Chaucer: a father of instruction manuals

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Technical communication is widely associated with technicalwriting and illustrations in industrial and post-industrial societies. However, the limited technical complexity and the relatively unchanged and unchanging nature of most of the tools, instruments and machines that were used in 14th century pre-industrial Britain meant that learning how to use them predominantly took place without access to, or the need for, technical writing or illustrations. The spinning wheel is possibly the best-known example of this type of technical knowledge dissemination. It had been introduced into Britain during the previous century and its operation remained simple enough that knowledge of how to use it successfully passed from parent to child, or master to apprentice, through watching, imitating and doing. This does not, however, mean that there were no instructional texts on how to use any of the available tools, instruments or machines. In fact, early precursors of modern English language instruction manuals can be traced as far back as fourteenth-century Britain. This article examines one of these early English language instruction manuals for a technical instrument called an astrolabe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-14
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


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