Wednesday, July 21, 2004

History Of Leather Goods

We established that Bronze and Iron Age Man made good use of leather for footwear and harness (saddles did not arrive until late in that era) all this is recorder in freezes from ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean. Bridles, Reins, and a basic form of Harness can all be seen, but riders were either bare back or sitting on blankets. Saddles began to appear late in that period and are generally attributed to the Moors in North Africa as they developer quite elaborate and highly decorated saddles which they eventually took to the Spanish area when it was under their rule. (The Spanish took it to America, Mexico and South America But the ornate carving became influenced by the Native Tribes developing into the more natural deviation of the animals, birds, etc that are now part of the art form in that area).

Back to our history of leathergoods there is little sign of any form of leather goods or Leather Workers in these early times, yes there were leather artifacts but most of these were weapon related items such as, holders with straps for arrows, sword scabbards, etc. Most of these were built on a system of straps or strips of leather and would have been made by the same people producing the riding equipment. So we had two main leather related trades developing Shoes and Saddlery. The history of shoes is a long and fascinating subject but it is one that is relatively easy to follow as it is as it started related to one area feet. Just for interest there were just 12 original Livery Companies in mediaeval London and 7 of them were involved with the use of Leather The Worshipful Company Of Cordwainers representing the shoe makers. In those days a Cordwainer was a shoe maker, (The name is derived from Cordova in Spain where the best shoe leather came from). A shoe repairer was referred to as a Cobbler hence the term 'cobbled together' would have originally referred to a badly repaired pair of shoes. More about those Livery Companies later. 

Back again to the early leathergoods there were only 3 items that I was able to identify as being able to be classified as leathergoods related. Some carvings particularly Greek depict men carrying a water bag on one shoulder which was supported by netting, a small draw string bag attached to a belt round the waist, (That would have been used to hold coins) and one Greek carving showing a young man with a shoulder bag that looked remarkably like the modern shoulder bags or flight bags. More about these later when I next return to this subject.

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