Long Title - On Divers Arts – The foremost Medieval Treatise on Painting, Glassmaking and Metalwork – Translated from the Latin with Introduction and Notes by John G. Hawthorne and Cyril Stanley Smith
“If you study it diligently you will find here whatever kinds of the different pigments Byzantium possesses and their mixtures; whatever Russia has learned in the working of enamels and variegation with niello; whatever Arab lands adorn with repoussé or casting or openwork; whatever decoration Italy applies to a variety of vessels in gold or by the carving of gems and ivories; whatever France loves in the costly variegation of windows; and whatever skilful Germany applauds in the fine working of gold, silver, copper, and iron, and in wood and precious stones. - Theophilus
"I have made it my concern to hunt out this technique for your study as I learned it by looking and listening." On Divers Arts, c. 1122, is the oldest extant manual on artistic crafts to be written by a practicing artist. Before Theophilus, manuscripts on the arts came from scholars and philosophers standing outside the actual profession. On Divers Arts describes actual 12th-century techniques in painting, glass and metalwork, which the Benedictine author wished to pass on to those gifted by God with a talent for making beautiful things.
This translation of the medieval manuscript most essential to an understanding of pre-Renaissance art and technology is the result of a collaboration between a Latin scholar and a metallurgist. Their fully annotated edition presents complete bibliographic and biographic data, with 18 illustrations of surviving work in the manner of Theophilus, including examples by the Benedictine monk Roger of Helmarshausen, who appears to be the true author using a Byzantine pseudonym.
Theophilus teaches, with rigorous attention to fact but also with great reverence, the making of pigments for fresco painting, the manufacture of glue, the technique of gold leaf on parchment (the first recorded European reference to true paper), how to blow glass and design stained glass windows, fashion gold and silver challices, make a pipe organ and church bells. Precise instruction on enamelling, chasing, repoussé, niello, and beaded wire work prove Theophilus' first-hand knowledge of his craft.
While 90% of Theophilus is sound technical knowledge, medieval folk lore occasionally spices his text: "Tools are also made harder by hardening them in the urine of a small red-headed boy than by doing so in plain water." But the magnificent fact of On Divers Arts remains its status as the first technical treatise on painting, glass and metalwork, for which actual specimens still survive. The editors have taken care to ensure both philological and technological accuracy for this authoritative edition of a medieval classic, a manual of great importance to craftsmen, historians of art and science, and all who delight in the making of the beautiful.
1st Dover edition, unabridged and corrected, (1979), Pb, xxxv + 216pp, 45 plates and diagrams16.5 x 23.5 cm