Skip to content
IUScholarWorks Journals
13.03.01, Cifuentes i Comamala and de la Llave, eds., Tintorería y Medicina en la Valencia del Siglo XV

13.03.01, Cifuentes i Comamala and de la Llave, eds., Tintorería y Medicina en la Valencia del Siglo XV

This study, edition and translation of a lost fifteenth-century manuscript recovers one of the earliest known Iberian manuals of Fachliteratur. Cifuentes i Comamala and Córdoba de la Llave situate Joanot Valero's dye-works and medical vernacular manual as a technical and scientific document, and take pains to contextualize the text as one created in an extra-academic social sector. Although the authors of this study associate the medical portion of this manuscript with the university, they go to some lengths to discuss the dissemination of medical knowledge to larger sectors of society. That the medical aspect of the work is specific mostly to a practical knowledge of the dyer's health problems and remedies is acknowledged. Yet the connection between the dyer's technical manual and the medical recipes is inferred more than it is explained, presumably because some of the medical recipes for gynecological, cosmetological, and pediatric ailments underscore the personal interests of the dyer, collaborators, and family rather than treat the health concerns particular to the dye-house.

A great portion of the introduction is dedicated to the corpus of dye-work manuals coming out of the European middle ages. With a comparison of the many manuscripts and recipes that relate to dye-works, the editors begin to answer numerous questions that a study of this body might realize, as may be seen in their discussion of the manual's practical or theoretical worth. Did Joanot Valero's manual contain the "trade secrets" of a specialized dyer? Was the manual a study guide to prepare him as a master in his trade? Were the manual recipes a result of compilations from older manuals far removed from the practices of contemporary dye-works? The editors offer nuanced replies that allow for the fossilized witnesses of bygone texts while recognizing this manual's catalog of contemporaneous dyeing recipes. In this fashion the editors acknowledge the lettered condition of a master artisan worker, and suggest the ways in which the practical application of scientific knowledge may have been engaged in the late medieval and early modern period.

There is an extraordinary value in bringing to light a modern edition of this caliber. Cifuentes i Comamala and Córdoba de la Llave trace the rather novelistic provenance of Valero's missing manuscript to an also-disappeared Barcelona bookstore. The manual was saved from oblivion by a study of the manuscript carried out by the Biblioteca de Catalunya. The present edition and translation was made from the library's microfilmed copy. The editors' Castilian translation is faithful to the Catalan original. Cifuentes i Comamala and Córdoba de la Llave take great care in sifting through the various languages that permeate the text. In part, it is through their analysis of an Aragonese lexicon imposed on the Catalan manual, which itself is inflected with Valencian variants, that these two editors have furthered our knowledge of the manual's copyist, "Joanot Vallero of Sarrion de Aragón." An examination of the Aragonese and Catalan elements of his name, the Valencian dyers' guild, and archival documents from Segorbe identify the manual's first owner as one of many Aragonese émigrés to the Valencia region in the late middle ages. Through this study, Cifuentes i Comamala and Córdoba de la Llave profile the life of a medieval dyer, and in so doing present a valuable case study for medieval studies in material culture.

The manual's content is divided into two unequal parts, which the editors describe with the thoughtfulness and thoroughness required for non-specialists in medieval textile studies. Special care is taken to list the dyer's most common materials and techniques. The editors describe the mordants, modifiers, and dyestuffs used in the manual. They note not only the role of each material in the dyeing process, but also situate each geographically and commercially. An explanation of the dyer's craft gives the reader a working knowledge of the subject, so that the edition that follows becomes more than a list of recipes. It becomes a window in which one may visually imagine the material richness of a dye-house's tools and techniques, of a textile's texture and color. The first and larger part of the manual is a dye-work volume copied from an older original manuscript, with emendations and abbreviations made presumably by Joanot Valero. This first part is divided into dye, stain-removal, and medicinal recipes, with a colophon that records the date and place in which Valero copied his manual. A second, smaller part adds a miscellany of additional recipes and recordkeeping accounts. The majority of recipes found in this manual deal with methods of dyeing wool cloth. The preference for dyes in red, black, green and yellow tonalities (as well as an almost complete absence of blue dyes) follow the preferences found in medieval and early modern Italian dye manuals, and will be of certain interest for comparative textile studies. A glossary of technical terms complements the work, along with various indices that identify and explain technical terms, places and proper names.