Technologies of Theatre: Joseph Furttenbach and the Transfer of Mechanical Knowledge in Early Modern Theatre Cultures (Zeitsprünge)

Baroque theatre spectacles are frequently celebrated for their overwhelming effects and marvelous technologies. However, little is known about how the mechanical knowledge for elaborate stage machineries was actually acquired by architects and engineers, and how it disseminated throughout European theatre cultures with regard to specific religious, social, political as well as economical contexts. So far unnoticed by historians of theatre and performance, the early seventeenth-century codex iconographicus 401 (Bavarian State Library) offers new insight to the transfer of mechanical knowledge and theater technology.

This manuscript can now be attributed to Joseph Furttenbach (1591-1667), building master of the Swabian city of Ulm, today best known for his numerous publications on architectural theory. The codex incorporates technical drawings and descriptions of the theatrical machineries invented and designed by Giulio Parigi for the epoch-making festivals at the Medici court in Florence. The invention and construction of theatrical machineries was taught at Parigi’s Florentine academy of art and engineering, which Furttenbach attended. Besides an English translation of Furttenbach’s manuscript (originally written in German language), this volume collects studies at the intersection of theater, architecture, and technology, proposing an innovative approach to the historiography of early modern theater.