Gazette du livre médiéval, n° 33, Automne 1998.

Randall A. Rosenfeld

Using illustrations of tools
from sixteenth-century writing manuals

J. P. Gumbert has performed a most useful service in essaying to identify the tools shown in the «  methods » of Giovann'antonio Tagliente, and Giovambattista Palatino (« Les outils du copiste », GLM 32, pp. 1-7). J. P. G. remarks early in his paper that even with the ideal case of extant illustration and explication (Palatino), all questions regarding copyists' tools are not resolved ; indeed, new questions arise from this material. And he concludes by inviting complementary information from readers. The present contribution seeks to bring the evidence of archaeology and the iconography of contemporary graphic media, other than engravings, to bear on the problem of the «  nouvelles énigmes ». It should be read as an addendum to J. P. G.'s paper.

Before dealing with the remaining enigmatic objects in the order in which J. P. G. presents them, it would be useful to consider the limitations of saec. XVI technical engravings as a source.

One advantage that depictions of instrumenta scribendi in writing manuals offer us over the depictions of tools in portraits of the Evangelists (or others) as scribes, is that the former are intended first and foremost to directly illustrate an aspect of writing technology, while the later are not primarily intended to do so, no matter how incidentally informative they may be in this regard.

It does not follow from this, however, that we can treat the images in early modern instructional literature as we would a figure, diagram, or photograph in a current monograph. Elements of convention to which we are unaccustomed may be present in saec. XVI technical illustrations, and objects may have no more than symbolic meaning. The representation of scale and perspective in these illustrations is often not constant, even for objects within the same frame. Finally, disjunction between the information in the text and its graphic representation is far from uncommon in the instructional genre of the period.

In closing, it is worth as much to reflect on what Tagliente and Palatino omit, as to apply that which they include.
Table des illustrations
Texte de Palatino
Index des termes