Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory

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It is often assumed that natural philosophy was the forerunner of early modern natural sciences. But where did these sciences’ systematic observation and experimentation get their starts? In Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe, the laboratories, workshops, and marketplaces emerge as arenas where hands-on experience united with higher learning. In an age when chemistry, mineralogy, geology, and botany intersected with mining, metallurgy, pharmacy, and gardening, materials were objects that crossed disciplines.

Here, the contributors tell the stories of metals, clay, gunpowder, pigments, and foods, and thereby demonstrate the innovative practices of technical experts, the development of the consumer market, and the formation of the observational and experimental sciences in the early modern period. Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe showcases a broad variety of forms of knowledge, from ineffable bodily skills and technical competence to articulated know-how and connoisseurship, from methods of measuring, data gathering, and classification to analytical and theoretical knowledge. By exploring the hybrid expertise involved in the making, consumption, and promotion of various materials, and the fluid boundaries they traversed, the book offers an original perspective on important issues in the history of science, medicine, and technology.

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Editorial Reviews

Andrew Pickering
“A very valuable addition to the history of matter. A fascinating and thought-provoking range of studies of mundane substances as lures to consumption, commerce, warfare and science.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226439686
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Pages: 398
  • Sales rank: 1,196,638
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Ursula Klein is senior research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and the co-author of Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science: A Historical Ontology and the author of Experiment, Models, Paper Tools: Cultures of Organic Chemistry in the Nineteenth Century. E. C. Spary is lecturer in the history of eighteenth-century medicine at the Wellcome Trust for the History of Medicine at University College, London, and author of Utopia’s Garden: French Natural History from Old Regime to Revolution, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents


1 Introduction: Why Materials?

Ursula Klein and E. C. Spary


Part 1 The Production of Materials

Introduction to Part 1

Ursula Klein


2 Vermilion, Mercury, Blood, and Lizards: Matter and Meaning in Metalworking

Pamela H. Smith


3 Ceramic Nature

Hanna Rose Shell


4 The Production of Silver, Copper, and Lead in the Harz Mountains from Late Medieval Times to the Onset of Industrialization

Christoph Bartels


5 Ink

Adrian Johns


6 Blending Technical Innovation and Learned Natural Knowledge: The Making of Ethers

Ursula Klein


Part 2 Materials in the Market Sphere

Introduction to Part 2

Ursula Klein


7 Enlightened Milk: Reshaping a Bodily Substance into a Chemical Object

Barbara Orland


8 The Sparkling Nectar of Spas; or, Mineral Water as a Medically Commodifiable Material in the Province, 1770–1805

Matthew D. Eddy


9 Liqueurs and the Luxury Marketplace in Eighteenth-Century Paris

E. C. Spary

Part 3 State Interventions

Introduction to Part 3

Ursula Klein


10 Economizing Agricultural Resources in the German Economic Enlightenment

Marcus Popplow


11 The Crisis of English Gunpowder in the Eighteenth Century

Seymour H. Mauskopf


12 Between Craft Routines and Academic Rules: Natural Dyestuffs and the “Art” of Dyeing in the Eighteenth Century

Agustí Nieto-Galan


Secondary Sources



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