This paper briefly reviews historical narratives of ‘hands on’ learning and Industrial Education as presented by Anderson (1926) and Benne tt (1926 & 1937). It is suggested that precedents for some of the contemporary debates in curriculum and pedagogy within Australian Vocational Education and Training have deep roots and their seeds and branches can be found in these historical narratives. For example, in recent years there has been discussion around the d evelopment and use of training packages. Training packages are text based specifications of vocational qualifications and as such some VET practitioners and researchers have questioned their effectiveness and whether they constitute a new form of curriculum. This paper specifically focuses on three historical attempts at documenting ‘the mysteries of the trade’. Each is presented as a vignette contextualised through significant events of the time. These are, (1) Moxon’s treatise of 1683, ‘The Doctrine of Handy Works; (2) Diderot’s ‘Encyclopedie’ of 1751, an enlightenment project undertaken in France, that amongst other things documents the trades and industry; and (3) the Russian system of instruction which involves systematic approaches to mechanical instruction in the trades and industry as developed by Della Vos at the Imperial Technical School in Moscow. It is suggested that together these examples stand as ancestors to more contemporary attempts to document trades and occupations as the basis for education and training.