Useful links to more information about technical art history

During our feedback session on the last day, some of you asked for more information about technical art history as a discipline, methodology, and practice.

Some definitions:
1. “Technical Art History is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of works of art that employs scientific and historical methods to explore the processes used by artists and considers how materials and techniques influenced creative practices through time.” (Thomas Primeau)
2. “Technical art history today concerns itself with all the processes for making art, and the technical and documentary means by which we throw light on those processes. It is principally concerned with the physical materials and structures of works of art, and how they are prepared, used, combined and manipulated…it charts the stages of invention, development, realization, elaboration and revision: in short it is a route into, and our access to the heart of the artist’s intentions and changing ambitions.” (David Bomford)

Useful information may be found at:

An entire Getty Newsletter was devoted to the topic:

A new journal has been started in the U.K. for technical art history:

Intaglio vs. Relief Printing

As a review of what we talked about regarding intaglio and relief printing processes, it might be helpful to take a look at these videos made by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. They provide a visual explanation for processes such as etching, aquatint, and drypoint (itaglio) and woodcutting (relief).



I’d also recommend taking a look at the Bamber Gascoigne book How To Identify Prints, which is on the reserve shelf at the Duke House.



Jean-Joseph Chamant: The Lost Sketchbook

Hi All,

This video explores the conservation work done on an 18th century sketchbook that was recently discovered at NYU’s Villa La Pietra, in Florence, Italy. The conservation was performed by SITAH Coordinator and IFA Alumna Morgan Adams under the supervision of Maria Fredericks, Drue Heinz Book Conservator, Thaw Conservation Center at the Morgan Library & Museum.



Hand Bookbindings

Waste paper reused in a 16th century binding. Bellum Catilinae & Bellum Iugurthinum, Sallust (86-34 B.C.), Antwerp: Johann Gymnich, 1547., Princeton University Library, Gryphius Collection.

Waste paper reused in a 16th century binding. Bellum Catilinae & Bellum Iugurthinum, Sallust (86-34 B.C.), Antwerp: Johann Gymnich, 1547., Princeton University Library, Gryphius Collection.

At Columbia last week, Alexis recommended a website created by the Princeton University Library documenting a huge range of historic hand binding styles. The site presents books in the Princeton collection by style, region, time period, etc and lets you look closely at such features as binders’ marks and edge decoration.

Reanimation Library – Brooklyn, New York

In a couple of our recent sessions, I mentioned the Reanimation Library, so I wanted to take a moment to share a little more about this amazing place. For example, I brought up this library when Deirdre Lawrence, Principal Librarian at the Brooklyn Museum, showed us some of the books (doubles? non-collectables?) from the museum’s collection that artists have repurposed into artist books.I learned of the Reanimation Library several years ago, when I had the pleasure of working with Andrew Beccone, its founder and an all-around awesome librarian. The library is not only a depository for all the weird textbooks my parents (trained in medical fields in the late 1970s and early 1980s) used in school and subsequently left to gather dust in our basement but is also much, much more. It serves, primarily, to inspire artists and others, who can use the library as source material for projects, like artist books.

According to its website:

“The Reanimation Library is an independent presence library. (Presence library is a mistranslation of the German word for reference library, Präsenzbibliothek. In addition to being a non-circulating collection, the library encourages IRL encounters with actual books and actual humans.) The books in the collection—simultaneously prosaic and peculiar—are relics of the rapidly receding 20th century. Chosen primarily for the images that they contain, they have been culled from thrift stores, rummage sales, flea markets, municipal dumps, library sales, give-away piles, and used bookstores across the country.”

More information about the Reanimation Library can be found here and here. The former is a text and the latter is a short video, both by Beccone, who describes the library’s origins, its goals, and what kinds of books it houses. These include but are not limited to…

Exhibiting Poultry for Pleasure and Profit (1978) by Loyl Stromberg


Fun with Science (1947) by Ira and Mae Freeman


And finally, Secrets of Show Dog Handling (1973) by Mario Migliorini


You can visit the Reanimation Library in the the Proteus Gowanus complex, which is located at 543 Union Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Thursday/Friday: 3 – 6 PM
Saturday/Sunday: 12 – 6 PM
and by appointment: 718-710-0276

Paper Mill Videos

Now that you’ve experienced making your own paper, you might be interested in checking out this video of paper making genius (literally–he won a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship for his work) and historian Timothy Barrett attempting to recreate the exact workflow and pace of work of paper mills at their prime.

The video of the English paper mill that he mentions is here:

You might also be interested in exploring some of the watermark databases currently online. There are several, each with strengths in various time periods or regions. One of them, the Gravell Watermark Archive, has gathered links to several of them in one place.