Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Below the knee: pattens, shoes and hose - the MEDATS (Medieval Dress and Textile Society) summer meeting at the British Museum.

Figure 1 - Piece of sprang relaxed
What follows are my notes on what was said for four of the six papers given at the study day. I will write longer notes on the other two papers given; Jutta von Bloh – Refinements in sixteenth century princely legwear: examples from the court of the Duke of Saxony in the Dresden Armoury, and  Lesley O’Connell Edwards – “A Child of 20 yer that knytt gret hose by whom cometh their chiefe lyvinge”: archival and archaeological evidence for hand-knitted hose in Elizabethan England, as they fit better with the period covered by this blog. The notes are my personal interpretation, and depend on how fast I could write and how well I could keep up and understand. Any mistakes and misinterpretations are my own. 

Dagmar Drinkler, Bayerischen Nationalmuseum, Munich – The Reconstruction of tight-fitting textiles in Sprang Technique
Figure 2 Piece of sprang stretched

Dagmar’s thesis was she had been looking at tight garments and especially the highly patterned hose, for example as in the gondoliers in a 1494 painting by Vittorio Carpaccio, and wondering how they were made. She had been experimenting with sprang to see if it were possible to reproduce patterns that appear in medieval illustrations, in order to create a stretch fabric that would produce tight fitting hose. The same piece of sprang, woven in a pattern that copies some of those used in the medieval period is shown in figure 1 relaxed, and in figure 2 stretched to show how much elasticity there is in the fabric. Dagmar recommended Pater Collingwood's The techniques of sprang, 1999, and Carol James Sprang unsprung, 2011.


Timothy Dawson, Independent scholar – Trousers to Trousers in less than a Thousand Years

Tim took us through from the closed hose of the Thorsberg trousers in the 2nd century AD to the closed hose of Ferdinand II of Aragon (d. 1516) via all the two separate leg styles of the Middle Ages. We looked at and discussed the hose of Clement II (d.1047), the hose of St Desiderius (12th C), Hose of Henry III of Germany (c.1056), the hose of Rodrigo Ximenez de Rodo (d. 1247), by this point in time Tim said that point at the rear of the hose where starting to creep up towards the back. Many of the examples Tim used can be seem on this pinterest page on medieval hose. Question of bias or straight cut, and belts and attachments were addressed.


June Swann, formerly of the Northampton Museum – Fourteenth and Fifteenth century poulaines?

June said she added the question mark to the title having recently looked at some surviving complete poulaines. Poulaine is old French for Polish and the style of shoe is also referred to as a Krakow or pike, they are shoes with very long toes, this one was not shown by June but is in the Met Museum. June showed an image from the 1371 tomb of Kasimir the Great as an example of the early style.  The toes on poulaine curve outward, and Pope Urban V (pope 1362-1370) criticized priests for wearing them. The first reference to the word poulaine in England is 1388 and relates to armour, it is a hundred years later but armoured poulaine appear with the c.1485 parade armour of the future Maximilian I. June pointed out that early, 14th century poulaine laced on the inside of the foot, and later 15th century shoe laced on the outside. The cuff turns down all the way around. June had recently examined some surviving poulaine in collections in London, Nuremburg and Antwerp, all of which had entered the collections in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Having examined them she has some worries regarding them, and suggested people stick to known excavated examples. She did not use this example but here are some in situ photographs of poulaine being excavated in London. June also asked if anyone had actually seen a contemporary illustration of the toes of poulaine being tied up, as she had been unable to find any such illustration.


 Aimee Payton, Ashmolean Museum – Shoes in the community: engaging the public with medieval footwear

Aimee talked about connecting with the public and getting them the write the descriptions to some medieval shoes being put on display as part of an outreach project. The difficulties of getting the descriptions within a 120 word limit were examined.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Pins in the Early Modern Period

Close up of the head of a 16th century gold pin in the
Portable Antiquities Database
The word pin, as in the Oxford English Dictionary definition  “A small, thin, rigid piece of metal with a sharp point at one end and a flattened or rounded head at the other, used to hold objects in place or together, esp. pieces of fabric while they are fitted or sewn,” dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. Research which was done on Anglo-Saxon dress pins by Ross (1991) identified no less than 83 different types with lots of different functions.

The making of pins continued into the medieval period with pinners guilds being set up in major cities such as London and York, and by the time these guilds were formed pins were so important that the 1348 trousseau of Princess Joan included some 12,000 pins. The pinners of London were not recognised as a guild until 1356, but Megson (2009) states that as early as 1278 there was a Walter le Pinnere living in Smithfield; while the ordinances for the pinners’ apprentices in  York were laid down at the “time of the Great Pestilence”, that is about 1349. (Longman, 1911)

What constituted a pin was set out by the 1544 “Acte for the true making of pynnes”, which stated, “oonelie suche as shalbe double headed and have the heads soudered faste to the shanke of the pynne well smothered, the shanke well shaven the pointe well and round fyled cauted and sharped,” could be considered true pins. It also set the price for pins at no more than 6 shillings 8 pence a thousand. (34 & 35 Henry 8 c. 6). The act obvious did not go down well as it was repealed almost straight away (37 Henry 8. c. 13).

The customs rate book for 1550 gives “Pynnes the dossen thousande ii.s.”  (Edwards, 1970). A later chapman’s inventory of 1588 gives, “3000 of pyns 1s 9d.” (Spufford, 1984).  Robert Careles who was Queen Elizabeth’s pinner provided her with vast quantities throughout her reign, a 1563 warrant relating to him shows 16,000 great farthingale pins at 6 shillings the thousand, 20,000 middle farthingale pins at 4 shillings the thousand, 20,000 great velvet pins at 2 shillings 8 pence the thousand and 58,000 small velvet and head pins at 20 pence the thousand. (Arnold, 1988) Harrison (1577) reckoned the value of pins made in England to be £60,000 a year. Interestingly by this point in time the idea of a pin being something of small worth had already entered the language. The Oxford English Dictionary gives, “In fayth, thi felowship set I not at a pyn.” from 1500, “neuer a pinsworthe of pleasure.” from 1562 and “yet he is not worth a pin” from 1577.

Pins that survive from archaeological contexts are normally copper alloy (archaeologist speak for brass). Caple (1991) stated that they formed 99% of those found on high medieval and post medieval sites, and yet Megson (2009) comments that Osmund iron, the basic for a hard steel wire, was being imported into England by the fifteenth century. It may be simply that, because iron rusts, they are underrepresented in the finds, for example one record in the database of the Portable Antiquities Scheme says “cast biconvex head from a pin; ferrous corrosion indicates the loss of an iron or steel shank.” While the bulk of the finds in PAS are copper alloy there are also lead-alloy, silver, silver-gilt and gold pins (Portable Antiquities Scheme), and obviously pins could have highly decorated heads. Massinger’s play the City Madam (1640) speaks of “A silver pin headed with a pearl worth three-pence,” another example of this decorated type is pin is a 16th century gold pin recorded in PAS, the head having flowers made with turquoise. a close up of the head is above.

Caple(1991) has commented on the apparent decline in the length of pins over time, with pins before 1500 having a mean length of over 40mm, pins between 1500 and 1630 having a mean length of 29-35mm and pins between 1630 and 1730 being 25-30mm. To put this in context a standard dress pin purchased today is about 25mm and the longer dress pins, the type with coloured heads, are around 35mm. Pincushions are another subject completely and worth of a separate post.
Arnold, J. ed. 1988. Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe unlock'd. Leeds : Maney, 1988.

Caple, C. 1991. The detection and definition of an industry: the English medieval and post medieval pin industry. Archaeological Journal. 1991, Vol. 148. 241-55
Edwards, J. and Nevinson, J. L. 1970. The rates of the London Custom House in 1550. Costume. 1970, Vol. 4. 3-12

Harrison, William. 1577. Description of England. 1577.
Longman, E and Lock, S. 1911. Pins and pincuhions. London : Longman, 1911.

Megson, Barbara, ed. 2009. The pinners' and wiresellers' book 1462-1511. London : London Record Society, 2009.
Portable Antiquities Scheme. Database. Portable Antiquities Scheme. [Online] British Museum. [Cited: 20 June 2013.]

Ross, Seamus. 1991. Dress Pins from Anglo-Saxon England: Their Production and Typo-chronological Development. s.l. : Oxford University (unpublished PhD thesis), 1991.
Spufford, M. 1984. The great reclothing of rural England: petty chapmen and their wares in the seventeenth century. London : Hambledon Press, 1984.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Muckinder or muckender

Katherine Seymour, Countess of Hertford, with her son Edward, c.1563
Muckinder is a wonderful word for what was basically a cloth to clean children’s faces and hands. Recent costume historians have described it variously, it appears in several of Cunnington’s works (1965), (1970), and (1972), as well as in Anne Buck’s work on children’s clothes (1996) and most recently in the Tudor Child. (Huggett, 2013) According to the online Oxford English Dictionary it appears from around 1420 as a mokedour or mokedore, when it seems to indicate simply a handkerchief. The spelling had changed by the early sixteenth century when it becomes more closely associated with children, as in, “mockendar for chyldre.” (Palsgrave, J., Lesclarcissement, 1530)  

In  Peter Erondell’s The French Garden (St. Clare Byrne, 1949) there is a dialogue in the form of a mother speaking to the nurse of a still partially swaddled child. It goes through undressing and dressing the child. After his biggin (cap), band (collar), petticoat, coat, sleeves, and bib are put on the nurse is enjoined, “Let him have his gathered apron with strings, and hang a muckinder to it.”

Huggett and Mikhaila (2013) analysing images of children suggest that boys had muckinders more commonly than girls, probably because the girls continued to wear aprons. Boys ceased to wear aprons by about the age of about three, but still needed something to clean their face and hands. “One must wipe his mouth with a Muckinder.” (Middleton, 1607)

An early depiction of one of these cloths hanging from a boy’s belt appears in the 1504 St Paul’s altarpiece at Augsburg. This is by Hans Holbein the Elder, and the bottom right hand corner of the left portion of the triptych shows two boys, believed to be Holbien’s sons, one of whom clearly has a muckinder hanging from his belt.

A later example shown above right is seen in Katherine Seymour, Countess of Hertford, the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey, with her son Edward. As Edward was born in 1561 the painting is dated to c.1563. The muckinder is again hung from his waist and is of white linen with a border across the bottom, and some form of edging which is difficult to see. The decoration is most likely blackwork, compare it to this handkerchief of 1600-1620 in the Glasgow Museums collection, but woven towels of this period also have borders, as in this example in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Muckinders continue to be worn in this way until the mid seventeenth century. There is a portrait of William, Lord Petrie at the age of 6, with a lace edged muckinder hanging from his waist, unfortunately I cannot find an online image of it, but in appears, in black and white, in Buck (1996)

Buck, A. 1996. Clothes and the child. Carlton : Ruth Bean, 1996.
Cunnington, C. W. and P. 1970. Handbook of English Costume in the 16th century. London : Faber, 1970.

—. 1972. Handbook of English costume in the seventeenth century. 3rd ed. London : Faber, 1972.
Cunnington, P and Buck, A. 1965. Children's costume in England 1300-1900. London : Black, 1965.

Huggett, J. and Mikhaila, N. 2013. The Tudor Child. Lightwater : Fat Goose, 2013.
Middleton, Thomas. 1607. A trick to catch the old one. 1607.

St. Clare Byrne, M. ed. 1949. The Elizabethan Home Discovered in Two Dialogues by Claudius Hollyband and Peter Erondell. . London : Methuen, 1949.