Artisanal recipes


Collections of artisanal recipes are considered to be key primary sources in the historical study of artistic practices and materials. Prominent examples of such documents include the De diversis artibus attributed to Theophilus and the Libro dell’arte by Cennino Cennini. Hundreds of other such examples exist, although these are much less well-known. Artisanal recipes date back to Antiquity. They continued to be written down throughout the Middle Ages into the modern era. In his 2001 publication The Art of All Colours, Mark Clarke compiled an inventory of 400 source documents, dating from the production of the first artists' recipe collections up to 1500. Since then, dozens of other surviving writings containing artisanal recipes have been discovered. Many more recipes were written down in manuscript and print in the period after 1500. 

The Colour ConText database facilitates the consultation and exploitation of a large corpus of recipes. To date, over 600 manuscripts have been assessed and 6,500 recipes—some constituting only a few lines, others covering several folios—have been transcribed and are currently being recorded on the database. The core data consists of medieval and early modern manuscripts and printed books from across Europe. 

The Colour ConText database also aims at evaluating the circulation of knowledge of materials and substances used by artisans and shared with other communities (such as apothecaries or physicians) with an epistemic interest in pigments and colouring material. For that purpose, written sources on colour theory have been included in the Colour ConText database.