Early Modern Things : Objects and their Histories, 1500-1800 book cover
2nd Edition

Early Modern Things
Objects and their Histories, 1500-1800

Edited By

Paula Findlen

ISBN 9781138483149
Published March 2, 2021 by Routledge
492 Pages 95 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Early Modern Things supplies fresh and provocative insights into how objects – ordinary and extraordinary, secular and sacred, natural and man-made – came to define some of the key developments of the early modern world.

Now in its second edition, this book taps a rich vein of recent scholarship to explore a variety of approaches to the material culture of the early modern world (c. 1500–1800). Divided into seven parts, the book explores the ambiguity of things, representing things, making things, encountering things, empires of things, consuming things, and the power of things. This edition includes a new preface and three new essays on ‘encountering things’ to enrich the volume. These look at cabinets of curiosities, American pearls, and the material culture of West Central Africa. Spanning across the early modern world from Ming dynasty China and Tokugawa Japan to Siberia and Georgian England, from the Kingdom of the Kongo and the Ottoman Empire to the Caribbean and the Spanish Americas, the authors provide a generous set of examples in how to study the circulation, use, consumption, and, most fundamentally, the nature of things themselves.

Drawing on a broad range of disciplinary perspectives and lavishly illustrated, this updated edition of Early Modern Things is essential reading for all those interested in the early modern world and the history of material culture.

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition

Early Modern Things Revisited

Paula Findlen


Early Modern Things: Setting Objects in Motion, 1500-1800

Paula Findlen 

Part I: The Ambiguity of Things

1.Surface Tension:  Objectifying Ginseng in Chinese Early Modernity       

Carla Nappi

2. Going to the Birds:  Animals as Things and Beings in Early Modernity  

Marcy Norton

3. The Restless Clock

Jessica Riskin

Part II: Representing Things

4. “Stil-staende dingen”:  Picturing Objects in the Dutch Golden Age

Julie Hochstrasser

5. “Things Seen and Unseen”: The Material Culture of Early Modern Inventories and Their Representation of Domestic Interiors

Giorgio Riello

6. Costume and Character in the Ottoman Empire:  Dress as Social Agent in Nicolay’s Navigations

Chandra Mukerji

Part III: Making Things

7. Making Things:  Techniques and Books in Early Modern Europe

Pamela H. Smith

8. Capricious Demands: Artisanal Goods, Business Strategies, and Consumer Behavior in Seventeenth-Century Florence

Corey Tazzara

Part IV: Encountering Things

9. Catalogical Encounters:  Worldmaking in Early Modern Cabinets of Curiosities

Surekha Davies

10. Unruly Objects:  Baroque Fantasies and Early Modern Realities

Molly Warsh

11. The Taste of Others:  Finery, the Slave Trade, and Africa’s Place in the Traffic in Early Modern Things

Cécile Fromont

Part V: Empires of Things

12. Locating Rhubarb:  Early Modern Russia’s Relevant Obscurity

Erika Monahan

13. The World in a Shilling:  Silver Coins and the Challenge of Political Economy in the Early Modern Atlantic World

Mark A. Peterson

14. Anatolian Timber and Egyptian Grain:  Things That Made the Ottoman Empire

Alan Mikhail

Part VI: Consuming Things

15. The Tokugawa Storehouse:  Ieyasu’s Encounters with Things

Morgan Pitelka

16. Porcelain for the Poor:  The Material Culture of Tea and Coffee Consumption in Eighteenth-Century Amsterdam

Anne E.C. McCants

17. Fashioning Difference in Georgian England:  Furniture For Him and For Her

Amanda Vickery

Epilogue: The Power of Things

Denaturalizing Things: A Comment

Renata Ago

Something New: A Comment

Timothy Brook

Identities through Things: A Comment

Erin K. Lichtenstein

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Paula Findlen is Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History and Director of the Suppes Center for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at Stanford University, USA.  Her previous works include Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (1994), and, most recently Empires of Knowledge: Scientific Networks in the Early Modern World (2019), Leonardo’s Library (2019), and The Renaissance of Letters (2020). She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


"A cornucopia: a rich and valuable collection that ranges far and wide in its analysis of the dynamic and diverse powers – symbolic, material, economic, political and religious – of things in the early-modern world. These essays raise important questions about taking objects seriously for historians of any era."

John Brewer, California Institute of Technology, USA