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Drawers - the V&A's take on the question

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  • rivendalehall
    Well... having run out of personal sources... I resorted to writing the V&A to see what they might offer... (a big tip-o-the-hat to em ... I wrote yesterday...
    Message 1 of 9 , Apr 2 6:56 AM
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      Well... having run out of personal sources... I resorted to writing
      the V&A to see what they might offer... (a big tip-o-the-hat to
      em'... I wrote yesterday... got the response this morning... the V&A
      ROCKS!!!) Below is both the request, as I wrote it, at the V&A's
      response...

      ... anyway, being a good member of this list I figured I'd share...
      now...to try to find those references...

      Chas.

      ============================


      Dear Mr Winkler, thank you for your message.

      I can't give you a very authoritative answer, but as I understand it,
      drawers can be seen to have evolved from at least two sources: small
      compartments inside larger furniture, which are generally regarded as
      having arrived in medieval Europe (Spain) in the form of small,
      portable cabinets; and built-in eccleiastical muniment cupboards
      with multiple compartments. I am sure that others may offer a more
      nuanced approach to this interesting subject.

      I found two books useful:
      The Art of the Cabinet, Monique Riccardi-Cubitt, 1992
      Penelope Eames: Furniture in England, France and the Netherlands from
      the 12th to the 15th century, Furniture History Society (London,
      1977).

      Riccardi-Cubitt says that ancient Egyptian tomb furniture was
      sometimes fitted with with internal compartments/drawers. She notes a
      13th century Hispano-Moresque fall-front cabinet with drawers
      (Toledo) of Egyptian ark form with domed lid. Thereafter she gives a
      date of 1430 for the first freestanding cupboard (without doors)
      which developed from built in cupboards, using the layette (which
      metamorphosed into drawer as part of a larger piece of furniture.)
      She gives a 1471 reference to a cupboard with 'a deux guischez et a
      une leaite' (ie two doors and a drawer). Note that most early
      examples are prob ecclesiastical in origin eg 1458 German sacristy
      chest. Drawers common in domestic surroundings by c1550 p106.

      Eames' reference to the earliest drawers studied (Northern Europe) is
      in relation to a multi-drawer armoire dated 1430 (French). She also
      cites the following:
      1458-70 Wells multi-drawer armoire in Muniment room: small drawers
      with finger pulls at lower front formed by elongation of bottom
      board, nailed joints.
      C1500-30 St George's Chapel, Windsor. Small multi-drawer with crude
      carpentry, nailed w/o refinement, slide on bottoms, bottom boards
      visible from front, ring handles.
      C1510-30 Winchester cat.20 & 21 Drawers are hung within framework,
      with a bottom board extending sideways to form a flange on each side
      which engages in grooves provided in the framework.

      Yours sincerely,

      Nick Humphrey, Curator - Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Dept.
      Victoria and Albert Museum, London SW7 2RL. http://www.vam.ac.uk/
      0207 942 2436; Fax 0207 942 2678

      >>> "James Winkler" <jrwinkler@...> 01/04/2007 20:07 >>>
      Greetings -

      I belong to a group of people interested in medieval furniture and
      recently a question was put forth to the group regarding the origins
      of 'drawers' in furniture. To the best we can find, it appears that
      drawers seemed to come into existence (in, at least, a European
      context) rather suddenly sometime in the late 15th or early 16th c.

      Franz Windisch-Graetz's "Mobel Europas" shows a few examples of
      drawers dated to the '2nd half 15th c." but that is the best we can
      come up with.

      My question is, "Does the V&A have any information on not only when
      drawers actually made their appearance in Europe but any ideas of
      what would have initiated such a design innovation?" Based on the
      fundamental skills of the late medieval and even earlier periods it
      doesn't appear that 'technical skill' couldn't have been a
      contributor.

      Any information or directions you can point us to for further
      research would be appreciated.

      Thank you -


      James Winkler
      Metamora, Illinois
    • Joseph Paul
      Thank you Charles, Bill and all others that have so patiently looked into this subject. It does appear that we have a consensus that they were not common
      Message 2 of 9 , Apr 2 7:28 AM
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        Thank you Charles, Bill and all others that have so patiently looked into this subject. It does appear that we have a consensus that they were not common before the mid 1500's except possibly in Spain. It is fascinating to speculate on why it didn't develop earlier. My own thoughts on the matter are the scarcity of personal goods and the pace of life. Most people didn't have many goods that needed to be kept separate and accesible in the way that a drawer provides. Once you get a number of items that need to be kept in a certain manner (this with that or all of those over there)  then you need something that will help organize it. Drawers do that and give you fast access. 
         
        I need to look into how merchants organized their wares and see if there is anything there that will help me organize mine and look more period. 
         
        Jamie Blackrose 
        -----Original Message-----
        From: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com [mailto:medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of rivendalehall
        Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 9:56 AM
        To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [MedievalSawdust] Drawers - the V&A's take on the question

        Well... having run out of personal sources... I resorted to writing
        the V&A to see what they might offer... (a big tip-o-the-hat to
        em'... I wrote yesterday... got the response this morning... the V&A
        ROCKS!!!) Below is both the request, as I wrote it, at the V&A's
        response...

        ... anyway, being a good member of this list I figured I'd share...
        now...to try to find those references.. .

        Chas.

        ============ ========= =======


        Dear Mr Winkler, thank you for your message.

        I can't give you a very authoritative answer, but as I understand it,
        drawers can be seen to have evolved from at least two sources: small
        compartments inside larger furniture, which are generally regarded as
        having arrived in medieval Europe (Spain) in the form of small,
        portable cabinets; and built-in eccleiastical muniment cupboards
        with multiple compartments. I am sure that others may offer a more
        nuanced approach to this interesting subject.

        I found two books useful:
        The Art of the Cabinet, Monique Riccardi-Cubitt, 1992
        Penelope Eames: Furniture in England, France and the Netherlands from
        the 12th to the 15th century, Furniture History Society (London,
        1977).

        Riccardi-Cubitt says that ancient Egyptian tomb furniture was
        sometimes fitted with with internal compartments/ drawers. She notes a
        13th century Hispano-Moresque fall-front cabinet with drawers
        (Toledo) of Egyptian ark form with domed lid. Thereafter she gives a
        date of 1430 for the first freestanding cupboard (without doors)
        which developed from built in cupboards, using the layette (which
        metamorphosed into drawer as part of a larger piece of furniture.)
        She gives a 1471 reference to a cupboard with 'a deux guischez et a
        une leaite' (ie two doors and a drawer). Note that most early
        examples are prob ecclesiastical in origin eg 1458 German sacristy
        chest. Drawers common in domestic surroundings by c1550 p106.

        Eames' reference to the earliest drawers studied (Northern Europe) is
        in relation to a multi-drawer armoire dated 1430 (French). She also
        cites the following:
        1458-70 Wells multi-drawer armoire in Muniment room: small drawers
        with finger pulls at lower front formed by elongation of bottom
        board, nailed joints.
        C1500-30 St George's Chapel, Windsor. Small multi-drawer with crude
        carpentry, nailed w/o refinement, slide on bottoms, bottom boards
        visible from front, ring handles.
        C1510-30 Winchester cat.20 & 21 Drawers are hung within framework,
        with a bottom board extending sideways to form a flange on each side
        which engages in grooves provided in the framework.

        Yours sincerely,

        Nick Humphrey, Curator - Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Dept.
        Victoria and Albert Museum, London SW7 2RL. http://www.vam. ac.uk/
        0207 942 2436; Fax 0207 942 2678

        >>> "James Winkler" <jrwinkler@msn. com> 01/04/2007 20:07 >>>
        Greetings -

        I belong to a group of people interested in medieval furniture and
        recently a question was put forth to the group regarding the origins
        of 'drawers' in furniture. To the best we can find, it appears that
        drawers seemed to come into existence (in, at least, a European
        context) rather suddenly sometime in the late 15th or early 16th c.

        Franz Windisch-Graetz' s "Mobel Europas" shows a few examples of
        drawers dated to the '2nd half 15th c." but that is the best we can
        come up with.

        My question is, "Does the V&A have any information on not only when
        drawers actually made their appearance in Europe but any ideas of
        what would have initiated such a design innovation?" Based on the
        fundamental skills of the late medieval and even earlier periods it
        doesn't appear that 'technical skill' couldn't have been a
        contributor.

        Any information or directions you can point us to for further
        research would be appreciated.

        Thank you -

        James Winkler
        Metamora, Illinois

      • Avery Austringer
        ... Also, when you make drawers, you are making a box that precisely fits inside another box. It s more work and materials than two boxes but it can only hold
        Message 3 of 9 , Apr 2 8:58 AM
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          >It is fascinating to speculate on why it didn't develop earlier. My
          >own thoughts on the matter are the scarcity of personal goods and the
          >pace of life.

          Also, when you make drawers, you are making a box that precisely fits
          inside another box. It's more work and materials than two boxes but it
          can only hold as much as the one. There might be aplications where
          drawers were used, but for Joe Average it probably just made more sense
          to get some kind of chest and then, another just like it.

          Avery
        • leaking pen
          plus, an individual small box that can stack inside your bigger box, but is still a useful box outside of the bigger chest is more long term utility than a
          Message 4 of 9 , Apr 2 10:13 AM
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            plus, an individual small box that can stack inside your bigger box, but is still a useful box outside of the bigger chest is more long term utility than a drawer, that outside of its chest, isnt a very good box.

            On 4/2/07, Avery Austringer <avery1415@...> wrote:

            >It is fascinating to speculate on why it didn't develop earlier. My
            >own thoughts on the matter are the scarcity of personal goods and the
            >pace of life.

            Also, when you make drawers, you are making a box that precisely fits
            inside another box. It's more work and materials than two boxes but it
            can only hold as much as the one. There might be aplications where
            drawers were used, but for Joe Average it probably just made more sense
            to get some kind of chest and then, another just like it.

            Avery




            --
            That which yields isn't always weak.
          • msgilliandurham
            greetings to the list-- I ve been following this discussion but letting more learned folks contribute, until I had this ah-ha! moment -- I d speculate the
            Message 5 of 9 , Apr 2 11:37 AM
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              greetings to the list-- I've been following this discussion but
              letting more learned folks contribute, until I had this "ah-ha!"
              moment --

              I'd speculate the evolution was

              Small boxes inside bigger boxes

              and/or

              Small boxes set on tables

              Then

              Small boxes on shelves (and what is the evolution of a set of shelves
              as a case piece -- like a modern bookcase?)

              Then leaving the lids off the boxes and making them fit tightly into
              the shelves.

              As long as the boxes stack, or are on a table one layer deep, you need
              the lids. Once the boxes are fitted onto shelves tightly enough to
              keep out the dust, the lids are extra work.

              Interesting insight!

              Gillian Durham

              --- In medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com, "leaking pen" <itsatrap@...>
              wrote:
              >
              > plus, an individual small box that can stack inside your bigger box,
              but is
              > still a useful box outside of the bigger chest is more long term utility
              > than a drawer, that outside of its chest, isnt a very good box.
              >
              > On 4/2/07, Avery Austringer <avery1415@...> wrote:
              > >
              > > >It is fascinating to speculate on why it didn't develop earlier. My
              > > >own thoughts on the matter are the scarcity of personal goods and the
              > > >pace of life.
              > >
              > > Also, when you make drawers, you are making a box that precisely fits
              > > inside another box. It's more work and materials than two boxes but it
              > > can only hold as much as the one. There might be aplications where
              > > drawers were used, but for Joe Average it probably just made more
              sense
              > > to get some kind of chest and then, another just like it.
              > >
              > > Avery
            • Tracy Swanson
              When discussing this with some like-minded friends, it was suggested that we look into reliquaries of the Catholic Church. Not only might they have organized
              Message 6 of 9 , Apr 3 5:39 PM
              • 0 Attachment
                When discussing this with some like-minded friends, it was suggested that we look into reliquaries of the Catholic Church. Not only might they have organized relics in some sort of drawer system, but how the relic fit into a larger item, such as a cross, might reveal at least some early form of drawer.
                 
                Just a thought...
                In Magical Service,
                Malaki
                 
                 
                 
                -----Original Message-----
                From: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com [mailto:medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of Joseph Paul
                Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 10:28 AM
                To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: RE: [MedievalSawdust] Drawers - the V&A's take on the question

                Thank you Charles, Bill and all others that have so patiently looked into this subject. It does appear that we have a consensus that they were not common before the mid 1500's except possibly in Spain. It is fascinating to speculate on why it didn't develop earlier. My own thoughts on the matter are the scarcity of personal goods and the pace of life. Most people didn't have many goods that needed to be kept separate and accesible in the way that a drawer provides. Once you get a number of items that need to be kept in a certain manner (this with that or all of those over there)  then you need something that will help organize it. Drawers do that and give you fast access. 
                 
                I need to look into how merchants organized their wares and see if there is anything there that will help me organize mine and look more period. 
                 
                Jamie Blackrose 
                -----Original Message-----
                From: medievalsawdust@ yahoogroups. com [mailto:medievalsaw dust@yahoogroups .com]On Behalf Of rivendalehall
                Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 9:56 AM
                To: medievalsawdust@ yahoogroups. com
                Subject: [MedievalSawdust] Drawers - the V&A's take on the question

                Well... having run out of personal sources... I resorted to writing
                the V&A to see what they might offer... (a big tip-o-the-hat to
                em'... I wrote yesterday... got the response this morning... the V&A
                ROCKS!!!) Below is both the request, as I wrote it, at the V&A's
                response...

                ... anyway, being a good member of this list I figured I'd share...
                now...to try to find those references.. .

                Chas.

                ============ ========= =======


                Dear Mr Winkler, thank you for your message.

                I can't give you a very authoritative answer, but as I understand it,
                drawers can be seen to have evolved from at least two sources: small
                compartments inside larger furniture, which are generally regarded as
                having arrived in medieval Europe (Spain) in the form of small,
                portable cabinets; and built-in eccleiastical muniment cupboards
                with multiple compartments. I am sure that others may offer a more
                nuanced approach to this interesting subject.

                I found two books useful:
                The Art of the Cabinet, Monique Riccardi-Cubitt, 1992
                Penelope Eames: Furniture in England, France and the Netherlands from
                the 12th to the 15th century, Furniture History Society (London,
                1977).

                Riccardi-Cubitt says that ancient Egyptian tomb furniture was
                sometimes fitted with with internal compartments/ drawers. She notes a
                13th century Hispano-Moresque fall-front cabinet with drawers
                (Toledo) of Egyptian ark form with domed lid. Thereafter she gives a
                date of 1430 for the first freestanding cupboard (without doors)
                which developed from built in cupboards, using the layette (which
                metamorphosed into drawer as part of a larger piece of furniture.)
                She gives a 1471 reference to a cupboard with 'a deux guischez et a
                une leaite' (ie two doors and a drawer). Note that most early
                examples are prob ecclesiastical in origin eg 1458 German sacristy
                chest. Drawers common in domestic surroundings by c1550 p106.

                Eames' reference to the earliest drawers studied (Northern Europe) is
                in relation to a multi-drawer armoire dated 1430 (French). She also
                cites the following:
                1458-70 Wells multi-drawer armoire in Muniment room: small drawers
                with finger pulls at lower front formed by elongation of bottom
                board, nailed joints.
                C1500-30 St George's Chapel, Windsor. Small multi-drawer with crude
                carpentry, nailed w/o refinement, slide on bottoms, bottom boards
                visible from front, ring handles.
                C1510-30 Winchester cat.20 & 21 Drawers are hung within framework,
                with a bottom board extending sideways to form a flange on each side
                which engages in grooves provided in the framework.

                Yours sincerely,

                Nick Humphrey, Curator - Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Dept.
                Victoria and Albert Museum, London SW7 2RL. http://www.vam. ac.uk/
                0207 942 2436; Fax 0207 942 2678

                >>> "James Winkler" <jrwinkler@msn. com> 01/04/2007 20:07 >>>
                Greetings -

                I belong to a group of people interested in medieval furniture and
                recently a question was put forth to the group regarding the origins
                of 'drawers' in furniture. To the best we can find, it appears that
                drawers seemed to come into existence (in, at least, a European
                context) rather suddenly sometime in the late 15th or early 16th c.

                Franz Windisch-Graetz' s "Mobel Europas" shows a few examples of
                drawers dated to the '2nd half 15th c." but that is the best we can
                come up with.

                My question is, "Does the V&A have any information on not only when
                drawers actually made their appearance in Europe but any ideas of
                what would have initiated such a design innovation?" Based on the
                fundamental skills of the late medieval and even earlier periods it
                doesn't appear that 'technical skill' couldn't have been a
                contributor.

                Any information or directions you can point us to for further
                research would be appreciated.

                Thank you -

                James Winkler
                Metamora, Illinois

              • julian wilson
                Tracy Swanson wrote: When discussing this with some like-minded friends, it was suggested that we look into reliquaries of the Catholic
                Message 7 of 9 , Apr 4 10:13 AM
                • 0 Attachment
                  Tracy Swanson <tstar2000@...> wrote:
                  When discussing this with some like-minded friends, it was suggested that we look into reliquaries of the Catholic Church. Not only might they have organized relics in some sort of drawer system, but how the relic fit into a larger item, such as a cross, might reveal at least some early form of drawer.
                   
                  Just a thought...
                  In Magical Service,
                  Malaki
                   
                   
                  MUCH GOOD STUFF SNIPPED AS POSTED PREVIOUSLY
                  .
                   
                  COMMENT
                  I have just restored and repaired a silver-embellished, wooden, Reliquary Cross containing what purports to be a fragment of the True Cross.
                   
                  To repair the woodwork, I had to remove the sealed, silver, glazed  "capsule reliquary" which is situated at the junction of the upright and the arms.
                  From the Seal, and from the microscopic writing inside the capsule - and according to our Catholic Dean of Jersey, Canon Nicholas France, SJ, - the whole object originates from "official" Vatican sources - and may have been a Papal Gift to the newly-built Church of St. Thomas in St. Helier, Jersey, when it officially opened in the 1870's. Canon France will not hazzard a guess at the Date of the Reliquary.
                   
                  However, to the point of our discussion - drawers.
                   
                  In the wooden base of the Cross ], - tooled from a solid block of timber 6"x5"x5" high - there is a recess [when one turns it upside down] 3" longx2"wide x 1.5" deep, with a 1/4"x1/4" recessed lips all the way round, obviously formed to accept a 1/4"-thick closure panel; - there is a tiny brass catch, and a pair of miniature hand-made brass hinges still in-situ, - but the wooden closure panel is missing.
                  Because I wanted to know if Canon France wanted me to make a replacement panel [he didn't], I asked him about this recess - and his reply was that every "officailly-Vatican-issued" Reliquary comes with a Vatican document, which attests to the provenance of the Relic - so far as the Roman Church is able to determine. Hence the recess, for keeping document and reliquary together.
                  No drawer - I grant you, - but certainly a reason for historical Artisans devising some hidden means of keeping such an Attesting Document with a Reliquary - so a reason for incorporporating concealed drawers in Reliquary Designs.
                  Just thought you might be interested.
                   
                  YiS,
                  Matthew Baker, dwelling in "old" Jersey,
                  ion the Outer Marches of Insulæ Draconis.



                • Liedtke Goetz
                  Did you-all notice in the email from the curator of the V&A that his sources refer to the earliest use of drawers for ecclesiastical muniments? Both Malaki and
                  Message 8 of 9 , Apr 4 9:29 PM
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                    Did you-all notice in the email from the curator of the V&A that his
                    sources refer to the earliest use of drawers for ecclesiastical
                    muniments?

                    Both Malaki and Julian's emails point out that the church would
                    likely have had the first need for drawers.

                    I'm not sure what, exactly, an "ecclesiastical muniment" is, but I do
                    know that a muniment is documentary evidence by which one can defend a
                    title to property or a claim to rights. In the Medieval period, the
                    church was the primary record-keeper, and therefore the primary
                    custodian of documents, including muniments. Not only that, but much
                    of the church property gained during that period was through grants
                    provided by Crusaders to the church - which the church would need to
                    defend. Thus, we have drawers in their earliest Medieval use for
                    filing.

                    So, my argument is that the cabinetmaker wishing to build authentic
                    Medieval drawers will need to make a filing cabinet.

                    Goetz




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                  • hiliarynicseamu@aol.com
                    In a sense You are right -- one of the major uses for chests was to store documents, maps, etc besides clothes and other valuables. Hiliary Mariaduh nicSeamus
                    Message 9 of 9 , Apr 4 10:58 PM
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                      In a sense You are right -- one of the major uses for chests was to store documents, maps, etc besides clothes and other valuables.
                       
                      Hiliary Mariaduh nicSeamus




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