Bruce T. Moran, Preserving the Cutting Edge: Woodblocks, Visual Knowledge, and Practices of Botanical Illustration in Early Modern Europe

Bruce T. Moran, University of Nevada, Reno
Bruce T. Moran, University of Nevada, Reno
Center for Renaissance Studies Programs
History of the Book Lecture
Friday, April 4, 2014

2 pm

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Towner Fellows Lounge

Bruce T. Moran, University of Nevada, Reno

This lecture will focus upon the preparation, use, and reuse of woodblocks in the production of printed images of plants within two traditions of early modern herbals, each supporting distinct agendas within changing economies of curiosity. In one tradition, woodblocks cut for a project linking plant anatomy with medical alchemy organized by the Berlin court physician and Paracelsian chemist Leonhard Thurneisser (1531-1595/6) were rediscovered, reused, and given a different purpose almost a hundred years later. In another, woodblocks (many still in existence) that were designed by Giorgio Liberale and Wolfgang Meyerpeck for the great herbal of Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1501-1577) appeared in numerous editions before and after Mattioli’s death and found a renewed purpose in the eighteenth century in the Traité des Arbres et Arbustes (1755) of the French botanist, chemist, and enthusiast for applied science Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau (1700-1782).

What were the advantages to using woodblocks for botanical illustration? Why were cutters’ marks gouged away with their reuse? What kinds of information do woodblocks carry about technical knowledge, craftsmanship, and the social processes needed to produce them? How were skills of design—painting and drawing for instance—and those of execution—cutting and print making—linked in the preparation of woodblocks? How did practices that linked scribal (drawing), print (block cutting), and typographical crafts come together in the printed image? Treated as material sources of visual knowledge, woodblocks constitute a unique sort of representational genre, salvageable objects of visualization that travel and that, by traveling, serve multiple didactic, theoretical, and commercial purposes.

A reception will follow the lecture.

Learn more about our speaker: Bruce T. Moran, University of Nevada, Reno

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Organized by Paul F. Gehl, The Newberry Library, and Albert Rivero, Marquette University.

Faculty and graduate students of Center for Renaissance Studies consortium institutions may be eligible to apply for travel funds to attend CRS programs or to do research at the Newberry. Each member university sets its own policies and deadlines; contact your Representative Council member in advance for details.

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Registration is now closed.