Why Write a Book?

Pamela H. Smith, “Why Write a Book? From Lived Experience to the Written Word in Early Modern Europe” was published in the Bulletin of the German Historical Institute  47 (Fall 2010): 25–50.1

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Leipzig University Library, Ms. 1479, fol. 3r; copyright Leipzig University Library (reproduced in Smith, “Why Write a Book?,” 26)

In this article, Pamela Smith explores connections between lived experience and the written word in early modern European books, thereby linking the tacit and explicit knowledge of artisans in an innovative way.

See also Jonathan Sheehan’s excellent review of Smith’s related book, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004):2

Who has the right to interpret nature? Although the recent conflicts over intelligent design show that this question is still an open one in some quarters, the disciplinary structure of modern knowledge gives the right overwhelmingly to science. For the past generation, historians of science have wondered how, precisely, science came to possess this right. Pamela H. Smith’s new book is less an effort to provide an answer than to pose the problem even more forcefully. Continue reading→


  1. First presented as a lecture at the Grolier Club on September 16, 2008. 
  2. American Historical Review 111, no. 2 (2006): 550–51, https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr.111.2.550