William Godfrey

[post by Nasser]

Book title: The Laboratory, or School of Arts
Author: Godfrey Smith
Engravings: James Hulett and Godfrey Smith
Publication: 1740, London

Translated from High Dutch, and printed for J. Hodges, at the Looking Glass on London Bridge; J. James, at Horace’s Head, under the Royal-Exchange; and T. Cooper, at the Globe in Pater-noster Row., M DCC XL.

Call number: T44 .S6 1740

I found this book while searching for books similar to della Porta’s “Natural Magick”. The title stood out as it mentions “School of Arts”, possibly indicating that the secrets in it were useful to individuals who were involved in the creation of art, whether in school or not. While it does not hold as many “secrets” as “Natural Magick”, it did cover similar processes, such as working (and creating) gold, secrets for jewelers, mold making, and making glass. This last example interested me. I have recently been experimenting with a process which involves the creation of glass(?) by melting and fusing sand using a high-powered laser.

The methods of producing glass found in this 18th C text and my 21st C method had some similarities. Both processes include sand as a main ingredient, as well as a sodium-based binder. And naturally, just add heat. Following themes of book ownership/transfer and annotation that were presented in last week’s class, I thought it would be interesting (and humorous) to imagine this text somehow ending up on my desk, and not in a superspecialprecious collection at Brown. How would I react to the information found in this text? And how would I, believing it would one day end up on someone else’s desk, annotate or edit the information to make their lives a little easier? (Disclaimer: No rare books were harmed in this project)


In this image, I cross out the existing instructions and add my own, à la Severus Snape in the Half Blood Prince.

I am very interested in learning more about material history, especially related to sand and its cultural and scientific significance. Finding an 18th C use for it was thrilling, and I am sure there is a lot more to be found. This is something that fits into my studio practice and thesis, and I believe it could be developed into a semester long research project for this class.

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