RE: [MedievalSawdust] Drawers - the V&A's take on the question
- 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: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]On Behalf Of Joseph Paul
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 10:28 AM
Subject: RE: [MedievalSawdust] Drawers - the V&A's take on the questionThank 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
... anyway, being a good member of this list I figured I'd share...
now...to try to find those references.. .
============ ========= =======
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,
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.
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 >>>
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
Any information or directions you can point us to for further
research would be appreciated.
Thank you -
- 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.COMMENTI 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.
- 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
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
So, my argument is that the cabinetmaker wishing to build authentic
Medieval drawers will need to make a filing cabinet.
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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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