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This book describes a world in which the ideal is equity, not equality: a kind of uncertain harmony, established through the institutional tool of craft corporations, which, through continuous adaptation and redefinition, remained until the end of the eighteenth century the connective tissue of productive activities in most European cities. Harmony is the result of concepts of justice and balance linked to a culture of privilege and ‘unjust proportion’ whose legacy has not been entirely swept away by the French Revolution and is also worthwhile revising it carefully. Harmony, however, was increasingly subject to the pressure of the market and the real forces at stake, without the craft corporations and the central government organs opposing rigid restrictive constraints. Francesca Trivellato’s book re-reads some of the central knots of the ancient economies and urban societies through a broad and punctual reconstruction of the history of Venetian glass in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. This is an important chapter of the Italian luxury industry, long neglected or entrusted to the knowledge of a few specialists. Abandoning the traditional normative approach, this research draws on rich documentary material to multiply observation points. New elements emerge for the knowledge of Venetian glass manufactures in a period that has been hastily labeled as a “decadence” era and was marked by profound changes in the techniques of machining and the expansion of some high-commercial genres. Not just the history of precious objects kept in museums all over the world, but also and above all that of glass beads intended for the slave trade, mirrors shipped to North Africa and the Middle East. And together, the history of entrepreneurs and craftsmen looking for spaces of affirmation, wage-earned workers – men and women – relegated to marginal, yet knowledgeable depositors, and increasingly indispensable to the production process.




Francesca Trivellato