Dear Readers,

As you may have seen elsewhere, in mid February my wife and I suffered the loss of our home in a fire, in the hills of central Massachusetts. The good news is that we got out safely and had no animals in our care at the time. The fire crews were able to contain the fire from spreading, in what turned into a 3-alarm, 5-hour-long ordeal in subzero temperatures; they did amazing work, and no one was injured. The bad news is that all of my physical historical materials and research of 30 years have gone up in smoke. As a result I have decided to suspend this blog for the time being. It will remain online as a resource for those interested in the history of glass and glassmaking in the seventeenth century and beyond. I do intend to resume writing when I can, but for now my time and energy are required in getting us back on our feet.

Friends are providing temporary shelter for us nearby and our intention is to rebuild as soon as possible. To those who have reached out with a steady hand, to those who have opened their wallets, and offered advice in our time of need, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. In what are already difficult times for all of us, you have made a huge difference in our lives.

Paul Engle
6 March, 2021

Monday, May 20, 2013

Alchemist, Glassmaker, Priest

'The Mineral Silver' A. Neri, MS Ferguson 67
Conciatore is the title of my new book. It is about the fascinating life and work of a man who lived four hundred years ago in Florence, Italy. He was at the same time an alchemist, a glassmaker and a Catholic priest. His name was Antonio Neri and he worked for a prince from the Medici royal family. Neri is famously known as the author of the first book devoted to the subject of making glass (L'Arte Vetraria, 1612). He has often been considered a mysterious figure, steeped in the intrigues of alchemy and transmutation. On the other hand, he put great store in careful experimentation and research. As a contemporary of fellow Florentine Galileo Galilei, he experienced both the germination of modern science and the waning days of Aristotle’s four-elements. It was a time when art, religion, ancient philosophy and the pursuit of Nature’s secrets all went hand-in-hand.  

In late Renaissance Italy, the word conciatore was used to describe the specialist who refined the ingredients for glass and formulated the batch. In Neri’s case, this ranged from the celebrated Venetian style ‘cristallo’, to the swirling colors of ‘calcedonio’, to brilliant, sparkling imitation gems. The book visits his family, his friends and his associates to form a picture of a complex man, living in an extraordinary time.

After a decade researching Neri, I am anxious to share his story. I invite you to join me here, where on a regular basis I will post details of his life, his work and his philosophy. I hope to draw you into his world, and perhaps convince you that in many ways, his time was not so different from ours.

[ Posts Begin on 1 August 2013 - Watch This Space.]