Friday, April 25, 2008

Cleaning Mail

The barrels, which are mentioned among the Shipley goods, may have been used for the simple process of cleaning armour by rolling it in a barrel with sand and bran, as is still the practice in the East. Such an article is found in the inventory of Dover Castle, 1344 : " 1 barelle pro armaturis rollandis;" and in that of Hengrave Hall, as late as 1603: " 1 barrel to make clean the shirts of maile and gorgetts." — See Arch. Jour., xi. 382, and note, p. 386. In the Monasticon, vi. 625, some land is held " by the service of rolling a coat of mail once a year."
Sussex Archaeological Collections relating to the History and Antiquities of the County. Published by the Sussex Archaeological Society, 1857 p. 255

I have experimented with rolling mail to clean it, using play sand, corn cob pet bedding or litter, and a 50/50 mixture of the two. I used a small 1.25 cubic foot cement mixer from Harbour Freight. You can buy tumbling barrels designed for the purpose, but one big enough for a mail shirt is a lot more expensive than the small mixer.

Any of the above will eventually clean off rust after several hours of rolling. Play sand leaves a clean but somewhat dull matt finish. Corn cob leaves a significantly brighter polish. A 50/50 mixture is unsurprisingly somewhere in between.

Walnut shells are also sold as pet litter. Both corn cob and walnut shells are used as polishing media by ammunition reloaders, and their suppliers also sell those media, more carefully graded for particle size and more expensive than the pet litter. There seems to some debate among reloaders over the relative merits of corn cob versus walnut shell, and whether the specialized media marketed to reloaders works any better than less expensive pet litter.

Play sand is probably not ideal. References to tumbling barrels in late 19th and early 20th century texts often refer to “sharp sand” as a medium. Also, a lot of modern play sand isn’t silica, because of concerns about the risk of silicosis, and may not be as effective as an abrasive.

Some of the texts mentioned above suggest that you should use about as much medium by volume as the metal you are trying to polish, and that you want the barrel full enough that the work will tumble rather than slide.

The same texts describe a variety of polishing media. Emery, pumice or sharp sand is relatively aggressive. Leather scraps or shavings are often used for a final polish. Hardwood sawdust is often described as an intermediate medium, sometimes with a modest amount of emery or rouge added. If bran and sand were still used to clean mail in the 19th century East, perhaps the mixture used mostly bran with a small amount of sharp sand.

Update: Bertus Brokamp found a reference in the accounts of the count of Holland, 1360-61, to bran purchased for, among other things, "to scour the armor with"

Another update "Paid, the xv daye of Julye, at the campe at Dunglasse, by th’andes of George Ynglyshe, for tow urynalles and one skeyn of threed, vjd.; for canvaus to make a bagg to scowre my Lordes shyrt of meale in, xiiijd.; and for brane to the same, ijd.;" 1549

Great Britain, Charles Manners Rutland, John James Robert Manners Rutland, H. C. Maxwell Lyte, Richard Ward, Robert Campbell, and John Horace Round. 1888. The manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Rutland ... preserved at Belvoir castle. London: Printed for H.M. Statioery Off., by Eyre & Spottiswoode.

Gawain and the Green Knight in Pop Culture

Jeff Sypeck includes some links to an award winning Irish animated version as well as a performance by paper bag puppets. The last is funnier to think about than watch.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Online Medieval Research and Recreation Resources

Pertaining to the 14th or 15th century:

Living History Groups:
La Belle Compagnie

Medieval Recreation
The Society for Creative Anachronism
The Company of St. Michael

Other suppliers:
Thorthor's Hammer: Copper alloy and silver dress accessories
The Compaignye Store: Coin replicas, Ceramics and Haberdashery
Lorifactor Dress accessories, arms and armor, camp equipment
Reenactors Shop
Grunal Moneta Hammered coin reproductions. 650 BC to 1660 AD

Digitized Libraries, Museum Collections or Manuscripts
The National Library of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) offers an excellent online resource for the study of medieval manuscript illumination. Manuscripts of particular interest to students of arms and armor are noted here.
British Library
Getty Museum
Digitized Manuscripts Containing Middle English
Google Books is a really powerful tool for material which has been digitized. There’s a surprising amount that has been. These include Analogues of Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrimage, with itemized expenses for the Asteley/Boyle combat of 1442, a French account of the Pas de Bergere and a Spanish account of the Passo Honoroso.
The University of Chicago is celebrating the acquisition of a manuscript of Le Roman de la Rose (The Romance of the Rose) and its reunion with Le Jeu des échecs moralisé (The Moralized Game of Chess), a manuscript that has been in the Library’s collection since 1931.
Online Searchable Museum Collection Databases
Image Use Contacts
UCLA's catalogue currently indexes 3,048 digitized medieval manuscripts.
Index of the Landauer and Mendel Hausbuchs
Index of Images of the Forme of Cury
Manuscript Miniatures: a database of miniatures depicting armored figures

Other Image Databases, Galleries and Collections
Armour in Art

Karen Larsdatter's site has a lot of images and articles related to medieval material culture from acrobats to zibellini. And it's searchable.
Effigies and Brasses
Kornbluth Photography Archive
Roel Renmans' Photostream: a great collection of photos of surviving armor and armor in painting and sculture, arranged chronologically.
Dmitry Nelson's Photo Gallery: armor, weapons, doublets, arming and otherwise, with some reconstructions.
The Complete Works of Albrecht Durer

Other Resources
Tales from Froissart
Deeds of Arms A Collection of Accounts of Formal Deeds of Arms of the Fourteenth Century edited by Steven Muhlberger
De Re Militari: The Society for Medieval Military History
Primary Sources on Warfare in the Middle Ages
Primary Sources from External Websites
The Soldier in Later Medieval England
The online database currently holds just under 90,000 service records. These are taken from muster rolls, housed in The National Archives (TNA), for the years 1369 - 1453.

I find it rewarding to browse this site by muster roll. Go to a particular year, select one of the references and do a search on that reference. Then sort the result by membrane. You can then scroll through that muster by parchment. You will continually encounter small retinues, each on their own strip of parchment, often consisting of one or two men at arms and a handful of archers. More than once you encounter Chaucerian retinues with a knight, a squire with the same surname and a few archers.

Accounts of Medieval Literacy and Education
This site has a variety of maps of Europe and Japan in the 14th century. Mostly modern, but includes links to the 14th century Catalan Atlas
The Electronic Middle English Dictionary
The Geoffrey Chaucer Website
Richard II's Treasure
A Preview of Purses in Pieces: Archaeological Finds of Late Medieval and 16th Century Leather Purses, Pouches, Bags and Cases in the Netherlands
by Olaf Goubitz
Using and Working with Horn
Steel and Iron Needles
Medieval Archaeology: The first 50 Volumes are available online for free.
Dictionnaire du Moyen Français (1330‑1500)
Francais Dictionnaire Ancien
Dictionary of the Scots Language
Google Search Tips
Reverso, a Free Online Translator

Medieval Material Culture Blog.
A Commonplace Book
Unlocked Wordhoard
Muhlberger's World History

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

William Wallasky

Over in the comments at Megan McArdle, Braveheart was suggested as suitable viewing for Libertarian Movie Night. It is to laugh.

Da, Gibson does scream Freeeeeeedom, even if he delivers line better in Chicken Run. But really, Braveheart is patriotic epic of defense of motherland from foreigners that come to rape our women and mince about in crushed velvet. Is about collectivist virtues of people united shoulder to shoulder against invader, except for traitorous splittists who are justly liquidated through nighttime visit from patriotic security forces in necessary breaking of eggs to make omelets. Is about heroic guidance of Great Leader, who wisely teaches laboring class to use pointed sticks against decadent feudalists, a tactic they were unable to deduce for themelves because only Great Leader can think of such a thing. Is about revolutionary overthrow of foreign authoritarian overlord and replacement by Scottish authoritarian overlord, which is of course wonderful improvement. Is about putting inconvenient historical events down the memory hole. Is movie that could have been made by Eisenstein for Lochnessfilm if he had had color stock and less talent.

How on earth do you find these things?

A friend asks how I find things like 17th century archery rules. Good question. In this case I started with a local Boy Scout troop that wanted to include medieval diversions in a series of upcoming events. I realized that I didn’t know much about how archery was practiced as a sport in the Middle Ages

I knew that Robert Ascham wrote about archery in the 16th century, and found a copy of his Toxophilus on line. He mentioned butts, pricks and rovers as contemporary forms of sport archery, without giving much detail on the rules. I did a google search on those terms plus archer. That eventually led me to Roberts, T. The English Bowman or: Tracts on Archery, to which is added the second part of The Bowmans Glory London 1801, among other sources. Roberts wrote when the 18th century was living memory. That wasn’t the middle ages, but it was a lot closer to it than the 21st.

Roberts described archery rules based on Aime for the Finsbury Archers, “rules annexed to Shotterel and Durfey’s Poem on Archery”, and the traditions of the Finsbury Archers. Searching on full view in Google Books, I found that the The Shotterel poem was published in 1667, and Ayme for the Finsburie Archers was published in various editions with different spellings of the title from 1594 to 1737. I could not find the text for either of those rules in Google Books, but did find those for the Aime for the Archers for St George’s Field, published in 1664.

I then was able to find a used reprint of the 1628 Ayme for the Finsburie Archers through Amazon.

A few general observations:

In trying to recreate the Middle Ages, the 17th and 18th c. are useful places to look for hints if you can't find the information in a medieval source. It’s not perfect, but a lot better than using your enormous 21st c. brain to attempt to deduce things you don’t know from first principles. Diderot’s Encyclopedie was a great help to me in trying to recreate medieval scabbards, for example.

Google Books is a really powerful tool for material which has been digitized. There’s a surprising amount that has been.

However, print on dead trees and pulped rags is still your friend.

Lengthening copyright terms are a net obstacle to the diffusion of human knowledge, and I say this as a copyright holder. 95 years from publication is plenty, and a lot easier to figure out than 70 years after death. Obviously, Disney would like to hold rights to the Mouse until the sun is a cold dark cinder, but it’s bad law for the rest of us. Write your legislator.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Works on the Medieval Tournament at Google Books

These include Analogues of Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrimage, with itemized expenses for the Asteley/Boyle combat of 1442, a French account of the Pas de Bergere and a Spanish account of the Passo Honoroso.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Aime for the Archers of St. George's Fields

Hannis, Richard Aime for the Archers of St. George's Fields, London 1664. Excerpted in Urban, Sylvanus, The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle, London 1832

Rules to be observed and practiced by all those that exercise shooting in the Long Bow
1. For finding your mark it must be within every man's reach.
2. For whites or blacks you must have but one in a game, unless they be all content; and if you shoot at any loose white, and it be stricken out of sight, it is no mark.
3. For the height of stakes, although the wood be above the pin, yet you are to measure at the pin, if there be any, because it is put in for that purpose.
4. Shooting at a bush or black, whatever you find highest in it (being within the compass of the mark) you are to take that for the height.
5. If in measuring a shoot the difference be too small it cannot be described, then that competitor shall win the shoot that is best at the next mark.
6. If in measuring a shoot the mark be stirred out of its place, he loseth the shoot that removed it.
7. If at coming to your mark you claim two or more, and the opposite side draw their arrows, you can have no more then you first claimed, although your partner when he comes challengeth more.
8. If you name one mark and shoot at another, you are to lose your shoot, and the others are to follow at the mark named.
9. If your arrow break, you may measure at the nearest piece that hath wood and head, or wood and feather.
10. If you have any mishap, as nocking amiss, if you can reach your arrow with your bow you may shoot again; if it flee further, it is a shoot.
11. In shooting at rovers you must stand no further from your mark than you can reach with half your bow: but at pricks you are permitted to stand two bows before your mark, and as much behind it as you please.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

14th c. Arms Control

By Statute of 12 Rich. II., 1388, the practice of archery is again commanded, but it is there combined with a prohibition against the bearing of arms in the time of peace by the unauthorized populace:—

"Cap. vi. It is accorded and assented that no Servant of Husbandry, or Labourer, nor Servant or Artificer, nor of Victualler, shall from henceforth bear any Baselard, Sword nor Dagger, upon forfeiture of the same, but in the time of war for defence of the realm of England, and that by the surveying of the Arrayors for the time being, or travailing by the country with their Master, or in their Master's message; But such Servants and Labourers shall have Bows and Arrows, and use the same the Sundays and Holydays, and leave all playing at tennis or foot-ball, and other games called coits, dice, casting of the stone, kailes, and other such importune games. And that the Sheriffs, Mayors, Bailiffs and Constables, shall have power to arrest, and shall arrest, all doers against this Statute, and seise the said Baselards, Swords and Daggers, and keep them till the Sessions of the Justices of Peace, and the same present before the same Justices in their Sessions, together with the names of them that did bear the same. And it is not the King's mind that any prejudice be done to the franchises of Lords, touching the forfeitures due to them."

Hewitt, John Ancient Armour and Weapons in Europe Vol. 2 London 1860 pp 23-24

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

SCA Mission Statement

The SCA has put out proposed mission and business statements:

Mission statement: The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (SCA) is an international organization devoted to the research and re-creation of pre-seventeenth century life, encouraging its participants to employ a knowledge of history to enrich their lives and the lives of others through events, demonstrations, and other educational venues.

Business statement: As a 501.c.3 corporation the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (SCA) provides the necessary business structure for the operation of its official branches, for the coordination of centralized policies and practices, and for the dissemination of information to its international constituency of participants.

Value statement: As an organization the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) values the principles of chivalry, honor, personal integrity, and artistry idealized in pre-Seventeenth century culture and society.

I like this version better.

Mission statement: The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (SCA) is an international organization devoted to providing a context where participants can recreate different aspects of pre-seventeenth century life.

Business statement: As a 501.c.3 corporation the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (SCA) provides the necessary business structure for the operation of its official branches, for the coordination of centralized policies and practices, and for the dissemination of information to its international constituency of participants.

Value statement: The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) values the opportunity to recreate different aspects of pre-Seventeenth century life by doing. It is more interested in embodying positive ideals like chivalry and honor than the less desirable features of the era.

April 1 is the last day to comment.

A Letter from Louis XI to Richard Duke of Gloucester

In 1480 Richard, Duke of Gloucester received at least one bombard as a gift from Louis XI of France. The bombard was probably an obsolescent or obsolete weapon by French standards, but Richard’s letter of grateful thanks has survived. The following document, apparently an early draft of a letter from Louis concerning the gift sheds further light on the matter, as well as tantalizing hints to the relative efficiency of the medieval horse collar, still a question of some historical debate

From: Louis XI
To: My very tresnoble, trespuissant et tresexcellent cousin, the Duke of (Piers, insert the name of whichever beefeating fratricidal maniac is most dangerous this week. And make sure it's a live one. There is no point at all in bribing dead English dukes, even if it is hard to keep track these days. See to it)
Date: April 1, 1480
Re: Gonnes

Cher cousin.

My tresnoble cousin, etc., etc. I am sending you under separate cover, xvii bombardes (Piers, it may be xvi, thought I heard muffled explosion from the artillary park last week, check inventory.). Although I understand that English military opinion still inclines towards the pointed stick and muscle power school of technology, I believe you will find them useful.

You will find that each weighs 2,000 English pounds, and may easily and reliably be drawn by a team of (illegible) horses under ordinary conditions. You will of course, want to use the standard horse collar. We've been experimenting with some harness designs based on an old Roman relief, but for some reason the poor horses wheeze, turn blue, and fall over whenever we try to get them to haul a decent load with it. (And of course, by a decent load I mean anything upwards of (illegible) English pounds). Enguerrand the drover says it's something to do with "constraint".

One word of advice. The gunners do tend to dawdle over reloading if not closely supervised. I am told that the best way to insure a high rate of fire is to stand next to the breech and encourage the gonners from there.

Glad to hear you liked the pillowcases.