Saturday, May 23, 2015

Subtleties&Stuffe The Invention of Sugar Refining

Here follows a short note on an engraving titled “SACCHARVM” from the volume Nova Reperta. What is of interest to those interested in sugar is the plate shows how sugarcane was processed in circa 1600.

Nova Reperta, (New inventions and discoveries of modern times), offers a series of engravings based on drawings by the Flemish artist and draftsman Jan or Johannes Stradanus (Jan van der Straet or Straeten; also Giovanni Stradano) (1523-1605).  Born in Bruges, Stradanus spent the majority of his adult life in Italy at the Medici Court. Beginning in the 1570s, Stradanus created drawings intended for engravings. These drawings were engraved, published, and distributed by a number of Antwerp publishers. The engravings of Nova Reperta cover twenty topics ranging from the discovery of America by Amerigo Vespucci. Other plates show the manufacture and invention of items ranging from compasses, gunpowder, printing, clockworks, glasses, mills, silk production, distillation, olive oil, and sugar.

According to the Harvard Magazine,For most inventions, the Nova reperta offered a compressed view of each step in the production process within a unified and densely populated pictorial space, according to Susan Dackerman’s catalog for Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe.” [ ]

The British Museum describes plate 13 as:
Men chopping down sugar cane stems seen at centre; to right, a table with rows of sugar loaves; behind, large stoves with boiling syrup and men operating a stonemill; outside, seen from arches, men in a sugar plantation. 
And “Plated numbered 13. Lettered in margin, below image, with the title and two sentences in Latin: 'Qua saccharum paretur arte, plurimis', 'Pictura, quam vides, docebit te modis'. On image, bottom: 'Ion.Stradanus Invent.' and 'Phls. Galle excud.'.” It was bequeathed to the Museum by Sir Hans Sloane in 1753.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns the Antwerp 
issued collection of Nova Reperta and dates it as 1600.