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caskets-boxes-msg - 1/17/01

Medieval caskets and boxes. Decoration and construction.

NOTE: See also the files: furniture-msg, keys-locks-msg, beds-msg, ivory-msg, tools-msg, wood-finishes-msg, wood-msg, glues-msg, chip-carving-msg.


This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.

This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org

I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.

The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.

Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).

Thank you,
    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous
                                          Stefan at florilegium.org

From: Tanya Guptill <tguptill at teleport.com>
Newsgroups: rec.org.sca
Subject: Voxtorp Church Chest--plans now online
Date: Wed, 01 Dec 1999 01:08:20 -0800

Stephen Wyley has posted the plans and details of construction for a
replica of the Voxtorp Church chest.  These can be viewed at


Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 15:02:00 -0500
From: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>
Organization: Windmaster's Hill, Atlantia, and the GDH
Subject: Re: Leather Boxes and Caskets

> 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

: Deutsches Ledermuseum: Kunsthandwerk, Volkskunde, Völkerkunde,
Fachtechnik; Deutsches Schuhmuseum; 2.Aufl. Offenbach am Main,
1961. 154 pp. 58 ills.

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.

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 Objects Illustrated on 415 plates.
Dover, ISBN 0486220826. My copy is 1968 but it's in reprint.
Contains a number of pictures of caskets and fittings. Some
of them are leather covered.

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.

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.

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 and Ann: The Art of Making Leather Cases Volumes I, II, and III.
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

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.

Date: Mon, 22 May 2000 10:00:34 -0400
From: STIS Data Analyst <gonnella at stsci.edu>
To: sca-arts <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>
Subject: battle of the sexes, with roses

There is an ivory carved box in the Walters with scenes on all sides,
one of which is described as the battle of the sexes. It is a battle
scene, with men standing outside a castle, loading up a trebuchet
with roses to fling over the walls. Ladies are atop the walls
hurling roses down at the men, while cupid stands besides them shooting
his arrows.

I think I've also seen an illuminated scene similar to this, but I can't
remember where. Can anyone tell me where I could find a painting or
manuscript with this scene?  I would really appreciate any references.


Date: Sun, 02 Jul 2000 16:40:35 -0400
From: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>
Organization: Windmaster's Hill, Atlantia, and the GDH
To: matt kaye <rolftheblunt at yahoo.com>
CC: atlantia at atlantia.sca.org
Subject: Re: Bamberg Casket

Rolf the Blunt (Matt Kaye) wrote:
> I'm interested in reproducing the bamberg casket in leather and
> wood. does anyone know of a book detailing its size and history?

Okay, Rolf, I've thought about this for a while and come up with
some sources of some information. I want to _see_ this thing if
you make it, and I want to know if you find complete depictions
of the sides and top, as _I_ might be interested in doing a more
accurate to materials piece one day. You can buy alternative
ivory, or even make ivory simulations of polymer clay. Mistress
Gunnora Hallakarva (The Viking Answer Lady, on web) wrote an
excellent piece on making polymer ivory a while back, and I wrote
a source list for alternative and real ivory. :) I think they are
both in the www.Florilegium.org

I also wrote a bibliography on caskets a while back so this was
of some interest to me. The Florilegium may have that too.

Details are given in text in Viking Art by David M. Wilson, 1966/80,
U of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minn..

The Bamberg Casket is now in the Bavarian National Museum in Munich.
It is also known as the jewel casket of Queen Kunigunde,
the daughter of Canute the Great. Of Scandinavian workmanship.
(It was the Cammin casket and not the Bamberg Casket which was
destroyed during WWII - but the workmanship and style are very

"The casket is square in plan and has a slightly pitched roof:
10.4" (25 cm.) long and 5.1 in. (13 cm.) high, it consists of an
oak box covered with thin, carved sheets of walrus ivory. These
sheets are clasped by gilt-bronze bands, which are nailed to the
wooden base. The lid is reinforced and decorated with ridge poles
set saltirewise with a spherical crystal separating four animal
heads in the centre.  The animal and birds heads are in high
relief and are floridly formalized. The other strips of gilt bronze
are decorated with a formal tendril pattern, or an irregular
Scandinavianized interlaced version of it, modern replacements
(the original key hole is a T-shaped slot in the lid), while a
number of pieces of cast bronze are missing from the space between
the arms of the saltire on the lid." (The nails look like brass
escutcheon pins to me.)

"The ivory panels are skilfully decorated in a lively version of
the Mammen style. In one of the fields of the lid, for example, is
a human mask triangular form, the moustache, hair and beard of
which are produced into fantastically elaborate scrolls and tendrils,
the broader band containing the familiar pelleting so typical of the
style. Other panels contain birds and animals (in pairs or singly),
all caught up in the great convolutions of the tendrils and leaf-like
interlace. The right-hand panel on the lid of the box, for example,
bears the representation of of a fierce creature with lip-lappet,
spiral hips, large feet, interlacing terminals and a tail terminating
in an acanthus leaf. Like all the carving on this box, this creature
has a movement and freshness which has been missing from Viking art
for more than a hundred years."

There are two plates in the book showing the top and one (hinge)
side view.
In The Art of Scandinavia, Vol. One, by Peter Anker, Paul Hamlyn
Publ., 1970, there is some rather erroneous information as to the
construction, which it variously refers to as horn. There is a rather
loose and confusing discussion of the Mammen Style, which this is a
rather good illustration of, and there are line drawings of the
Cammin (which was of antler plates) and Bamberg Caskets. In the case
of the Bamberg Casket there is a detail of the front mounts (after
Shetelig, who I believe wrote a book on the Cammin Casket in German
more than 60 years ago) and a view looking from slightly above
one corner across the top showing two sides somewhat indistintly.

The association and dating of the casket are indistinct except for
legend as no actual reference exists for it before 1736. "It's
traditional name, 'Queen Kunigunde's jewel casket', may well have
been derived from the fact that, according to an old tradition,
Emperor Henry III's Queen, (the daughter of King Cnute the Great of
Denmark) had special connections with Bamberg. No stylistic arguments
can be pleaded -against- a story leading back to Danish court art of
the earliest decades of the 11th century - only it would, so to
speak, be too good to be true."

These depictions and discussions can be found on pages 164-8.
In The Northern World, by David M. Wilson, 1980, Harry N. Abrams
Inc., New York, is a b/w frontal photograph of the casket on page
166 which is fairly clear.
In The Viking World by James Graham-Campbell, Ticknor and Fields,
1980, is an excellent picture in color from an above the front view
showing the front and top. Mentions of this and the Cammin caskets
similarity to Viking house styles is on page 206. On 207 is a color
picture of the Cammmin casket replica from askance one end. The
inference here is to the Trelleborg fort barracks-style constructions
and the hog-backed grave covers from Northern England, the ones
with the biting bears on the ends.
In The Cultural Atlas of the Viking World (ed. James Graham-Campbell),
1994 Andromeda Oxford Ltd., is another color picture looking above
the left front corner to the other side, showing left side, front and
top, but rather small, on page 99.

Magnus Malleus, OL, Atlantia, GDH

From: Kirk Poore <xxxremovexxxkirkpoore at home.com>
Newsgroups: rec.org.sca
Subject: Re: Chest handles
Date: Fri, 07 Jul 2000 21:47:55 GMT

> Felimid mentioned a particular period chest, which raises a question I
> have been wondering about. What sorts of handles did period chests have?
> The reason I'm wondering about it is that I have been building oak
> tourney chests for myself and my lady, and am wondering whether and how
> they should be equipped with handles.
> --
> David/Cariadoc
> http://www.best.com/~ddfr/Medieval/Medieval.html

The short answer is that a lot of period chests didn't have handles.  In
Charles Tracy's "English Medieval Furniture and Woodwork", which is the
Victoria and Albert's book on their medieval wood collection, 10 chests are
pictured and only one has handles.  Unfortunately, the sole visible handle
is on the shaded side of the chest and I can't make out details.  It is
attached near the top of the chest end.  Daniel Diehl has only one chest
with handles (out of four) in his medieval furniture books.  The second
book, "Medival Furniture",  shows a hewn-timber chest with two iron rings on
each end.  A rope could certainly be tied between the two for a handle.
I've seen the two-ring arrangement on at least one other chest.

I'm pretty sure I have seen a picture of handles on period chests which form
an "L" shape (looking from the side).  Alas, I can't find any pictures or
references at home--you might try books showing period ironwork.  Handles
like this hang down like an inverted L.  When you pick them up, the long
part of the L rotates 90 degrees to point straight out, forming the hand
grip.  The short part stops on the side of the chest, keeping the handle
from rotating up anymore and smashing your knuckles on the chest.

Kirk FitzDavid

From: "asylum" <asylum at us.HSAnet.net>
Newsgroups: rec.org.sca
Subject: Re: Chest Handles
Date: Sat, 8 Jul 2000 23:13:16 -0400

Once again we are faced with making decisions based on a small group of
second hand examples.  Chests were used as both household furnishings and
for transport of equipment.  Because of wear and tear, the majority of
existing examples would tend to be of the household furniture types.  As
most of you have observed, the chests we use for transport are cruelly
abused in the process.  After several generations of abuse, a more lightly
built travel chest could very well end up as kindling, where a substantial
(heavy) household chest would just sit in castle or cathedral and change
contents or be dragged to a new room every generation or so.

To sum up: handles were probably common on traveling chests, but traveling
chests commonly didn't survive long enough to be recorded.  Do paper grocery
bags have handles?  In a hundred years, who will be able to tell?

A good source for further research would be any manuscript illustrations
showing armies/families/traders in transit.  I'll look about for additional

Atli Vathason,
(Bruce Blackistone) full time civil servant, part time blacksmith, seasonal
Viking ship captain and First Warlord of Markland.

Kirk Poore wrote in message <39664FC5.A2A0513 at home.com>...
>The short answer is that a lot of period chests didn't have handles.  In
>Charles Tracy's "English Medieval Furniture and Woodwork", which is the
>Victoria and Albert's book on their medieval wood collection, 10 chests are
>pictured and only one has handles.  Unfortunately, the sole visible handle
>is on the shaded side of the chest and I can't make out details.  It is
>attached near the top of the chest end.  Daniel Diehl has only one chest
>with handles (out of four) in his medieval furniture books.  The second
>book, "Medival Furniture",  shows a hewn-timber chest with two iron rings on
>each end.  A rope could certainly be tied between the two for a handle.
>I've seen the two-ring arrangement on at least one other chest.
>I'm pretty sure I have seen a picture of handles on period chests which form
>an "L" shape (looking from the side).  Alas, I can't find any pictures or
>references at home--you might try books showing period ironwork.  Handles
>like this hang down like an inverted L.  When you pick them up, the long
>part of the L rotates 90 degrees to point straight out, forming the hand
>grip.  The short part stops on the side of the chest, keeping the handle
>from rotating up anymore and smashing your knuckles on the chest.
>Kirk FitzDavid

From: "Jay Jackson" <jay at lcc.net>
Newsgroups: rec.org.sca
Subject: Re: Chest Handles
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2000 06:16:03 -0500

While studying a group of seaworthy chest that were very late period I noted
most had handles. The better constructed ones were of wood the thrifty ones
were of rope or leather.  These were all English Chest. the sides angles out
to fit against the ships hull the lids were domed for seating comfort. most
had short stubby legs to raise them off the deck. All that had handles were
made so that the handles would flop down out of the way.
One chest in particular had a very modern looking recessed drawer pull type

Felimid the Tinker

Jay Jackson
Lufkin TX

Date: Sun, 09 Jul 2000 15:49:25 -0400
From: Tom Rettie <tom at his.com>
Newsgroups: rec.org.sca
To: David Friedman <ddfr at best.com>
Subject: Re: Chest Handles

David Friedman wrote:
> In article <8k9nf6$b2m at atlas.lcc.net>, "Jay Jackson" <jay at lcc.net>
> wrote:
> > While studying a group of seaworthy chest that were very late period I
> > noted
> > most had handles. The better constructed ones were of wood the thrifty
> > ones
> > were of rope or leather.
> Did you notice how the rope and leather handles worked? Was the leather
> simply nailed to the wood?

Your Grace,

In "Artefacts from Wrecks" (Mark Redknap, ed.), Maggie Richards has an
excellent essay on chests from the Mary Rose (1545).  Those with handles
appear in three types: holes bored through the sides and the ropes knotted
inside; a wooden bracket nailed to the side and the rope braided in a loop
through the bracket; and what appears to be an iron plate with an iron ring
(unfortunately, not discussed).  She provides excellent exploded views of
each type.

Also, Spanish Vargueno, a sort of 16th century portable office, usually had
iron lifts (sometimes two per side).  A very similar lift is available from
Horton Brasses (in iron).

(Tom R.)

<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