Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


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

caskets-boxes-bib - 12/24/02


A bibliography on medieval caskets and boxes by Master Magnus Malleus.


NOTE: See also the files: caskets-boxes-msg, chests-msg, furniture-msg, chairs-msg, beds-msg, wood-msg, tools-msg, tools-bib, wood-finishes-msg, woodworking-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.


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



Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2002 18:03:54 -0400

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at bellsouth.net>

Subject: Leather Boxes and Caskets (updated)

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu


> I'm looking for any information dealing with the construction of boxes

  made from leather or wooden boxes covered with leather.

  - thanks, Rolf the Blunt <


Okay, this is an item of mild interest to me so I'll give you a

start... Try:


Anker, Peter: Chests and Caskets; Norway, 1975.

        The author is the Director of the Museum of Applied Art in

        Bergen, and an expert on Norwegian folk art. English.

        Bibl.80 pp. 105 b&w ill. 4 col. ill. 8"x5 1/2". Softbound.

        ISBN 82-7003-054-6. Code: 2628 Price: $26.50, From:

        info at nordicartbooks.com, Nordic Art Books, 3650 Cross

        Creek Road Malibu, California, 90265-4946 U.S.A,

        tel: (310) 456-8762 or (818) 222-1122 / fax:(310) 456-5714

        This is a fascinating history of the chest - and of its

        smaller relation, the casket -  their practical uses,

        social functions, customs associated with them, materials,

        productions, and decorations. Chapters include: Before

        Drawers and Cupboards; The First Chests; The Dwellings of

        the Dead; House-Shaped Chests, Arks and Grain Bins;

        Gothic Chests; The Role of the Chest in the Past; Chests

        and Benches, The Craft of the Renaissance Joiner; Bridal

        Chests and Coats of Arms; Baroque Chests, The 17th Century;

        From the Traveller's Chest to the Trunk and the Suit-Case;

        Chests in Rural Storehouses; Rose-Painted Chests (The

        Halling Chest, the Telemark Chest); Carved Chests, Caskets,

        Chests Today, Chests c. 1000-1900.


Berger, Ewald: Prunk-Kassetten, Europaische Meisterwerke aus Acht

        Jahrhunderten, Ornamental Caskets, Eight Centuries ; 1998:

        Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, cloth, dj, Text in English and German.

        The Hans Schell Collection, Graz., profuse color & b/w illus.,

        318 pages, 12 x 10, ornamental caskets / decorative art /

        metal work /gold boxes.  ISBN 3-925369-83-X   $110.

        Bestand katloge der Hanns Schell collection; Bd 1. (to be

        followed by others on cast iron objects, locks and keys, forged

        steel objects, and guild emblems.) Pp. 336, approximately 500



Berger, Ewald: Ornamental Coffers; Eight Centuries of European

        Craftsmanship ISBN: 392536983X  Arnoldsche Verlaganstalt GmbH,

        Jan.1999, US 110.00


Blair, John, and Nigel Ramsey: English Medieval Industries; 1992. An

        overview of the current level of knowledge in a number of

        disciplines, including wood, leather, fabric, and pewter casting.

        Has some small discussion on the matter.

Buckley, J.J.: Some Early Ornamented Leatherwork. Journal of the Royal

        Society of Antiquaries of Ireland vol. XLV, part IV, 1915.

        pp.300-309 (Cumdachs and Polaires: Medieval Irish Book Shrines

        and Book Satchels)


Camille, Michael: The Medieval Art of Love, Objects and Subjects of

        Desire, Harry N. Abrams Pubs., 1998, New York, ISBN 0810915448

        Contains a range of objets d'amour including caskets. Pages 67

        and 107 have two different caskets. The style of carving

        looks very two-dimentional, there's a background and a

        foreground with very little modeling. All the other detail is

        provided by paint. The one from Cologne on 67 is definitely

        similar in style to the Swiss casket on 107.  Appears to be

        painted pierced applique put into a carved out depression.


Cherry, John: "The Talbot Casket and Related Late Medieval Caskets"

        Archaeologica 107 (1982): 131-40.


D'Allemagne, Henry Rene: Decorative Antique Ironwork, A Pictorial

        Treasury, over 4500 illustrations; Dover, New York, 1968,

        416 pages, PB, ISBN 0486220826, contains many locks, keys

        and escutcheon plates on pages 36-104, and also contains

        many illustrations of medieval and renaissance chests and

        almsboxes on pages 391-408. My copy is 1968 but it's in reprint.

        Contains a number of pictures of caskets and fittings. Some

        of them are leather covered.


: Deutsches Ledermuseum: Kunsthandwerk, Volkskunde, Völkerkunde,

        Fachtechnik; Deutsches Schuhmuseum; 2.Aufl. Offenbach am Main,

        1961. 154 pp. 58 ills.


GALL, GÜNTHER.: Leder im europäischen ; Kunsthandwerk. Braunschweig,

        1965. 4to., orcl., xii, 406 pp., w. 16 pl. in color 304 ills.

        in text. (Bibl. für Kunst u. Antiquitätenfreunde, Bd. XLIV).

        Klinkhardt & Biermann - Braunschweig.

        - It is flat out stunning in the variety of items. There are

        fantastic things in it like crown cases, reliquary cases, leather

        caskets and trunks, cases for all sorts of things, many of them

        repouseed in very high relief. There are a number of leather

        covered shields in it. A few early ones, many from around 1600.

          On the subject of shoes, it has only a shoe foot reliquary, and

        I don't recall any saddles. The entries are from many different

        museums and countries.

        - There are a number of differently styled leather bottels than

        we are used to seeing although there is a short section on English

        style jacks, bombards, and costrels.

        - There are cases for silver and crystal cups, one particularly

        fine piece is a leather cover for a fully rigged silver ship

        centerpiece, masts, flags, rigging and all.

        - There are some knife scabbards but no sword scabbards except for

        a case for a sword of state.

        - A few of the pieces are religious. Most are secular. The majority

        of the book is simply masterpiece quality work.

        - A number of the pieces such as the shields and caskets are

        illustrated from more than one view, in the case of the caskets

        usually front and back or front and top, but not ends. I was very

        impressed with the number of leather caskets in it. The

        majority of this book is later Middle Ages and Renaissance and

        the material seems to end about 1920, but there is very little

        modern work in it. This is one of the ultimate books on the subject.


Hoving, Thomas: Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle

        Ages; Published by E.P. Dutton and Co. in association with

        Metropolitan Museum of Art, First Edition, Reproductions, photos,

        Cloth, 1975. ISBN (cloth) 052549507x; (paper) 0870990969  

        Many leather items, some have some raised leather with glue/

        dust inserts under it.


Kup, Karl. "Notes on a Fifteenth-Century Cofferet" Connoisseur 140

        (1957): 62-66.


Leland, Charles G.: Leather Tooling; Sterling Publishing Co. New York,

        1975. Oak Tree Press, London and Sydney. Various dates. First

        published as Leather Work: A Practical Manual for Learners

        in England, 1892.

        Not much on caskets or trunks but really excellent on tooling

        and full of medievally inspired designs. Excellent on the subject.


Mullbacher, Eva: Europaische Lederarbeiten vom 14. bis 19. Jahrhundert;

        (European Leatherwork from the 14th to 19th Centuries); Staatliche Museen

        Preussicher Kulturbesitz, Berlin 1988. Aus dem Sammlungen des Berliner

        Kunstgewerbemuseseums 1988. 19.5 x 24.5 cm., Brosch, 96 pages, 80 b&w

        and 18 color illustrations. Vorwort 3; Einfuhrung 4; Lederarbeiten mit

        geschnittenem dekor, Katalog 1-26 p.6.;  Lederarbeiten mit gemalten Dekor,    Druck und Golddruck,


Nenno, Rosita: "Gerbeverfahren, Lederverarbeitung, und Zeirtechniken"

        in: Europa"ische Technik in Mittelalter, 800 bis 1400, Tradition

        and Innovation, Ein Handbuch, by Uta Lindgren, Gebr. Mann Verlag,

        Berlin, 1996. ISBN 3786117489. Leather article covers pages

        487-92, includes closeups of several highly molded caskets.


Newman, Thelma: Leather as Art and Craft: ISBN 0 517 505754, there is

        a photo of a leather covered box from 15th C. Italy from the

        Metropolitan Museum of Art.


de Récy, Georges: Leather Work; From the French of Georges de Récy

        (The Decoration of Leather) translated by Maude Nathan,

        (1905) Reprinted 2000, The Caber Press, Jack C. Thompson,

        Editor. http://home.teleport.com/~tcl/caber.htm Originally

        104 pages reduced to 48, retaining the period Middle Ages and

        Renaissance information and pictures, dropping the modern

        material. Eleven pictures depict leather caskets (3); An

        Italian 15th C.case of cut and embossed leather cuir bouilli;

        a French 14th C. Coffret, incised, colored and gilt, a case

        of cut and punched leather - German, 15th C., an Italian cover

        of a Case for a cup in wood covered embossed leather -

        cuir bouilli, embossed, painted and gilt, about 1500; A

        Powder-flask of wood covered with leather - cuir bouilli,

        cut and embossed - Italian 16th C.; An Italian      16th C.

        Shield of cut and embossed cuir bouilli; A Blind stamped

        leather bookbinding oF the Winchester Domesday Book -

        English 12th C.; A 15th C. German Brown Leather bookbinding,

        cut and engraved with punched background - German MS.

        Chronicle of Events; A blind-stamped Morroco binding with gilt

        roundels and coloured cameo design - Celsus. De Medicina,

        Venice 1477, A cover of a work box of wood covered with

        embossed leather, cuir bouilli, German 16th C.. Sections

        include Tools and Leather, Choice of Skin, Methods of working

        in leather: tracing the design on the leather, Incising the

        leather, Modelling Tools, Embossing leather, modelled leather

        with Punched background, Leather Hangings and Furniture,

        Some extracts from the report of the committee on leather for

        bookbinding appointed by the Society of Arts, February 1900.


No chests in this one but some excellent inspiration and tips:

Russell, Janet: English Medieval Leatherwork; Arch. Journal 96

        (1) 1939, pp. 132-41 and plates I-VI.  Discusses metal

        stamps, embossed and relief designs, blunt tool engravings,

        incised designs, cuir bouilli, painting and gilding,

        guilds, illustrates sheathes, part of a saddle, shoe toe,

        short select bibliography. Plate I contains a fifteenth

        century knife sheath with fleur-de-lis stamps in an under

        and over double lattice running between diamonds (quite

        attractive), and the upper and  lower pieces of an embossed

        thirteenth century knife sheath at roughly 2/3 scale size,

        totaling about nine inches each.  Plate II shows an

        embossed fifteenth century Rondel Dagger Sheath with

        incised coil decoration;  Part of stamped and incised

        Fleur-de Lys decoration on a belt (very intricately and

        numerously stamped; and a small bit of Moulded Relief

        decoration on a cuir-bouilli inkwell, showing three

        saints in arcaded little panels over a man (Saint

        Sebastian probably) with his hands tied behind him and

        three arrow heads to either side of his arcade, with

        archers on either side of him in their arcaded panels.  

        Plate III shows an incised knife sheath, fifteenth century

        (9 1/2"); an engraved knife sheath with embossed birds in

        acanthus scrolls of the 12th C. (8"); and Part of a

        sword-sheath decorated with punched and engraved fleur-de-lys

        of the 14-15th centuries (13"). Plate IV shows the upper

        part of a knife sheath, back engraved with animals in

        Acanthus Roundels and the front having designs of chevrons

        and three shields in both embossed and lightly stamped and

        cut designs. Plate V shows a 14th C. knife sheath with dull

        tool embossed cross-hatch designs; a 15th C. sheath with

        engraved and pricked design of diamonds with strapping

        between them and varying designs within them; and a small

        part of a 13-14th C. zoomorphic design. Plate VI shows a

        suggested part of a saddle (now taken to be an upper arm guard)

        with foliage and animals.  Plate VII shows the triangular

        supposed toe of a shoe, which is taken to be the highest

        degree of Medieval Leather Craftsmanship attained in the

        late middle ages. The article is probably the best discussion

        of decorative styles of leatherwork and cuir bouilli to be found.


I know a scale case isn't exactly a box but:

Scull, Christopher, with many assorted other authors: Excavation

        and Survey at Watchfield, 1983-32; Arch. Journal 149, 1992,

        pp.124-281. Includes many photographs and drawings of an early

        Anglo-Saxon Cemetery and it’s inhabitants and their possessions

        from the Vale of the White Horse. Some finds are neolithic to

        medieval, one is 1700’s knife handle, other finds include

        glass and bone beads, brooches, weapons, shield rivets,

        handles and umbos, a deteriorated leather scabbard and a

        scale case made of leather with scales and weights and

        inscription, cauldron bits and fittings, tweezers, knives,

        buckles, saucer brooches and one’s construction, ear spoon,

        square headed       brooches, amber, dress pins, skeletal

        remains with analysis, remains of horn handle for sword,  

        electron pictures of grooves cut in carnelian by a bow drill,

        reconstructions of the pattern welded sword blades (similar to

        Sutton Hoo but not quite as complex, nine page bibliography.

        Most things are drawn and not photographed in the text.

        Excellent coverage of most materials and discussions of

        specific fields of items by specialists.


Scurlock, William, ed.: Muzzleloader Magazine's Book of Buckskinning

        VII; Scurlock Publishing Co., Texarkana, TX, 1995,

        ISBN 188065505-5.

        Contains an excellent post period article on the "Goods of the

        Trunkmaker and His Trade" by Steven M. Lalioff, pp 198-221.

        Descriptions and photographs of original trunks, deed boxes, and

        chests. Also see plates VII-XII. By someone who has a large

        collection and remakes them.


Singer, Charles, et al: A History of Technology, Volume II, 1956,

        Oxford. Covers the Mediterranean Civilization and the Middle Ages.

        Has a whole chapter on leather by Waterer. Includes cofferers.


Snyder, W.E.: The Leathercraftsman. A Textbook on Leatherwork ;

        Worchester: American Handicrafts, (1936). cloth, gilt lettering,

        176pp., Includes; A Brief History of Leather, Leathercraft

        Through the Ages, Construction and Decorating, Tools, Lacing,

        Steps in making a leathercraft article etc., etc.,

        Illustrations, index.


Society of Antiquaries of London : Archaeologia; or, Miscellaneous

        Tracts Relating to Antiquity; published by the Society of

        Antiquaries of London; Volume CVII, London, 1982, pp.222,

        text-illustrations, plates. Includes: Swords and sequence

        in the British Bronze Age; Anglo-Saxon Glass claw-beakers;

        Anglo-Saxon button brooches; The sanctuary ring of Durham

        Cathedral; The Talbot Casket and Related Late Medieval

        Leather Caskets by John Cherry; The stained glass of the

        chapel of the Vyne and the Chapel of the Holy Ghost,

        Basingstoke; Ightham Mote: politics and architecture in

        Early Tudor England.


Stohlman, Al: The Art of Hand Sewing Leather; 1977,

        Tandy Leather Co., Ft. Worth, TX.


Stohlman, Al and Ann: The Art of Making Leather Cases Volume 1-2-3 ;

        1979, Tandy Leather Co., Ft. Worth, TX.


Stohlman, Al: Coloring Leather, 1985, Tandy Leather Co., Ft. Worth, TX.


Stohlman, Al: How to Carve Leather, 1952, Craftool Co., Ft. Worth, TX.

      Tandy Leather, various dates. Modern techniques.

        Modern finish.


Underhill, Roy: [Video] The Williamsburg Trunkmaker. Woodwright's Shop

        Series. WUNC-TV, Chapel Hill, NC. Mostly on other techniques of

        hand leatherwork but includes some discussion of chests and coffers,

        notably including that the wood was not nailed together but

        glued until the tacks holding the leather were driven in.


Waterer, John William. "Irish Book-Satchels or Budgets";

        Medieval Archaeology, Vol. XII, 1968, pp. 70-82.,

        13pp, 4figs, 4 b/w plates IV-VII.


Waterer, John W.: "Leather" in Connoiseur Period Guides - Tudor

        1500-1603. Edited by Ralph Edwards, Reynal and Company,

        New York, No Date, 60's-70's? Leather Chapter is

        pp.149-59 plus plates. Includes forcers, chests, saddle,

        gloves, buff tunic, Paten box, prayer book casket,

        leather lantern, flasks, bottells, bookcover, leather

        bedcover, on plates 81-4.


Waterer, John William: Leather and Craftsmanship; Faber & Faber LTD.,

        London, 66pp, 32 pls, 1950.


Waterer, John William: Leather Craftsmanship; Frederick A. Praeger,

        Publishers, New York and Washington, 1968. Published in England

        by G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., London. Better than below for this

        purpose. Has a chapter that discusses leather boxes and some

        of the manner of their construction.  


Waterer,  John W: Leather in Life, Art and Industry; London.

        Faber & Faber Ltd.; 1946. 320 pp., Frontis, 110 plates, & a

        further 20 illustrations in the text. With forewords by Sir Charles

        Tennyson and George W. Odey. "An outline of its preparation and

        uses in Britain yesterday and today together with some reflections

        on its place in the world of synthetics tomorrow." Brief mentions

        of caskets/trunks.


Waterer, John William. "A Historical Forcer."; Connoisseur 134 (1954):

        189-191. A Forcer is a casket.


Waterer has another on Spanish Leather that is supposed to include

        it's use on caskets but it is primarily concerned with

        embossed late period leather used on walls, furniture, etc.


Will that do for a start? I'm afraid I don't have any more time to

search through diverse tomes today... :)


(c) Master Magnus Malleus, OL, GDH

    Windmasters' Hill, Atlantia


May be forwarded to sca or re-enactor email lists,

but NOT to the Rialto (rec.org.sca) or ANY other newsgroup.


<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