Monthly Archives: August 2013

Update on Ricette Vetrarie del Rinascimento

You know that feeling you get when it seems that the fates are just having fun laughing at you?

Today I am both ecstatic and frustrated. After about a year of hurting my brain on trying to translate Ricette Vetrarie del Rinascimento through Babelfish, I did a random google search to see if there was any new discussion or information on the topic. I found two things: First, Fuzzy Lizard Studio is the top few listings when you google “Ricette Vetrarie del Rinascimento”!!! (Go me!)… And second, a professional English translation was released in Europe a few months ago.

So, this project is now on an indefinite hiatus. I have ordered a copy of the translation (which has added illustrations and annotations from the original Italian transcriber) and it should be here in a week or so. If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, email me and I will forward you the contact information. Also, I have been in email communication with the author, and he has given me some great research contacts here in North America for ancient glass techniques. Time to start saving my cash for buying more books!

When the English translation arrives from Europe, I will go through what little translation I have accomplished in the last year and compare it to his translations. I am very curious to see just how well Babelfish did. I will post my findings under this project page and then close the project as complete. Now to find something else just as crazy to start working on… Perhaps Kingdom level A&S champion?


Next update: Comparison of my translation to the professional translation.
Previous Update: Discussion on the translation process and the first page translated.

17 Aug 2013

Introduction, part I

Ricettario Vetrario del Rinascimento When you haven’t had the opportunity to travel overseas, there is nothing better than friends willing to use some of their luggage space to bring you swag back. Thank you Shannon for bringing me a copy of Ricettario Vetrario del Rinascimento (Glass Recipes of the Renaissance) back from Europe for me! This project has been in the works for almost a year now and it is going painfully slow. First I have to type out each line of text into a spreadsheet. Babelfish only allows about 150 characters per translation, so the next step is to break the text into sentences or sentence fragments. Each fragment is then copy/pasted into Babelfish and the translation copy/pasted back into the spreadsheet. What Babelfish spits out has no context, so it usually doesn’t make much sense as fragments, so the next step is to combine the fragments and make judgement calls to create coherent paragraphs. For example:

Original Italian:
All’occhio di esperti lettori di antiche carte d’archivio non poteva sfuggire che la scrittura dello stesso lo faceva risalire al XVI secolo; in effetti Luigi Zecchin e l’Archivio di Stato di Venezia davano autorevole conferma che la scrittura datava con certezza il testo al 1560 circa.

All ‘ expert eye readers of ancient cards d ‘ archive could not escape that writing of the same made him go back to the 16th century; in fact, Luigi Masiello and l ‘ Archivio di Stato di Venezia gave an authoritative confirmation that writing dated with certainty the text to about 1560.

My interpretation:
Experts from the ancient archives placed the writing back to the 16th century, and Luigi Masiello and the experts at the Venice State Archives confirmed that the writing dated the text to about 1560.


The Italian transcripts are 118 pages long, so I will only post my interpretation of Babelfish’s disjointed translation.

Glass Recipes of the Renaissance
Transcript from an Anonymous Venetian Manuscript

In preparation for the Millennial exhibition of glass art in Murano, held in 1982 at the Palazzo Ducale and Palazzo Correr in Venice, a small group of experts were brought together to review the documentation. It was on that occasion that two manuscript collections of glass recipes came to light which were of great importance for the study of the history of Murano technology since 1500. In the observation of those two collections was discovered the existance of an anonymous manuscript, which is the subject of this study. Experts from the ancient archives placed the writing back to the 16th century, and Luigi Masiello and the experts at the Venice State Archives confirmed that the writing dated the text to about 1560. Keeping in mind, the first glass recipe book – L’arte vetraria by Antonio Neri – was printed in 1612, the anonymous author understood the importance of tempering.

There are many manuscripts of glass recipes prior to that examined here, such as “Secrets to Working Glass” by Antonio of Pisa of the 14th century, the three Florentine recipe books of the 14th and 15th centuries perserved at the Firenze State Archives, the recipe book kept at the Library of the School of Medicine at Montpellier University, and the “Recipe for Making Stained Glass and Enamels in Murano” 1536 – commented on by Luigi Zecchin (Zecchin, 1964; 1987, pp. 247-276).

A few decades later and fundamental for comparison are “L’arte vetraria” by Neri, annotated translations of the same by C. Merret and J. Kunckel, and “Secrets of Enamels – Important Recipes” by Giovanni Darduin, dated 1644, in the Venice State Archives, transcribed and annotated by Luigi Zecchin (1986).

Other notations on glass are in texts relating to topics more extensives such as Schedula diversarum artium, Theophilus of the 12th century; Filarete Secrets for Colors, 15th century Bolognese manuscript in the Libraray of the University of Bologna, De la Pirotechnia by Vannoccio Biringuccio and De re Metallica by Agricola.

Other authors who in antiquity have written about glass are cited in “L’arte vetraria” by Neri, an article about the Torcellana glass workshop of Astone Gasparetto by Rosa Barovier Mentasti, and in various publications of Louis Zecchin’s writings on glass collections and glassmakers of Murano (Zecchin, 1987, 1989, 1990).

The recipes presented in this manuscript are therefore between the 15th century recipe books, the Montpellier Manuscript and Biringuccio’s text, on one hand and the book of Negroes and the recipe book from Darduin on the other. In this perspective, when we examine and evaluate the anonymous recipe book, essential parts are compared with previous and subsequent texts.

This manuscript is 16.5 x 22 cm and is tied in the middle towards the top edge and bottom by two strings. The tethering looks original since there are no other holes on the center fold of the paper.

The manuscript paper has a watermark (print and set off) in the same production manner that has been classified in the Venice over the years 1536-1567. The manuscript consists of forty-seven rectangular cards; the first three, not numbered, contain the recipe index followed by two blank pages and forty-two recipe cards. The first part of the book consists of 38 cards containing 87 recipes. The second part, which differs from the first in hand writing, includes four cards (from 39 to 42) and contains 18 recipes. The forty two recipe cards are numbered in the upper right corner, from 1 to 42.

The index lists all of the recipes. On the left edge of the cards, the recipes are numbered in Arabic numberals from recipe one through recipe 30; then a scribe appears to have changed the numbering system by deleting the number with a stroke or overwriting the original numbering. This designation distinguishes the different recipes on the reverse side of the page with sequential alphabetic letters (A, B, C etc.). The index seems to be ordered with a logic which is different from the sequence of the recipes: it begins with the recipe for salt-alkali and not with that for the sale of glass which is first in the recipe book, probably in an attempt to break the glass recipes into categories (nail polish, false joys, mosaics, preparation of certain raw materials) and colours.

The recipe book is written in red ink for the titles of the recipes and card numbers, while the text and drawings are in black. The ink used in the second part of the recipe book is identical for the headlines and text, and a reddish-black which is different from that used in the first part; otherwise it seems even the pen used was the same (a bit more thin). A few words on the right margin lower facades (where the ligature is) are washed out. The page margins are wide on the left side, while the writing ends almost at the border on the right side of the page.

A pie chart page and a note regarding calculation are difficult to interpret in the first part, but it seems to refer to the yield of ash leaching.

The anonymous recipe book has upon examination more characteristics of a text, missing only print, like that of a factory recipe book such as Darduin; containing more text and certainly a large number of recipes for a glassmaker. Other considerations indicated in the recipes; in our opinion the recipes are more plausible in the first fifty four; some recipes are implausible and reported in the notes to the transcript in Italian.

There is a copy of the recipe book from the 18th century bearing the same title: badly written and made in August of 1773. In it, plus various inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the text, it lacks the index and also lists only ninety-two recipes, i.e. the last thirteen.


Next Update: An unexpected turn of events.
Previous Update: Discussion on translations and social experiments.

15 Aug 2013

Introduction to Ricettario Vetrario del Rinascimento

Have I lost my mind? Most likely…

First, in the spirit of full disclosure, I do not speak Italian. I do not read Italian. I am in no way even marginally fluent in Italian. That being said, my first project to christen my new project log is to translate a 16th century Italian manuscript into English for the purpose of further research. How? Babelfish baby!

When I first got my hands on a copy of this document, I despaired in ever finding an English translation. I do not know anyone who is fluent in Italian and getting a professional translation done is out of my financial abilities at this time. For anyone who is unfamiliar with it:

the Babel fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the universe. It feeds on brain wave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain, the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language: the speech you hear decodes the brain wave matrix.
(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams)

Alternatively, visit

While I am still excited to learn the secrets of this manuscript, this project has started to take on a more technological/social experiment aspect. Can a computer program really translate something so technical as a 16th century manual on glass working accurately? Does this mean that language barriers are a thing of the past or will the increased reliance on such technology increase our misunderstanding of each other? I would be very curious to have a professional translator take a look at a few random Italian passages and translate them to English for me. I would like to see just how far off my Babelfish translations are.

Next Update: Discussion on the translation process and the first page translated.

14 Aug 2013