Monday, May 23, 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A three centuries old mystery: The Secret of Stradivari

It's a favorite media story: The Secret of Stradivari Discovered!   It seems every six months or so for the last hundred years we get a round of stories about the secret of Stradivari.  It's romantic and fun.  Seems it never ends.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How Was the Old Making Different?

It's one thing to revere the great old instruments, but if we want to revive the old methods of making we need to understand their culture of making in greater detail.  How can we begin?  Perhaps it will help to bring out some contrasts between modern and old approaches to making things.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Glossary of old Italian arts and materia


Some sources for special materials:
  • Zecchi of Florence produces a full range of traditional materials of the Italian renaissance arts, pointedly using Cennini's handbook circa 1400 as a starting point.
  • Natural Pigments is based in Northern California, but provides a very thorough range of Renaissance, medieval, and Byzantine art materials.  They also provide educational information and forums to support the modern practitioner of these old art techniques. 
  • Talas is focused on book craft and calligraphy.  As part of this, they carry many traditional materials, like parchments and gold leaf.
  • Kremer Pigments of NYC provides a wide range of hard to find materials, including many of the ancient and traditional materials.
  • Wood Finishing Enterprises in Wisconsin caters to the violin maker.  While not particularly focused on historical materials, still they provide many of the most traditional items.  

Information and Sources for understanding the old art materials and practices:

The books listed above all have some historical significance. Besides these, there were many other relevant books published.

As can be seen by the odd mix of recipes in old texts, the beautician, colorist, and pharmacist work from the same collection of special natural ingredients.   Thus recipes for varnish, pigment, hand cream, and cough medicine occur side by side.   Since roman times, the knowledge of these special natural materials and their applications were collected in books called Materia Medica.

There was also a long tradition of books of secrets and recipes.

We can see echos of this heritage continuing all the way up until around the time of world war I:


A glossary of sources, materia, and methods from the arts culture surrounding the early Italian violin makers.