Using these questions as a starting point, the project sought to bring to life the rich collections of such works held by two notable early modern collections at the Herzog August Bibliothek and the Ferguson Collection (University of Glasgow Library).
Project logo: a crossed hammer, wooden spoon and question mark. This emblematic symbol represents practical knowledge and everyday problems as well as how these can be solved.

The relevant starting points for research are the traces of a book’s usage, changes in media and combinations of handwriting and printing, interactions between text and image and praxeological aspects. As an ‘active book’, the how-to addresses people directly and motivates them to take action. This international cooperative project combines cultural sciences research and in-depth library cataloguing. Here, work processes that normally take place separately and in sequence are conducted simultaneously as part of a mutually enriching exchange of experience.


Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Duration: May 2024 – April 2027


Research findings:

An interactive platform on is currently under construction.

Stefan Laube (ed.), Tracts of Action: Material, Visual, and Practical Dimension of Early Modern How-to Books, Library of the Written Word 127, ed. Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen (Leiden: Brill, 2024).

Cover of the anthology, which came out of a conference in Wolfenbüttel and will be published in late July 2024.

Cover image: Probier Büchlein auff Gold/Silber/ Ertz und Metall/ mit viel köstlichen Alchimistischen Künsten (Frankfurt am Main: Steinmeyer, Latomus, 1608).
HAB: Xb 1648
Displayed: title page and front inner cover with handwritten entries