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Renaissance art in the service of science

We think of woodcuts, engravings, and etchings – prints – in the same way that we think of paintings and sculptures: as art. So they are, of course. But in the 16th century the capacity of prints for reproducibility and the manipulability of paper made printmaking an extremely effective example of what we would now call communications technology.

Prints provided as ideal a form for the burgeoning content that was scientific knowledge as was available in the late Renaissance. “Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe,’’ an engrossing, even enchanting exhibition that opens tomorrow at Harvard’s Arthur M. Sackler Museum, offers a varied and extensive look at art in the service of science in 16th-century northern Europe (Germany and the Netherlands especially). The show, which has been curated by Susan Dackerman, runs through Dec. 10. (Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe)