Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

Il Libro dell' Arte - Cennino D' Andrea Cennini. The Craftsman's Handbook. The Italian "Il Libro dell' Arte." Translated by Daniel V. Thompson, Jr. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1933, by Yale University Press.

Notes 51-124   Notes 125-162   Notes 163-283

Notes 1-50


1. Fermarle. Perhaps read formarle "give them shape."

2. By ancona is to be understood a compound panel, one with its moldings integrally attached. It may be large or small; complex, as a polyptych, or merely a "self-framed" panel. The tavola, the simple "panel," has no moldings.

3. The Liber illuministarum pro fundamentis auri et coloribus ac consimilibus, Munich, Staatsbibliothek, MS. germ. 821, compiled about 1500 at Tegernsee (Oby.), contains (fol. 33) a rule for these, quoted by Ludwig Rockinger in "Zum baierischen Schriftwesen im Mittelalter," Abhandlungen der historischen Classe der Königlichen bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, XII (1872), 1te Abteilung, p. 18. A translation of this rule follows:

"White parchment tablets are made in this way. Take calf parchment, and put it on the stretcher, and stretch it well; and dry it thoroughly in the sun. And do this thrice. And then take thoroughly powdered white-lead, and mix it with linseed oil until it comes out thin, while still preserving the white color of the white-lead. And paint that calfskin with that liquid color. And then dry it in the sun. And do this nine times; and by all means of the same thickness[?] And one coat is not to be applied unless the previous one be thoroughly dry. This done, you will shape up as many leaves of this calfskin as you wish, and make tablets. And you can write on them with a lead, tin, copper, or silver style, or even with ink, and erase the letters with saliva [not salvia, "sage," as in ed. Rockinger] and write again. And when all the whiteness has disappeared, whiten them again with white-lead and saliva like the ordinary tablets, or with scrapings of shells, bones, or powder of calcined bones, and saliva."


4. A convenient device is to obtain from a jeweler an inch or two of silver wire of the same caliper as a pencil lead. This can then be used in place of the lead in a propelling pencil, and needs only a little shaping of the point to make an admirable "silver style" at trifling expense.

5. In carta pecorina e 'n banbagina. Cennino distinguishes two types of carta: one, parchment, chiefly from sheep- or goat-skins; the other, carta banbagina, paper. The adjective, banbagina, I do not translate as "cotton," for two reasons.

In the first place, whatever the nature of this carta banbagina may have been, Cennino uses the term for no other purpose than to distinguish it from carta meaning "parchment." I see no indication that Cennino gave any thought to the composition of the material itself, and the distinction between the natural product, parchment, and the artificial one, paper, requires no such expedient in English. To translate banbagina in this phrase would be to improse a specific meaning where, I believe, none was intended.

In the second place, it is not at all certain that banbagina, in this phrase, means "cotton." Joseph Karabacek, in "Neue Quellen zur Papiergeschichte," Mitteilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer, IV (Vienna, 1888), Section VI, "Die Entstehung der Fabel vom Baumwollenpapier," pp. 117-122, maintains that "es hat niemals ein aus rober Baumwolle erzeugtes Papier gegeben," and that this misconception arose through the confusion of Latin, Bombycína ("cotton") {Greek BouBúkivoc {BóBuE ("silkworm"), with banbycína {Greek BauBúkn, a city of northern Syria.

Whatever the etymology of Cennino's banbagina may be, I feel confident that he used it in a traditional, general, uncrictical sense, simply to distinguish one application of the generic term carta from another; and that the single English word "paper" translates adequately the whole phrase, carta banbagina. Whenever carta is used unqualified, the meaning is ambiguous. In such cases I have elected the translation "paper," except when "parchment" seems in some way indicated by the context, as on p. _, below.


6. NED.

7. Nella detta charta: translated "parchment" because the carta of the preceding rule is specifically pecorina, and because the use of the leaden style on paper, carta banbagina, is treated separately in the next chapter.

8. Apparently the slit in the nib was made with the knife at this stage. This is a delicate operation, and a different method may be followed by members of our post-Gillot civilization with better chances of success.

After the first horizontal cut, which removes the last half inch or so of the lower half of the quill, a small slit is started with the knife at the middle of the end of the upper half. Holding the tip of the right thumb firmly against the top of the quill half or three quarters of an inch from the end, a small stick is inserted a short way into the quill with the left hand, and gives a sharp twitch upward. This action normally causes the slit started with the knife to break back neatly to the point where the pressure of the thumb arrests it. The rest of the operation follows as Cennino describes.

Detailed practical instructions for pen cutting may be found in Edward Johnston, Writing, Illuminating, & Lettering, 11th ed. (London: Putnam, 1920), pp. 51-60.


9. See Chapter XXXV, p. 20, below.

10. This reading, with R, is probably to be preferred, L omits "with your ink." (See I, 11, IL. 9, 10.)

11. Morella. Ilg, in his eidition of Cennino, Das Buch von der Kunst, in "Quellenschriften Für Kunstgeschichte . . . .," I (Vienna, 1871), 144, insists th at this is the solatrum hortense. (NED, s.v. "morel," solanum nigrum.) I believe, however, that it is rather to be identified with the morella, or folium, of the Liber diversarum artium (in Catalogue général des MSS des bibliothèques publiques des départements, I [Paris, 1849], 756, 757], the Liber de coloribus illuminatorum siue pictorum from Sloane MS 1754 ( VII: ed. D.V. Thompson, Jr., Speculum, I [1926], 298), the torna-ad-solum of the Naples De arte illuminandi ( 10, ed. A. Lecoy de La Marche, l'Art d'enluminer [Paris, 1890], pp. 80-81), etc. This is the "annual euphorbiaceous plant, Crozophora tinctoria," of NED, "turnsole," 2, a. For this identification, consult bibliography in O. Stapf, Iconum botanicarum Index Londinensis . . . (Oxford, 1929), s.v. "Chrozophora tinctoria." The plant is known also as Croton tinctorium.

12. A numeral seems to have been omitted. The direction in Chapter XVI might be understood to apply to one parchment, or one sheet of paper.

13. Coupled with the doubtful indacho macchabeo of L, the meaningless macalico of R suggests a joint heritage of illegibility, and we may venture to rationalize these readings as Baccadeo, "Bagdad," to correspond with the form found in I, 34, L. 5.

The Liber diversarum artium, in a chapter "De cognitone indici . . . ," ed. cit. supra, p. 750, states: "Diversis nominibus nominatur, quia in diversis partibus conficitur; ergo bagadeus eligatur, et quod magis açurinum est."


14. See NED, s.v. "sinoper," 2, a.

15. I, 12, l. 30 should begin: "Bisogniati essere," and the corresponding footnote should be : "30, L Büsongniati esere."

16. L aromo: literally, "savory." The meaningless huon' of R was corrected by the Milanesi to Buono. The reading L is doubtless the right one.

17. Something seems to have been dropped from the text here. What follows is a method intended to overcome the tendency of "gelatine tracing paper" to cockle.

18. This unconventional figure of speech is fairly typical of Cennino when he abandons exposition for rhetoric. He seems to have had some half-formed conception of his course of study as an architectural layout, with steps rising and gates opening; but this is confused with ideas of journeys, by land and, as here, by sea.

19. See Filippo Baldinucci, Vocabolario toscano dell'arte del disegno, s.v. "palo," in his Opere (Milan, 1809), III, 33, 34.

20. Fogli inchollati: literally, "sheets glued," or "sized," or "pasted." I understand this to mean sheets of paper pasted together for greater thickness and strength. Sheets of paper glued together at the edges to produce a large surface for a full-sized cartoon are called for in I, 106, ll. 10, 11: sfogli di charta inchollati insieme. (see p. 111. below.)

21. See n. 6, p. 43, below.

22. Crea. See n. 3, p. 129, below.

23. Cennino makes his bow to an old tradition in mentioning the number "seven" here. As Albertus Magnus says, "si quis . . . ad speciem et materiam descendat, erunt amplioris diversitatis." (Liber de sensu et sensato, Tract. II, Cap. VII, in ed. A Borgnet, Opera Omnia [Paris, 1890], IX, 60, col. 2.) Albertus explains (op. cit., Tract. II, Cap. V, ed. cit., IX, 53) that colors are divided arbitrarily into seven in order to bring them into harmony with the classifications of "saporum et sonorum et aliorum sensibilium. . . . Una ratio est de omnibus." The number of colors was linked also with the number of planets. (See J. LeBègue, Tabula etc., s.v. "color," in Mrs. Mary P. Merrifield, Original Treatises Dating from the xiith to xviiith Centuries, on the Arts of Painting . . . [London, 1849], I, 23.) The De arte illuminandi, ed. cit., p. 68, mentions seven colors, "naturales . . . ac necessarii ad illuminandum." The Theoretical arrangement of seven is described as follows by Bartholomaeus Anglicus, Liber de proprietatibus rerum, XIX, 5:

"Nigrum et album concurrant equaliter ad compositiones coloris medii, et tunc erit color equedistans inter extrxemos ut rubedo. inter album vero et rubeum non possunt esse nisi duo, unus magis appropinquabit albo, et alius rubeo. Inter rubeum vero et nigrum erunt similiter duo."

The distinction between "natural" and "artificial" colors is also an ancient one. Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum naturale, Vii, 97, points out that "colores . . . quidam ex terra vel in terra nascuntur. . . . Quidam vero finguntur: aut arte, aut permixtione." (Pliny, Historia naturalis, XXXV, 6, is his authority. See also Isidore of Seville, Etym., XIX, 17, 2.)


24. R: "ultramarine or azurite." For "azurite" see above, Preface, p. xiii.

25. See above, Preface, p. xv; also n. 2, p. 28, below.

26. Mezzo braccio. See above, Preface, p. xiii.

27. Steccha di legnio. For the tool "slice," see NED, s.v., II, 5. (Cf. also idem, II, 4, 2; 4, b, and 7, a) Stecca, "spatula," must be distinguished from mella, also a "spatula," for which I reserve that word. In the stecca, "slice," the edge of the blade runs at right angles to the axis of the handle, as in a putty knife, or painter's "broad knife." The mella, on the other hand, has a blade with its edges parallel with the axis of the handle, like a table knife. The stecca is handled in a position roughly vertical; the mella, rather horizontal. The use of this word "slice," for the implement in question here, I owe to the designer of this volume, Mr. Carl P. Rollins, who informs me that just such a tool is used by printers to handle ink on the slab. An illustration of a slice, ready for the color grinder's use, may be found in the Titelbild of the first book of Valentin Boltz von Ruffach's Illuminierbuch, wie man allerley farben bereitte, mischen, schattieren unnd ufftragen soll . . . (Basel, 1549); in C. J. Benziger's edition in Sammlung maltechnischer Schriften, IV (Munich: Callwey, 1913), facing p. 32.

28. R, "several jars of varied colors." I have ordinarily translated vaselli as "dishes," and vasellini as "little dishes"; but here something in the nature of a jar is surely intended. (Very convenient little wide-mouthed bottles holding an ounce or two, provided with screw caps of non-rusting material, can be obtained nowadays for the purpose.)

29. See Preface, p. xii.

30. The conclusion of this sentence has been lost from the text; and there seems to be no evidence for reconstructing it.

31. There seems to be a distinction intended in this chapter between "cinabrese" and "light cinabrese." The color cinabrese proper seems to have been a reselected light variety of sinoper, perhaps corresponding to Pozzuoli red of modern trade. Two parts of this ground with one of lime white produced the color light cinabrese. Cennino does not make very clear this distinction, which may possibly boil down to a mere slip of the pen: cinabrese for sinopia in the next sentence. (See I, 23, I, 22.) But "light cinabrese" is specified several times in Chapter LXVII, pp. 42, 47, below.

32. Literally, "with St. John's white, as it is called in Florence."

33. Read sinoper? See n. 1, p. 23, above.

34. The name of this color, cinabrese, suggests its resemblance to vermilion (cinabro), for which it was used as a substitute in fresco. (At the end of this chapter XL, Cennino mentions the fact that vermilion should not be used in fresco.)

35. Tiglio. This refers to the crystalline formation. See n. 1, p. 25, and n. 4. p. 82, below.

36. Amatisto, o ver amatito: "hematite" }Greek . . text. . . from alua, "blood." This is the stone from which Cennino's burnishers were made. (See Chapter CXXXVI, p. 82, below.) It is still used for making burnishers [though, as far as I know, now only for gold- and silver-smiths), and these appear in trade as "Bloodstone burnishers."

Bloodstone, properly called hematite, consists principally of ferric oxide, Fe2O2, substantially pure. It occurs in several well-marked forms in nature: (1) amorphous, as a sort of reddle or sinoper; (2) "Kidney ore," which, as the name implies, is reniform in structure; (3) "pencil ore," which has a straight grain; (4) "specular iron-ore," a tabular, crystalline form which corresponds exactly with Cennino's description in Chapter CXXXVI, p. 82, below. It is this crystalline form which Cennino uses for making burnishers; and the same form which he pounds and grinds up for use as a color. This is made certain by his statement in this chapter that it "has a structure like cinnabar," for specular iron ore, like most native cinnabar, crystallizes in the hexagonal system, with rhombohedral symmetry.


37. See Chapter CXXXVI, p. 82, below. Note that dentelli, "crooks," are made from this hematite: these are not to be confused with burnishers made of animals' teeth, denti. See n. 2 on Chapter CXXXV, below.

38. Perhaps "as adamant"? See n. 4. 83, below.

39. See n. 1, above.

40. See Mrs. Mary P. Merrifield, Original Treates . . . (London, 1849), II, 327. (Cf. also, ibid., p. 453, "Bolognese Manuscript," 136: "A fare perfecto collore de grana cardinalesco cum verzino . . . . ")

41. Lacca. I translate this "lac," rather than "lake," because of the indefinite character of the latter. Cennino meant specifically "lac lake," that is, a lake which is made from the gum lac, "the dark-red resinous incrustation produced on certain trees" [resiniferous species of the genera Schleichera, Butea, Ficus, etc.) by an insect, Coccus or Carteria Lacca. (See NED, s.v. "lac,"1 1,2; also Merck's Index [1930], s.v. "shellac.") "Lake" originally signified the color made from "lac,"1 1, but gradually took on a wider meaning, and the original connection with lac proper is now almost wholly forgotten.

42. Here lacca is used in the general sense of a "lake" color, an organic coloring matter precipiatated out on a metallic base, in this case, alumina.

No general classification of medieval receipts for "lakes" can be attempted here, but two rules may be cited: the first, found in Merrifield, op. cit., I, 63, in the Experimenta de coloribus, 37, may serve to represent the manufacture of what Cennino calls "the good kind"; while the second, ibid., p. 53, 13, "Ad faciendum lacham finissiman," may stand for the type which he condemns.


43. Cimatura di drappo, o ver di panno. Drappo seems to imply a silk material, as zendado does; panno may refer to wool or linen.

44. The "Bolognese Manuscript," 110, in Merrifield, op. cit., II, 433-435, mentions specifically that "quando [sic] se fa quella purgationi de lo allumi, tanto e piu bella, piu viva, et melglio."

45. See n. 1, p. 26, above.

46. In choosing between the readings grasso, with R, and grosso, with L, it is necessary to weigh several factors. In the neighborhood of Colle, Cennino might well have found the color which we know as "Raw Sienna." This is generically an ocher, and it is characteristically a "fat" color. Against this must be set the insistence of Cennino upon the virtue of "lean" colors (Chapter XXXVII, p. 22, above); his remark just above, that there are "two sorts, light and dark" (well marked in the ochers proper); and the fact that ocher is actually "coarse by nature." I think that the reading grosso, with L, must be preferred.

47. The identification of this color must be attempted in a future study. For practical purposes, massicot, a yuellow oxide of lead, prepared by roasting white lead, may be employed. Natural massicot, of volcanic origin, is known; but it is not generally available.

48. I, 28, footnote, "20, L Volendolo . . . macinare": for "20" read "30."

49. The pigment intended here is probably a preparation of weld, "dyers' weed," Reseda luteola. A rule "A fare l'arzica bona et bella" occurs in the "Bolognese Manuscript," 194 (Merrifield, op. cit., II, 483-485), which very likely represents the manufacture of the pigment known to Cennino by the same name. A pound of the chopped plant is soaked in water sufficient to cover it, and boiled down to a half. Then two ounces of finely ground travertine, or an equal weight of white lead, together with a half ounce of rock alum, are added gradually to the hot tincture. The precipitate is allowed to settle, and is then dried off in a hollowed brick, and then on a board. Reseda luteola is a common weed in Europe, and has been reported as growing wild on Long Island, N.Y.

50. Verde azzuro: literally, "Blue green." The following chapter serves to identify Cennino's verde azurro as malachite, and also Cennino's azuzrro della Magna as azurite. It is curious to note that all translators to this chapter have overlooked the force of the che in the opening sentence: ". . . questo si fa artifitialmente, chessi fa d'azurro della Mangnia." (All the Italian editions interpret this correctly as "chè si fa.") Cennino's point is based on the fact that in nature the green hydrated copper carbonate, malachite, CuCO2-Cu(OH)2, is formed gradually out of the blue carbonate, azurite, 2CuCO2-Cu(OH)2, the two being often found blended in a single sample of ore. Just as in the case of giallorino, in Chapter XLVI, p. 28, above, Cennino drew the line at calling any material "natural" which was produced by anything so alchemical in character as a volcano, so here he attempts a subtle distinction: "I cannot say that this green is absolutely a natural color," he implies, "because it is formed out of this blue. I regard the blue as natural enough, but I cannot allow that a green formed from it is more than half natural, even though it be found in nature." Mrs. Merrifield and Lady Herringham translate: "There is a green [pigment] which is partly natural, but requires artificial preparation. It is made of azzurro della magna." Ilg translates: "Grün ist auch eine Farbe, welche natürlich ist, die man aber auch künstlich erzeugt, dann macht man sie aus Azzurro della Magna." I think that Cennino was simply quibbling. No artificial preparation is required for malachite, beyond the simple process of grinding and washing which Cennino describes. There are relatively few references to it in the literature; and none, so far as I know, to any method for manufacturing it artificially from the blue.




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