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[medieval-leather] Re: Cuir-Bouilli, again

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  • Marc Carlson
    ... And that sort of specific labeling of clearly broken down bits just ain t in the medieval mindset. It s a post-Rennaisance/Enlightenment kinda deal. ...
    Message 1 of 15 , Mar 23, 2000
      At 08:19 AM 3/23/00 -0500, Gregory wrote:
      >To throw in my 2-cents on this again, after having done a lot of research on
      >this recently, I'm coming to the conclusion that it was any leather that was
      >wet, sammed and then molded in some fashion, with or without the additional
      >application of heat. I think you could potentially include any leather
      >objects in this that were also immersed in wax, or coated in pitch. I begin
      >to think it was a somewhat general or generic term for leather treated in
      >this fashion. Not a specific, one exact process term, like we seem to have
      >a pentient for wanting to box it into, today.

      And that sort of specific labeling of clearly broken down bits just ain't in
      the medieval mindset. It's a post-Rennaisance/Enlightenment kinda deal.

      >Marc's suggestion of physical and chemical analysis, of course, is probably
      >going to be the only way this will ever be wholly resolved.

      Right now I'm trying to find someone with a major analytical lab who's
      willing to
      do all that to samples of thread (first from modern examples based on old
      recipes, to set a baseline, then to remains from finds). Funny thing, these
      people just want to charge a lot of money :)

      Marc
    • Tim Bray
      ... My conclusion is that this is close to the *modern* definition of the term, as used by museum curators and writers describing archaeological objects. I
      Message 2 of 15 , Mar 24, 2000
        Gregory Stapletion wrote:
        >To throw in my 2-cents on this again, after having done a lot of research on
        >this recently, I'm coming to the conclusion that it was any leather that was
        >wet, sammed and then molded in some fashion, with or without the additional
        >application of heat. I think you could potentially include any leather
        >objects in this that were also immersed in wax, or coated in pitch. I begin
        >to think it was a somewhat general or generic term for leather treated in
        >this fashion. Not a specific, one exact process term, like we seem to have
        >a pentient for wanting to box it into, today.

        My conclusion is that this is close to the *modern* definition of the term,
        as used by museum curators and writers describing archaeological
        objects. I submit that this definition isn't worth much to us, because it
        doesn't really offer any descriptive value - "molded leather" would be a
        better term with the same definition. If "cuir bouilli" is to be useful as
        a term, it needs a more specific definition, preferably one that is closer
        to the original meaning - if we could discern what that was.

        I would be inclined to simply dismiss the whole thing as etymological
        folly, were it not for the fact that people are still using the term "cuir
        bouilli" as if it were descriptive. It is used, for instance, as a verb
        ("cuir-bouilli the leather") in a recent article in Leather Crafters &
        Saddlers Journal. If we had a generally accepted definition, with some
        demonstrable basis in history, it would be easier to know when the term was
        being used properly.

        Tim
      • Tim Bray
        ... Looking for what, specifically? Evidence of heat-induced polymerization? ... Well, I m fairly sure it did; but is it possible to rediscover what it meant
        Message 3 of 15 , Mar 24, 2000
          >What we need
          >to do is to go to Northampton, ask the nice people to let us damage or
          >destroy parts of the Waterer Collection, and do serious chemical
          >analysis (I'm thinking something spectrographic).

          Looking for what, specifically? Evidence of heat-induced polymerization?


          >OTOH, it's also possible that the term means different things to
          >different people at different times :)

          Well, I'm fairly sure it did; but is it possible to rediscover what it
          meant to, say, a 15th century Burgundian?

          Tim
        • Tim Bray
          ... Very true. Perhaps the original meaning of the term was just as fuzzy and ill-defined as its current usage seems to be. In which case, it s my own way
          Message 4 of 15 , Mar 24, 2000
            >
            >And that sort of specific labeling of clearly broken down bits just ain't in
            >the medieval mindset. It's a post-Rennaisance/Enlightenment kinda deal.

            Very true. Perhaps the original meaning of the term was just as "fuzzy"
            and ill-defined as its current usage seems to be. In which case, it's my
            own way of thinking that needs to be redefined! ;->

            Tim
          • Marc Carlson
            ... If we whip out the ol gas chromatigraph. and find traces of hydrocarbons and esters that indicate beeswax, this could tell us that the leather was waxed,
            Message 5 of 15 , Mar 24, 2000
              Tim Bray wrote:
              > Looking for what, specifically? Evidence of heat-induced > polymerization?

              If we whip out the ol' gas chromatigraph. and find traces of
              hydrocarbons and esters that indicate beeswax, this could tell us
              that the leather was waxed, and possibly wax impregnated (if there's a
              little that could just be the waxed thread, if there's a lot, it could
              be in the leather).

              If we find the traces of pitch or tar, this tells us that could have
              been used.

              If we find just the polymerized tannins that might just be the tanned
              leather.

              If we don't find even that, the leather wasn't tanned at all...

              > Well, I'm fairly sure it did; but is it possible to rediscover what it
              > meant to, say, a 15th century Burgundian?

              Hard leather :)

              Marc
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