Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or Word formats.

14C-Dtch-YoYo-art - 8/2/15


"A Fourteenth-Century Dutch Yo-Yo" by Master Crispin Sexi.


NOTE: See also the files: 2-Hobbyhorses-art, Horsey-Toys-art, toys-msg, Toys-in-th-MA-art, Mkng-Med-Toys-art, child-gam-msg, Balls-art, p-lathes-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



You can find more work by this author on this website:



This article was first published in the Midwinter 2010 issue of Cockatrice, the Arts & Sciences Newsletter for Lochac.


A Fourteenth-Century Dutch Yo-Yo

by Master Crispin Sexi


Yo-yos are thought to have been a popular toy since Classical times. Painted terra cotta disks similar to modern yo-yos survive, offered to certain gods as ceremonial objects when a child came of age. A boy playing with one such disc on a string seems to be depicted in an Attic kylix painting dated to 440 BCE.


Yo yo player, clay slip, c 440BCE. Antikensammlung Berlin.


A Dutch tile purportedly dating to 1630-1650 depicting a boy with a yo-yo is one of the earliest modern references to the game.



Given its popularity in ancient and modern times, it is surprising that information about this toy in the middle ages has not been forthcoming. More evidence would possibly be available if one knew what it was called: eighteenth century names for the yo-yo include bandalore, l'emigrette, quiz, and joujou de Normandie.


Fortunately historian Annemarieke Willemsen reveals a fourteenth century wooden yo-yo from the Dutch town of Kampen, the first evidence of yo-yos from the medieval period: 'In the inner city of Kampen a wooden yo-yo of the fourteenth century has been found (B18, Figure 39). It is a standard model yo-yo, in the form of two rounded halves with a transverse axis. The axis is in the middle slightly narrowed and reveals traces of the thread with which it was wound. Illustrations wherein the yo-yo is being played with are not known from this period.'


Willemsen provides the dimensions of the Dutch yo-yo, and mentions remains of the original string, but does not specify the type of wood. Since the photograph shows the wood grain, especially the core of the rings matching somewhat closely with the core of the yo-yo, I judged the item to be carved from a single short section of branch. The splits in the wood stretching from the edge onto the axle support this construction. Given the uneven shape, it was unlikely to have been turned on a lathe. The only apparent decoration is a single incised line around the outer edge of both mushroom-shaped disks.




For this reproduction, I have tried to stay close to the original dimensions: 5.4cm diameter, 2cm thickness of each half with a 1.6cm diameter axle. Keeping with the given information, I decided not to determine the kind of wood used.



Design including approximate dimensions.



A sawn branch section 5cm thick, not quite round.



I used a chisel to make the sawn log piece rounder, then my power sander to make it rounder still.



I started to round the sides using a carving knife, but it was taking too long so I used my power sander again. I then used saw and chisel to make the central axle.



Completed yo-yo, after filing the axle and inner edges of the disks smooth and adding a piece of string.



Comparison with the original photograph. The axle should perhaps be slightly longer.


People with more dexterity than I, report that the yo-yo works quite satisfactorily, especially after fixing how the string was attached.




Antonia Fraser, A History of Toys. London: Hamlyn, 1972.

Robert Flaceliere. Daily Life in Greece at the Time of Pericles. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

John Meisenheimer, 2008. 'Lucky's History of the Yo-yo. Online www.yo-yos.net (March 2010)

Annemarieke Willemsen, Kinder Delijt: medieval toys in the Netherlands. Nijmegen 1998. Translation India Olleranshaw.


Copyright 2010 by Jaysen Ollerenshaw. <crispin at homemail.com.au>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org