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Biography: Francesca Tolaini

Francesca Tolaini

Francesca Tolaini, a Ph.D. candidate at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, conducted research for her dissertation on the book that contains recipes on glassmaking and glass coloring from late antiquity and the early Middle Ages.

Tolaini has transcribed and analyzed recipes in various manuscripts of the Mappae Clavicula, and her share of the Rakow Grant will permit her to inspect the versions in the Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass and in Madrid.

“This manuscript is very important for the history of practical-technical recipe books and treatises on art,” she notes. “It is not only the oldest and most widespread early medieval recipe book, but it is also one of the most complete compilations from antiquity. In fact, its origin is to be found in Greek recipe books translated into Latin in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. It was widely known, and we find it [referred to] in later recipe books, from the Middle Ages and afterward, when the techniques described were no longer in use.”

Despite the importance of the Mappae Clavicula, some of its main manuscripts have not been published or studied adequately. Tolaini says that a careful analysis of the information it contains will be extremely useful to students of the history of glassmaking and to scientists conducting chemical analyses of glasses.

Tolaini is a 1994 graduate of the Università degli Studi di Pisa, where she studied the history of decorative and industrial art.