handmaid to the arts. London: J. Nourse at the Lamb opposite Katherine-Street in the Strand, 1758.

Dupré, S., Néven, S., Colour ConText Database, Berlin: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 2014.

Van Laer, Willem, Wegwyzer voor aankomende Goud en Zilversmeeden, Verhandelende veele weetenfchappen, die Konften raakende, zeer nut voor alle Jonge Goud en Zilver-Smeeden. Amsterdam: weduwe Jan Stant, 1768.

Dossie, Robert, The handmaid to the arts. London: J. Nourse at the Lamb opposite Katherine-Street in the Strand, 1758.

Mulder, G.J., Scheikundige verhandelingen en onderzoekingen de scheidkunde der droogende olieën. Rotterdam: H.A. Kramers, 1865.

Merrifield, Mary Philadelphia (transl.), A Treatise On Painting, written by Cennino Cennini in the year 1437; and first published in Italian in 1821, with an introduction and notes, by signor Tambroni. London: Edward Lumley, 1844.


Vasari, Giorgio, Le vite de' piv eccellenti pittori, scvltori, et architettori, Scritte, & di nuonno Amphare da M. Giorgio Vasari, Pit. et Archit. Aretino. Florence: Apresso i Giunti, 1568.


(C) Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, Msc. Theol. 225, Hye hebt sich an dy myschung aller farb


There are roughly four categories of texts in the ARTECHNE database, often overlapping: recipes, books of secrets, artist manuals, and art theoretical and philosophical texts.


Artisanal recipe collections provide information on various artistic disciplines, such as drawing, painting, frescos, illumination, gilding and metalwork, amongst others.

Many of these recipes can be used to identify specific, datable practices and materials, as compilers often specify the name or place of origin of the artisans from whom they obtained their information. Information related to the historical provenance of the source material (obtained through codicological or philological analysis) has also been recorded within the database and may be used for that purpose too. 

Early modern recipes related to artisanal practices in the visual and decorative arts were often gathered in the same collection with recipes on other fields of knowledge (such as alchemy, botany, pharmacology or medicine). These are also described within the database. Used in context, these written sources can serve to determine the relationship and connections between artists’ knowledge and other types of knowledge, between the worlds of making and materials and the worlds of scholarship and texts.

The database also includes information on the ownership and readership of collections of recipes. This allows users to address questions on the circulation of these recipes outside the workshop.

Books of secrets

Books of secrets are compilations of recipes for procedures in a wide variety of fields, such as alchemy, cookery, housekeeping, visual art, cosmetics, and medicine.

Books of secrets were published in abundance in the medieval and early modern period, and unlike the name suggests, were not aimed at keepign things secret at all. As William Eamon put it in his book Science and the Secrets of Nature (1994), books of secrets 'were grounded upon a down-to-earth, experimental outlook: they did not affirm underlying principles but taught "how-to".'

Books of secrets almost always contain recipes, but they can also list other instructions, such as how to perform a certain trick or experiment. The populairty of the genre wained after 1700.

Artist manuals

Texts describing artisanal making processes, such as artist handbooks, describe and give instructions for artisanal techniques, such as drawing, painting, and metalworking. Unlike recipes, these texts do not describe how to prepare ingredients, but how to work with prepared materials and tools to make visual art, decorative and scientific objects.

The eighteenth century saw an enormous growth in printed artist handbooks or manuals containing both recipes and how-to instructions, aimed at both professional artisans and amateurs. The more of these texts we add, the easier it becomes to gain insight in the development and spread of artistic techniques on the one hand, and in the possibilities of transmitting practical knowledge through text on the other hand.

Recipes, secrets, and artist manuals were often combined in one work in the early modern period, although this was not always the case. With the introduction of ready-made artist supplies such as paints in the nineteenth century, recipes increasingly disappeared from artist handbooks, and the focus shifted to artisanal technique.  

Whenever possible the database includes information on ownership and readership of artisanal texts. This allows users to address questions about the reception and circulation of such works.

Art theoretical and philosophical texts

Art theoretical and philosophical texts do not describe how to prepare materials or apply them. They discuss issues like what art is, who is an artist and why, and who decides that.

We are adding such texts to the database because analysing them will help us answer questions about the changing ideas about art through the changing meanings of particular terms, and they can help us to map the rise of new concepts in thinking about the visual and decorative arts. For example, the meaning of words like 'aesthetics', 'art', 'craft', and 'genius' changed profoundly in the period 1500-1800, and 'technique' was a neologism in the vernacular in the eighteenth century.

Art theoretical and philosophical texts did not become a truly distinct genre until after 1750. Before that time, ideas about the theory and philosophy of the visual arts were often found in works about art techniques, but also in more general philosophical works. This in itself is telling for how artisanal technique was understood and appreciated in the early modern period. The texts in the database will help us enhance our understanding of the factors that changed the field of art theory and philosophy.

As with the recipes and the technical texts, the database includes information on ownership and readership of the art theoretical and artisanal texts when available.