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Stefan's Florilegium


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A-Period-PDA-art - 5/1/09


"A Period PDA" by James Northfolke. The table-book.


NOTE: See also the files: Blk-Walnt-Ink-art, early-books-msg, ES-Bookbindng-art, inks-msg, paper-msg, parchment-msg, quills-msg, wax-tablets-msg, writing-inst-msg, writng-inst-lnks.





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



This article was first published in the February 2009 issue of "Quoth the Raven", the newsletter of the Barony of Raven's Fort, Ansteorra.


A Period PDA

by James Northfolke


Because I like to carry a small journal and pen around; to allow me to doodle, take notes, jot down ideas; I thought it would be interesting to see what someone like my persona (mid-late 16th-century English merchant) would use, if anything. It turns out that Hamlet gives us a pointer to a tool that was probably more popular than an iPhone: the table-book.


Remember thee?

I, thou poore Ghost, while memory holds a seate

In this distracted Globe: Remember thee?

Yea, from the Table of my Memory,

Ile wipe away all triuiall fond Records,

All sawes of Bookes, all formes, all presures past,

That youth and obseruation coppied there;

And thy Commandment all alone shall liue

Within the Booke and Volume of my Braine,

Vnmixt with baser matter....


Here Hamlet likens his memory to a table that can be wiped clean. What is this table? Stallybrass, et. al. suggests four characteristics of the Renaissance writing tables that they hold Hamlet is alluding to:


1) Ubiquity: they were published and imported on a large scale.

2) Erasability: they contain leaves of erasable paper or parchment, the cheaper sort being bound with printed almanacs, charts, and other materials [these are described as containing information up to 24 years, with 8 to 10 blank pages for writing, including the type of information a merchant would need in import/export, conversions, and the like].

3) Portability: they are small enough to fit in a pocket, and their durable bindings protect them when carried about.

4) Convenience: they allow a stylus to be used in situations where it would be difficult or impossible to use pen and ink.


Comenium, in his schoolbook, describes how these are to be used, "with a quill or pen (whose nib, slit, or clift is tempered or mended with a penneknife) wee write in paper or in parchment: with a stile or pen for tables, in writing tables (little bookes) that it may be blotted out."


It has been suggested that lead had been used since the Middle Ages in ruling lines for script and illumination, but had proven unsatisfactory for writing. Graphite was discovered in England in the mid-16th-century and there is evidence of a graphite pencil from 1565; however, this was not in use on a broad scale until about 1630. Finally, it is argued that the use of the word pencil in period literature refers to a painters brush.


The stylus; sometimes of silver, but more often of copper or brass; was kept under the binding of the spine of the book.


While I have not, as yet, tried my hand, here is a recipe for the erasable paper:


To make white tables to write in with the pointe of a wire, fuche as come out of Germanie.


Take plafter called Gypsum, cribled or fifted, and fteepe it and temper it with Hartes glewe, or other, and giue your Parchement leafe one touche with it, and when it is drie, fcrape it, that it maie bee euen and bright, and couer it euer againe with the faied plafter called Gypfum, and fcrape it as before: then take Cerufe, well maied and fifted, and fteepe it with the oile of Line seede fodden: annointe your Tables with this mixtion, and let it drie in the fhadowe, the fpace of fiue or fixe daies. This doen, take a cloute or Linnen clothe weate in water, where with you fhall fticke and make fmoothe the faide Tables, but the clothe mufte firfte bee wroonge harde, and the water preffed out, then leaue it fo the fpace of fifteene or xx. daies, untill it be through drie, then applie it to your ufe.


Girolamo Ruscelli. The Secretes of the reverend Maister Alexis of Piemont. London, 1580 (transcription mine).


Stallybrass, Peter, Roger Chartier, J. Franklin Mowery, and Heather Wolfe. "Hamlet's Tables and the Technologies of Writing in Renaissance England" in Shakespeare Quarterly 55 (2004): 379-419.


http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=2300, accessed 25 January 2009.



Copyright 2009 by James Van Roekel, 209 Royal Oaks Street, Huntsville, TX  77320. <jamesnorthfolke at gmail.com>. 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, I would appreciate 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