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Re: [SCA-Herbalist] apothecary chest

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  • Shield of Peace
    ... They might not be period to *Europe*, but remember that many rare spices and herbs were brought from the Far East. Apothecary cabinets are standard decor
    Message 1 of 20 , Mar 31, 2008
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      On Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 11:30 AM, Marian Walke <marian@...> wrote:
      >
      > However, I do not think the appothecary chests are period. The examples
      > shown at the museum are 18th century or later. And the site says:
      >
      > "Wooden boxes from the gothic period with a green, red, or blue ground
      > coat arranged in long ranks once embellished the officines of medieval
      > dispensaries with their attractive decorations, but they are very rare
      > now."

      They might not be period to *Europe*, but remember that many rare
      spices and herbs were brought from the Far East. Apothecary cabinets
      are standard decor in Chinese furniture even today. I suspect they are
      period for Far and Middle Eastern cultures, and possibly for (at
      least) Southern Europe. As herbs became more widely available, the
      size of what they were stored in would naturally increase from
      hand-held boxes to furniture.

      Also, reading the text of the Heidelberg page more closely, it does
      refer to the furniture displayed used to prepare prescriptions, with
      access to the customer only becoming available starting in the 17th
      century. The web page does have the museum's phone number and email -
      why not ask them? (And yes, they speak good English there, it's a
      major tourist attraction.)

      Aquilina
    • julian wilson
      This humble veteran soldier and woodworker ventures to agree with Aquilina. Peter Spufford in his wonderful, meticulously-researched and referenced work The
      Message 2 of 20 , Apr 1, 2008
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         This humble veteran soldier and woodworker ventures to agree with Aquilina.

        Peter Spufford in his wonderful, meticulously-researched and referenced work "The Merchant in medieval Europe" - makes it very clear that merchantable items originating from India and the medieval Pacific Rim cultures were traded from Merchant-to Merchant all the way into medieval Western Europe. With the huge trade in medicinal herbs, this humble historian would be absolutely astonished if Arabic and/or Oriental "apothecary chests" hadn't found their way along those trade routes into Western Europe, packed with herbs and spices.

        The fact that no examples of an item have survived from medieval times into this 3rd Millenium in a particular geographical area, doesn't mean there never were any there "in-period".

        Looking back over the last 60 years as an enthusiastic and dedicated but amateur historian, I have seen so many "absolute last-word" statements by "accepted historical Authorities" overturned by later discoveries and research,  - that I tend to be very, very cautious these days about accepting any statements of such a nature as "oh, one country had this but none were ever traded to another country, so you can't use that with your persona". 

         Documentation/references may be lacking, extant museum examples may be lacking, but one can never be sure that medieval merchants hadn't traded anything and everything they thought might make them a profit. And, for me at the least, Peter Spufford makes it very plain that medieval merchants traded over far greater distances than I was ever taught in my High-School History  60 years ago.

         

        In humble Service to the Light, and to Drachenwald,

        Matthew Baker

      • Shield of Peace
        ... Will this do? http://www.gg-art.com/news/show.php?photo=631l3.jpg Aquilina
        Message 3 of 20 , Apr 1, 2008
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          On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 9:29 PM, Marian Walke <marian@...> wrote:
          >
          > All right, if anyone has evidence of apothecary chests in the Middle
          > East or the Orient before 1600. But I haven't seen such evidence yet.
          > What evidence do you have?

          Will this do?

          http://www.gg-art.com/news/show.php?photo=631l3.jpg

          Aquilina
        • Marian Walke
          ... All right, if anyone has evidence of apothecary chests in the Middle East or the Orient before 1600. But I haven t seen such evidence yet. What evidence
          Message 4 of 20 , Apr 1, 2008
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            julian wilson wrote:
            >
            >
            > This humble veteran soldier and woodworker ventures to agree with Aquilina.
            >
            > Peter Spufford in his wonderful, meticulously-researched and referenced
            > work "The Merchant in medieval Europe" - makes it very clear that
            > merchantable items originating from India and the medieval Pacific Rim
            > cultures were traded from Merchant-to Merchant all the way into medieval
            > Western Europe. With the huge trade in medicinal herbs, this humble
            > historian would be absolutely astonished if Arabic and/or Oriental
            > "apothecary chests" hadn't found their way along those trade routes into
            > Western Europe, packed with herbs and spices.

            All right, if anyone has evidence of apothecary chests in the Middle
            East or the Orient before 1600. But I haven't seen such evidence yet.
            What evidence do you have?

            On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that Western Europe did
            NOT have apothecary chests-of-drawers at this time. For one thing,
            chests of drawers were fairly rare in period -- simple chests with lids
            were more common. For another, there are paintings of apothecaries and
            descriptions of their shops which mention other methods of storage,
            usually boxes or jars on shelves.

            See: Adriaen van Ostade, An Apothecary Smoking in an Interior 1646

            See picture of an apothecary's shop at
            http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Interior_of_Apothecary%27s_Shop.jpg

            Read description of a visit to an apothecary in Ortho-epia Gallica by
            John Eliot, 1593.

            So I'm not saying these things didn't exist in period, but before we
            assume that the DID, I'd like to see some evidence to counter the
            evidence I've found that they didn't.

            Old Marian (crankier than usual)
          • Shield of Peace
            ... Not that I was able to find surfing around on the net, but I might be able to find something in the husband s library. I have the interest in herbalism,
            Message 5 of 20 , Apr 1, 2008
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              On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 10:46 PM, Marian Walke <marian@...> wrote:
              >
              > Shield of Peace wrote:
              > >
              > >
              > > On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 9:29 PM, Marian Walke <marian@...
              > > <mailto:marian%40buttery.org>> wrote:
              > > >
              > > > All right, if anyone has evidence of apothecary chests in the Middle
              > > > East or the Orient before 1600. But I haven't seen such evidence yet.
              > > > What evidence do you have?
              > >
              > > Will this do?
              >
              > Well, it's lovely. But according to the caption it's 17th or 18th
              > century, not Medieval nor pre-1600.
              >
              > Do you have anything earlier?

              Not that I was able to find surfing around on the net, but I might be
              able to find something in the husband's library. I have the interest
              in herbalism, but he's the one with a Kara-Khitan (Liao dynasty)
              persona.

              I also think it's still a good idea to call or email Heidelberg. I've
              been to that museum - it was the first time I ever saw such cabinets,
              and I seem to recall that some of the furniture they have is pre-1700.
              I cannot vouch for pre-1600, but they might be able to.

              Aquilina
            • Marian Walke
              ... Well, it s lovely. But according to the caption it s 17th or 18th century, not Medieval nor pre-1600. Do you have anything earlier? --Old Marian
              Message 6 of 20 , Apr 1, 2008
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                Shield of Peace wrote:
                >
                >
                > On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 9:29 PM, Marian Walke <marian@...
                > <mailto:marian%40buttery.org>> wrote:
                > >
                > > All right, if anyone has evidence of apothecary chests in the Middle
                > > East or the Orient before 1600. But I haven't seen such evidence yet.
                > > What evidence do you have?
                >
                > Will this do?

                Well, it's lovely. But according to the caption it's 17th or 18th
                century, not Medieval nor pre-1600.

                Do you have anything earlier?

                --Old Marian
              • Marian
                ... Middle ... evidence yet. = ... Yes, if someone wanted to do this, there might be evidence of such furniture used in period. But until then, I will remain
                Message 7 of 20 , Apr 1, 2008
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                  > > > On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 9:29 PM, Marian Walke wrote:
                  > > > >
                  > > > > All right, if anyone has evidence of apothecary chests in the
                  Middle
                  > > > > East or the Orient before 1600. But I haven't seen such
                  evidence yet.
                  =>
                  > I also think it's still a good idea to call or email Heidelberg. I've
                  > been to that museum - it was the first time I ever saw such cabinets,
                  > and I seem to recall that some of the furniture they have is pre-1700.
                  > I cannot vouch for pre-1600, but they might be able to.
                  >
                  > Aquilina
                  >

                  Yes, if someone wanted to do this, there might be evidence of such
                  furniture used in period. But until then, I will remain a doubter.

                  --Old Marian
                • Carowyn Silveroak
                  Greetings, Can someone refresh my memory - was an apothecary chest found on the Mary Rose wreck? I could easily be mis-remembering, or remembering a
                  Message 8 of 20 , Apr 1, 2008
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                    Greetings,
                     
                    Can someone refresh my memory - was an "apothecary chest" found on the Mary Rose wreck?  I could easily be mis-remembering, or remembering a different type of chest.  Shoulda bought that book from Poison Press......*scribble on wish list*
                     
                    -Carowyn
                     
                     
                     
                  • Shield of Peace
                    ... Frankly, I won t. The size and complexity of the piece in question that was dated to the 17th century, while it is listed as rare today, combined with the
                    Message 9 of 20 , Apr 2, 2008
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                      On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 11:03 PM, Marian <marian@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > > > > On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 9:29 PM, Marian Walke wrote:
                      > > > > >
                      > > > > > All right, if anyone has evidence of apothecary chests in the
                      > Middle
                      > > > > > East or the Orient before 1600. But I haven't seen such
                      > evidence yet.
                      > =>
                      > > I also think it's still a good idea to call or email Heidelberg. I've
                      > > been to that museum - it was the first time I ever saw such cabinets,
                      > > and I seem to recall that some of the furniture they have is pre-1700.
                      > > I cannot vouch for pre-1600, but they might be able to.
                      > >
                      > > Aquilina
                      > >
                      >
                      > Yes, if someone wanted to do this, there might be evidence of such
                      > furniture used in period. But until then, I will remain a doubter.

                      Frankly, I won't. The size and complexity of the piece in question
                      that was dated to the 17th century, while it is listed as rare today,
                      combined with the plethora of modern reproductions, indicates that it
                      was a common design in it's day. The Chinese are well known for the
                      historical persistence of their culture - when they find something
                      that works well for them, they do it for centuries. I would not be a
                      bit surprised to find that smaller but similar pieces existed in
                      period. Certainly other forms of cabinets for manuscripts and altars
                      have been traced to period dynasties.Ming is the one in question, but
                      it extends from 1368 through 1644. That's another indicator that the
                      piece style could be period, in fact - the invading Mongols of the
                      previous Yuan dynasty brought many very practical furniture designs
                      with them, and they were very big on small, easily transported
                      cabinets. And the Ming dynasty spans the century mark, which means
                      customs that existed directly after that mark are extremely likely to
                      have been in fashion prior to it.

                      This is an interesting question to me, since I've been using one of
                      those goofy little Ikea multi-drawer things for my own herb storage
                      for years, but have always lusted after some of the gorgeous rosewood
                      apothecary cabinets I've seen on display in Chinese furniture stores.
                      It is fortunate that my husband has an excellent home library on
                      ancient China - I'll let you know if I dig anything up. But it would
                      be faster to just ask the museum. :)

                      And not meaning to make anyone cranky. Mellow out and groove with
                      nature, Marian. :)

                      Aquilina
                    • julian wilson
                      I ve a copy of Before The Mast and my Lady is very interested in medieval medicine and surgery - and I don t recall seeing one mentioned in the text and
                      Message 10 of 20 , Apr 2, 2008
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                        I've a copy of "Before The Mast" and my Lady is very interested in medieval medicine and surgery - and I don't recall seeing one mentioned in the text and wonderful drawings.

                        From what I recall, the Barber Surgeon only had a dovetailed chest - in which his equipment was found - and the book has very good illustrations and sectioned drawings of all the containers found therein.

                        The chest is interesting in and of itself, - though.

                        Because, IIRC, no English-provenanced dovetailed joints of that period have been recorded; and the Mary Rose Barber-Surgeon's chest is the earliest dovetail-jointed chest ever found in the UK.

                        "Before The Mast" suggests the chest must have been acquired in Europe - where the dovetail is known to have been in use at that date - but not apparently used by English woodworkers!

                         

                        In humble service,

                        Julian

                        --- On Wed, 2/4/08, Carowyn Silveroak <silveroak@...> wrote:

                        From: Carowyn Silveroak <silveroak@...>
                        Subject: Re: [SCA-Herbalist] Re: apothecary chest
                        To: SCA-Herbalist@yahoogroups.com
                        Date: Wednesday, 2 April, 2008, 6:29 AM

                        

                         
                        Greetings,
                         
                        Can someone refresh my memory - was an "apothecary chest" found on the Mary Rose wreck?  I could easily be mis-remembering, or remembering a different type of chest.  Shoulda bought that book from Poison Press......* scribble on wish list*
                         
                        -Carowyn
                         
                         
                         
                      • Carowyn Silveroak
                        Greetings! Thanks for the reminder - that s the exact chest I was remembering, I knew it was special for some reason, just not the one in question.
                        Message 11 of 20 , Apr 4, 2008
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                          Greetings!
                           
                          Thanks for the reminder - that's the exact chest I was remembering, I knew it was special for some reason, just not the one in question.  ("Apothecary chest" versus "chest used by an apothecary".)
                           
                          I wonder if the dovetailed chest is for the same reason as the imported Flemish painters - that European artists were just better than English artists at the time?  Again, just a thought - I'm musing out loud.
                           
                          -Carowyn
                           
                           

                          I've a copy of "Before The Mast" and my Lady is very interested in medieval medicine and surgery - and I don't recall seeing one mentioned in the text and wonderful drawings.

                          From what I recall, the Barber Surgeon only had a dovetailed chest - in which his equipment was found - and the book has very good illustrations and sectioned drawings of all the containers found therein.

                          The chest is interesting in and of itself, - though.

                          Because, IIRC, no English-provenanced dovetailed joints of that period have been recorded; and the Mary Rose Barber-Surgeon's chest is the earliest dovetail-jointed chest ever found in the UK.

                          "Before The Mast" suggests the chest must have been acquired in Europe - where the dovetail is known to have been in use at that date - but not apparently used by English woodworkers!

                           

                          In humble service,

                          Julian


                           
                           
                        • Brett Chandler-Finch
                          http://ark.bnf.fr/ConsulterElementNum?O=IFN-08012334&E=JPEG&Deb=1&Fin=1&Param=C the chest shown in the picture contains a series of drawers, though not the
                          Message 12 of 20 , Apr 5, 2008
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                            http://ark.bnf.fr/ConsulterElementNum?O=IFN-08012334&E=JPEG&Deb=1&Fin=1&Param=C

                            the chest shown in the picture contains a series of drawers, though
                            not the modern chest we are familiar with, a close approximation

                            the problem with most chests is the size of the drawers. the drawers
                            can only contain a small amount of herbs. not large enough for daily
                            prescriptions of formulas. a individual would have had to refill the
                            drawer almost every time he used it. It would ot have been practical
                            enough to contain all the herbs used. having worked with a full size
                            one in my school, they do not work well for bulk herbs. we use them
                            for packets of granular herbs. They may have had a small chest of
                            drawers used for items that were not commonly used and required only
                            small dosages, but not everyday herbs that were commonly handled.
                            This may be a reason the chests did not catch on until later when

                            this is the closest I think you will find to actual usage

                            http://classes.bnf.fr/ema/grands/034.htm
                            An apothecary's pharmacy, Livre des propriétés des choses (BNF Fr.
                            218, fol. 111), end of the 15th century


                            http://ark.bnf.fr/ConsulterElementNum?O=IFN-08012334&E=JPEG&Deb=1&Fin=1&Param=C
                            Abû Zayd practices medicine, Maqâmât 47 (BNF Arabe 6094, fol. 174),
                            1222-1223


                            Though not showing drawers specifically (not sure if it's drawers or
                            cabinet doors) this does show at least a cabinet.
                          • Brett Chandler-Finch
                            http://www.larsdatter.com/apothecaries.htm apothecary site pictures are linked from
                            Message 13 of 20 , Apr 5, 2008
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                              http://www.larsdatter.com/apothecaries.htm
                              apothecary site pictures are linked from
                            • Dianna Haught
                              But its my understanding (and don t ask me where this idea came from, because quite frankly, I can t remember at the moment but I think it was in relationship
                              Message 14 of 20 , Apr 6, 2008
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                                But its my understanding (and don't ask me where this idea came from, because quite frankly, I can't remember at the moment but I think it was in relationship to Chinese medicine) that chests with drawers weren't used for storing herbs, but for finished products: pills and powders and the like. For this usage I can see the drawers being very useful.
                                Avacyn

                                >the chest shown in the picture contains a series of drawers, though
                                >not the modern chest we are familiar with, a close approximation
                                >
                                >the problem with most chests is the size of the drawers. the drawers
                                >can only contain a small amount of herbs. not large enough for daily
                                >prescriptions of formulas. a individual would have had to refill the
                                >drawer almost every time he used it. It would ot have been practical
                                >enough to contain all the herbs used. having worked with a full size
                                >one in my school, they do not work well for bulk herbs. we use them
                                >for packets of granular herbs. They may have had a small chest of
                                >drawers used for items that were not commonly used and required only
                                >small dosages, but not everyday herbs that were commonly handled.
                                >This may be a reason the chests did not catch on until later when
                                >
                                >this is the closest I think you will find to actual usage
                                >
                                >http://classes.bnf.fr/ema/grands/034.htm
                                >An apothecary's pharmacy, Livre des propriétés des choses (BNF Fr.
                                >218, fol. 111), end of the 15th century
                                >
                                >
                                >http://ark.bnf.fr/ConsulterElementNum?O=IFN-08012334&E=JPEG&Deb=1&Fin=1&Param=C
                                >Abû Zayd practices medicine, Maqâmât 47 (BNF Arabe 6094, fol. 174),
                                >1222-1223
                                >
                                >
                                >Though not showing drawers specifically (not sure if it's drawers or
                                >cabinet doors) this does show at least a cabinet.
                                >
                                >
                                >------------------------------------
                                >
                                >-------------------------------------------------------------
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                              • Brett Chandler-Finch
                                Your right in that. It works very well for small pills. Most chinese formulations are made into tea pills that are about the size of a small pea. The
                                Message 15 of 20 , Apr 7, 2008
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                                  Your right in that. It works very well for small pills. Most
                                  chinese formulations are made into tea pills that are about the size
                                  of a small pea. The drawers are great for that. I was just stating
                                  that the drawers are impractical for raw bulk herbs. or in the case
                                  of TCTCM we use them to store the packets of granular herbs.
                                  Granulars are herbs that have been processed according to traditional
                                  methods then freeze dried and stored in small foil packs They work
                                  wonderfully as the patient simply opens a set of packets which are
                                  mixed with hot water.and the shelf life of these packets are a couple
                                  of years.


                                  with the packets we could store about 100 dosages of a single herb in
                                  each drawer. The cabinet that was at the school had something like
                                  300 drawers. We also had raw herbs, but I found it difficult to find
                                  patients willing to cook the bag of herbs properly (about 30 minutes
                                  of prep time), so they weren't used as much.



                                  --- In SCA-Herbalist@yahoogroups.com, Dianna Haught <avacyn@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  > But its my understanding (and don't ask me where this idea came
                                  from, because quite frankly, I can't remember at the moment but I
                                  think it was in relationship to Chinese medicine) that chests with
                                  drawers weren't used for storing herbs, but for finished products:
                                  pills and powders and the like. For this usage I can see the drawers
                                  being very useful.
                                  > Avacyn
                                • Diana Smith
                                  Would you please provide a reference (or description) of the methods the Chinese used to make the tea pills? Also more information about making the granular
                                  Message 16 of 20 , Apr 9, 2008
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                                    Would you please provide a reference (or description) of the methods
                                    the Chinese used to make the tea pills? Also more information about
                                    making the granular herbs?
                                    Thanks,
                                    Diana
                                    --- In SCA-Herbalist@yahoogroups.com, "Brett Chandler-Finch"
                                    <goldweard@...> wrote:
                                    >
                                    > Your right in that. It works very well for small pills. Most
                                    > chinese formulations are made into tea pills that are about the size
                                    > of a small pea. The drawers are great for that. I was just
                                    stating
                                    > that the drawers are impractical for raw bulk herbs. or in the case
                                    > of TCTCM we use them to store the packets of granular herbs.
                                    > Granulars are herbs that have been processed according to
                                    traditional
                                    > methods then freeze dried and stored in small foil packs They work
                                    > wonderfully as the patient simply opens a set of packets which are
                                    > mixed with hot water.and the shelf life of these packets are a
                                    couple
                                    > of years.
                                    >
                                    >
                                    > with the packets we could store about 100 dosages of a single herb
                                    in
                                    > each drawer. The cabinet that was at the school had something like
                                    > 300 drawers. We also had raw herbs, but I found it difficult to
                                    find
                                    > patients willing to cook the bag of herbs properly (about 30 minutes
                                    > of prep time), so they weren't used as much.
                                    >
                                    >
                                    >
                                    > --- In SCA-Herbalist@yahoogroups.com, Dianna Haught <avacyn@> wrote:
                                    > >
                                    > > But its my understanding (and don't ask me where this idea came
                                    > from, because quite frankly, I can't remember at the moment but I
                                    > think it was in relationship to Chinese medicine) that chests with
                                    > drawers weren't used for storing herbs, but for finished products:
                                    > pills and powders and the like. For this usage I can see the
                                    drawers
                                    > being very useful.
                                    > > Avacyn
                                    >
                                  • Marian Walke
                                    ... This discussion has been fascinating. Today I was visiting Plimoth Plantation (recreation of the 1627 pilgrim village) and spent some time consulting with
                                    Message 17 of 20 , Apr 10, 2008
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                                      Brett Chandler-Finch wrote:

                                      > this is the closest I think you will find to actual usage
                                      >
                                      > http://classes.bnf.fr/ema/grands/034.htm
                                      > <http://classes.bnf.fr/ema/grands/034.htm>
                                      > An apothecary's pharmacy, Livre des propriétés des choses (BNF Fr.
                                      > 218, fol. 111), end of the 15th century
                                      >
                                      > http://ark.bnf.fr/ConsulterElementNum?O=IFN-08012334&E=JPEG&Deb=1&Fin=1&Param=C
                                      > <http://ark.bnf.fr/ConsulterElementNum?O=IFN-08012334&E=JPEG&Deb=1&Fin=1&Param=C>
                                      > Abû Zayd practices medicine, Maqâmât 47 (BNF Arabe 6094, fol. 174),
                                      > 1222-1223
                                      >
                                      > Though not showing drawers specifically (not sure if it's drawers or
                                      > cabinet doors) this does show at least a cabinet.

                                      This discussion has been fascinating. Today I was visiting Plimoth
                                      Plantation (recreation of the 1627 pilgrim village) and spent some time
                                      consulting with their joiner, Peter, whose job is to create
                                      museum-quality replicas of late 16th to early 17th century furniture.
                                      He explained that Medieval English cabinets had doors, not drawers.
                                      Dressers were constructed to show off one's plate and other expensive
                                      possessions. They were made with open shelves above and just legs or
                                      cabinets with doors below. Some cabinets had doors above as well as
                                      below. But as for when DRAWERS actually became common, Peter says it
                                      all depends on where you were: Italian furniture had them earlier, then
                                      they spread (along with the Renaissance, it seems to me) over Europe and
                                      finally to England. However, they were never popular in England in
                                      period. What we think of as a "chest of drawers" actually caught on in
                                      the American colonies before it did in England, where they clung to
                                      their cabinets and top-lidded chests longer.

                                      I forgot to ask specifically about furniture imported from China, but
                                      the according to Wikipedia, Chinoiserie entered the European style
                                      repertory in the mid-to-late seventeenth century and its popularity
                                      peaked around the middle of the eighteenth century. So I suspect that
                                      little of this furniture (if any) was imported into Western Europe much
                                      before that.

                                      Anyway, I had a lovely day at Plimoth and was happy to learn more on
                                      this subject.

                                      --Old Marian
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