Saturday, November 04, 2006

Geirmundr's Question

My friend Geirmundr wonders whether there is a convenient source with a description of what a 14th century soldier of good rank, say a captain of a mercenary company or someone similar, would have as possessions while on campaign. He wishes to assemble such items, or reasonable facsimiles thereof, more systematically. When we first discussed this, I suggested that I was not sure there was such a source. 14th century studies are regrettably few, and the serious stuff in print tends to start with the Wars of the Roses. However, I suggested that we could in fact assemble a reasonable list of sources that would allow us to piece together a list, especially if we make some cautious assumptions about 15th century gear that would have been around in the 14th century.

Candidly, this is a topic I would have had a readier set of answers for ten or fifteen years ago, as I am a little separated from the topic now. At some point when I have time and access to a research library, perhaps later this month, I know where to look for more material.

Of course, his project interests me, as well, but at any rate, here are my initial thoughts on some potential sources, keeping in mind that clothing and armor are easy and not really what he is looking for.

Caselli, Giovanni. History of Everyday Things: The Middle Ages. This is a beautiful hardcover children's book. It has many handsome and accurate drawings of surviving or pictured medieval artifacts. Like many recent children's books, this is really quite good. Doesn't quite nail our topic, but pages 38-39 might be of particular interest. Lots of diagrams of carpenters and architects tools, that sort of thing.

Clare, John D, ed. Living History: Fourteenth-Century Towns. A children's picture book, staged with recreationists or at least a recreationist's sensibility. Some nifty scenes and props, but not quite up to the Eyewitness Books standards.

Coss, Peter and Maurice Keen, eds. Heraldry, Pageantry and Social Display in Medieval England. Dress and Social Status in England before the Sumptuary Laws by Frederique Lachaud at p. 105 looks interesting, and there is some good stuff in Chivalry, Pageantry and Merchant Culture in Medieval London by Caroline Berron at p. 219.

Crossley-Holland, Nicole. Living and Dining in Medieval Paris: The Household of a Fourteenth Century Knight. This is obviously of great interest. When I read it years ago, I was focused entirely on food and recipes, with which this volume is massively concerned, but it is worth a look, despite the fact that it is about a peaceful household rather than a camp.

Embleton, Gerry. Medieval Military Costume Recreated in Colour Photographs. Useful, especially for camp scenes posed by European recreationists. All the good stuff is in the 15th century, I'm afraid. Embleton's other book is more useful for that.

Embleton, Gerry and John Howe. The Medieval Soldier. This is much better, with many more scenes of camp life. Unfortunately, it is out of print and not to be had for less than a small fortune. Inter Library Loan is recommended for this one. I wish I'd bought a copy years ago.

Hinton, David A. Gold and Gilt, Pots and Pins: Possessions and People in Medieval Britain. Not as interesting as it sounds, I'm afraid, but worth a look, and it has a very extensively bibliography, which I will have a look at before the aforementioned library trip.

Langley, Andrew. Medieval Life. This is an Eyewitness book essentially geared for young people. As such, much better for our purposes, because it actually shows pictures of clothing and everyday items usually overlooked by more scholarly sources. And based on my observation, the Eyewitness series has a pretty high standard of scholarship, certainly high enough for recreating medieval objects for use in the SCA. Excellent and helpful stuff throughout, though not much specifically focused on the medieval nobleman or soldier in camp. Definitely helpful, though. The version I've linked to might be a revision - I've seen it but haven't actually checked to see whether there are changes.

Singman, Jeffrey L. and Will McLean. Daily Life in Chaucer's England. This is a book published about a decade ago by some Canadian recreationists, so it is very much the sort of thing one might find useful in the SCA. Not precisely on the money, but lots of details very close to what Geirmundr is seeking. The authors discuss coinage, food, clothing and accessories, all the usual topics. Of particular interest might be Chapter 5 on the Living Environment.

Wolfegg, Christoph Graf zu Waldburg. Venus and Mars: The World of the Medieval Housebook. A beautiful pictorial description of a 15th century volume full of drawing of medieval people and objects. Gorgeous to look at, this would bear very close examination, which I lack time for at present. Definitely interesting scenes of groups of people dining al fresco.

More, probably much more, later.