[This is an article from Cariadoc's Miscellany. The Miscellany is Copyright (c) by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook, 1988, 1990, 1992. For copying details, see the Miscellany Introduction.]

Books on Metalworking

Theophilus: On Divers Arts (c. 1100 A.D.), Hawthorne and Smith, tr., University of Chicago Press. There is also a more recent publication by Dover.

Cellini, Benvenuto: The Treatises of Benvenuto Cellini on Goldsmithing and Sculpture (c. 1565 A.D.), Ashbee tr., Dover.

Maryon, Herbert: Metalwork and Enamelling (5th edition, 1971). Dover.

These books serve excellently either as introductions or as aids to the experienced worker; each is written by a master both of his own craft and of its exposition. The volume by Fr. Theophilus is most basic; he begins the section on metalwork (Book III) with instructions on how to build a workshop, construct a forge and bellows, forge tools, grind and harden them, make crucibles, and refine silver. Having thus gotten the student fairly started, he sets him a project, a small chalice of silver, and in the ensuing chapters describes its construction and the construction of further projects, explaining along the way all the necessary techniques. After working his way through eighty chapters, the reader will find himself in possession of two chalices, a cast censor, a well-equipped workshop, and an extensive set of skills. The remainder of Book III contains, among other things, instructions on building an organ and casting bells. Books I and II are devoted to the arts of the painter and the worker in glass.

Sr. Cellini writes for those having access to more extensive sources for supplies and equipment; where Fr. Theophilus provides a necessary ingredient by repeatedly heating and quenching a piece of copper, Sr. Cellini apparently sends his apprentice to the corner apothecary for a cake of verdigris, "the best you can get." The pieces described are accordingly more elaborate and the techniques somewhat more complicated, yet his descriptions are sufficiently clear to permit a careful craftsman to follow many of them. The instructions on setting stones, and in particular on preparing colored foils to set behind the stones to improve their color, are most interesting.

Herbert Maryon is a student of both Theophilus and Cellini; his book is the most complete of the three, containing details taken from the other two books as well as much new material. The craftsman, and especially the novice, will probably find it the easiest manual to work from.

While these books are chiefly valuable as manuals for the craftsman, they also serve to reveal the characters of their authors, and perhaps, through them, of the nations from which they come. Fr. Theophilus begins his discussion of metalworking with a prologue arguing that in making beautiful things we glorify Allah (the Compassionate, the Merciful). Sr. Cellini devotes his work, scarcely less explicitly, to the glorification of Cellini, filling it with anecdotes of his triumphs over various of his co-workers. Mr Maryon appears devoted primarily to the advancement of his art, an end admirably served by his book.

[Originally published in Tournaments Illuminated ]

[ Illustration removed ]

(The Caliph) Mamun loved chess. This whets the mind! he used to say; and he was the originator of certain plays.

Don't let me hear you say: Let's have a game! It must be: Let's have a fight! he would say. But for all that he was no champion player, and often exclaimed: I have to manage the world, and I am equal to the task; but managing two spans square is too much for me!

(Quoted by Schroeder in Muhammad's People)

Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir