‘Salt improves the voice of all sorts of instruments,’ wrote scholar Bernard Palissy in 1580, and analysis of several samples of wood has shown that ancient masters did treat wood with substances which were then defined as salts. In our June 1991 issue, Rémy Gug investigated the subject of salt-impregnation ...
A man’s opinion of another era, his understanding or supposed understanding of it, probably depends upon his opinion of his own era. For example, if a modern technique and its immediate results have disappointed him, a smoky veil may well come between the eyes of the researcher and the earlier times he wants to study.
Let us give an example: the (genuine) danger represented by modern chemistry in its extensive and applied present-day form often provokes a longing for the ‘good old days’, when everything, we are convinced, was left in its natural state and not chemically treated. That is what we like to imagine, probably in order to experience, at least in our dreams, what reality no longer offers us.
Dreams and dreaming are, of course, important for the mental sanity of modern man. After all, the Ancients were superior to us in the art of magical thinking! But here we are concerned with the rediscovery of past times from a purely technical-historical point of view.
The historian of technology’s task is not to paint picturesque fantasies of the ‘olden days’ for himself and his audience. Instead, he seeks to question the past, with caution, and, as far as possible, without regard to his own beliefs and disappointments: so that historical reality (and not our own problems and/or solutions) can appear.
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