Sunday, July 25, 2004

The History of Leathergoods Continued

I left off with three early examples of what would now be classified as leathergoods in the last posting.  I will start with the stone carving of a young Greek carrying a shoulder bag, this was an isolated piece and not part of a freeze, he was wearing the normal Toga. It was not practice in those times to carry a change of clothing or personal items as they traveled light in those days. It is more than probable that the bag was a game bag used for carrying birds and other small game taken on a hunting trip. (It adds to the theory that there are no new designs only variations and that most things have been done before). The carvings depicting water bags supported with netting, it is amusing that most archaeologists ponder over why they would want to use a net round the leather water bottle. It is even stranger that no one ever considered asking a leather worker why that might have been done. The answer is quite obvious if you are aware of the properties of leather.

They would have made the water container with the face of the leather inwards and the flesh outwards as used this way it would have been slightly more water proof, they may well have coated the surface of the leather with some form of water resistant treatment. (it was a practice in medieval times to make leather tankards and coat the inside with tar to make it waterproof) it is not known if they had that knowledge in that earlier period of history but a coating of Bees Wax would have provided some degree of water proofing without impairing the taste too much. However the water would start to work it,s way into the leather fibers, and what happens to leather when it is wet? It stretches and what better way to stop it sagging than to place a net round it.

The coin purse a large circle of soft leather with holes round its edge and a thong of leather laced through the holes was used from Roman times (and possibly longer) right through to the Middle Ages to carry the coins used for all forms of currency. These draw string purses were tied securely to a belt round the waist and can be seen depicted in many carvings and paintings. Merchants and the wealthy were more likely to use them. Thieves would use a sharp knife to cut the thongs while an accomplice distracted the owner and run off with the purse. They were known as a 'Cut Purse' things don't change that much, we call them 'Pick Pockets' these days. There is one main difference these days, they risked their lives if stopped in those days, now all they get is a caution.

All these personal items would have been made by the saddlers as a sort of side line from early times right up to and beyond the middle ages and the craft of the leather worker as such was still non-existent. That is quite understandable as personal items were few and did not present an opportunity for anyone to earn a living that way. But that was about to change and I will explain why in the next Blog see also www.theleatherconnection for other information. 


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