William Bennet Munro History Seminar Series
Abstract: This paper will examine the surprisingly popular Renaissance genre of the Farriery Manual. Writers such as the English polymath Gervase Markham and the Italian stablemaster Filippo Scaccho da Tagliacozzo offered interested readers detailed advice on many aspects of animal—especially equine—care and management. The most interesting of these texts combined commentaries on classical texts with empirical advice that supposedly came straight from the stables. This combination of classical and empirical knowledge is not particularly surprising when it comes from a member of the English gentry such as Markham. However, Tagliacozzo's claim to be a stablemaster raises a number of interesting questions about the ways in which tradesmen might have used their own vernacular expertise to engage with the world of classical learning. As a way of thinking through some of these questions I will analyze two key texts that offer evidence of the existence of a figure we might call the humanist farrier—Tagliacozzo's 1591 book and a Florentine manuscript I discovered by a Farrier named Dino Dini.