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Personal Possessions

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What follows is a list of items that La Belle Compagnie suggests that you might have as personal possessions. For this list we are ignoring Wey’s suggested weapons and armor as they are dealt with in other of our documents, and we are adding other items known from supplementary research.

coins

Assorted coins

earscoop

Grooming Tool

keys

Keys

needlecase

A needlecase

rosary

A "peyre of beads"

Things that should fit in your purse

Bodkin. This is defined as a "sharp pointed dagger" by the source recounting Wey’s advice. We think that Wey's reference might be to a needle-like implement for use with the lyngel.

Coins. Silver and “black money” coins would be carried. You might want to keep them in a small bag within the larger purse. A selection of denominations and origins would be common for travelers. Some “cut” coins (small change) might be present, although some sources suggest that, in England anyway, minted farthings are common enough by the 1380s to have eliminated the need for slicing a penny into quarters.

Combs. The combs of our period are double sided, with coarser teeth on one side and finer teeth on the other. Boxwood is a common material. Horn and presumably bone are acceptable materials. Ivory versions existed for nobles, usually carved or painted, or both. Ladies should add a mirror and case to their kit, possibly with a purpose-built leather case to contain the both mirror and comb.

Earscoop. This is a popular grooming item that has a small scoop intend for use in eliminating that annoying ear wax. Many also feature a dull blade, presumably for cleaning something else. Books often say the blade is for picking teeth, but it is just as likely that it was used for cleaning fingernails; maybe it was used for both purposes.

Flint and steel. This “item” is your basic iron strike-a-light and a chip or three of flint to start a fire. Some tow or perhaps charred cloth (which would need a container to keep it from getting pulverized) to start the tinder might also be carried.

Keys. One for each of your locks (possibly even the ones at home) seems reasonable.

Knife. Most everyone should carry a small knife for use as a tableknife as well as general utility use. The London finds suggest that whittle tangs are the most common, declining a bit in the later 14th century when scale tangs come into use. The context in Wey’s advice suggests that this item might serve a first aid function.

Needles. Sewing needles were most likely of copper alloy or iron. They can be carried in a needle case of leather, bone, or copper alloy.

Pastimes. These would include entertainment stuff such as dice, gaming equipment for chess, draughts, and, yes, even cards (although we don’t know what they should look like), and reading material for the literate.

Points. Points, or laces/cords, are useful for many purposes. One should have a number of them for repairs. They could be cut from leather or braided from strong cord. They were apparently sold by the dozen. The ends of points are usually protected by metal chapes called aiglettes.

Beads. In our period, prayer beads (not yet called rosaries) have not yet settled down into a single pattern. Straight, rather than circular, sets seem to be more common in the fourteenth century, gradually surrendering to the circular in the fifteenth. A string of 10 Ave beads with a Pater Noster bead on either end is a good basic set. Pater Noster beads are usually larger and/or of a different material than the Ave beads. Materials vary widely. Those of the poor were often homemade of found materials. The highest ranks might have rosaries with beads of gemstone and golden fittings. In between come semi-precious stones, such as jet or amber, and carved wood, bone, or ivory. The cord is knotted at either end and tied into a tassel. Small devotional items or embroidered relic bags are occasionally attached to the string.

Spoon. Wood and horn would have been used by the poor. Those of middle income start using pewter (much more common in the 15th century) and combination spoons (wood bowls with handles of ivory or metal). The rich would have ivory or metal (pewter, brass, silver, silver gilt) spoons

Thimble. The most common is the “beehive” type, either cast or made of sheet. Some thimbles had leather liners, possibly for comfort or for a better fit. Presumably leather pads with a finger hole were used as well.

Thread. A traveler would presumably only carry a small amount, enough for emergency repairs. Ladies would likely carry more and possibly an assortment for embroidery work. Thread can be wound into a ball or carried on a bobbin of wood, bone, or ivory that is turned for simple, banded decoration.

Tweezers. Copper alloy tweezers, of flat sheet and blunt ended, show up in archaeological contexts and are usually classed as grooming implements.

comb

Comb

flint & steel

Flint, Steel, and tow

a knife

A knife

dice

Pastimes: horn dice

pewter spoon

A pewter spoon

costrel

A leather costrel

a knife

A knife

More stuff you might want about your person

Boget. This is a water bag or vessel of some sort. Costrels of leather or pottery seem suitable for all ranks. Bottles (of leather, of course) are in use. Poorer persons could use hollowed gourds. Corks are inappropriate. Stoppers should be made of wood (possibly waxed for a better fit) or leather (possibly over a wooden core or just a rolled piece).

Jewelry. Rings and brooches are far and away the most common. In quality they range from cheesy lead/tin knock-offs with dabs of paint to represent a stone to finely worked gold with multiple precious stones. Necklaces are atypical at best and ear-rings even more so (though there is some hint that exotics such as gypsies and Saracens wear them).

Knife. Yes, again. Most commonly worn hanging from your belt in a sheath.

Pilgrim badges. Such devotional signs/souvenirs were primarily made of pewter (some may have been of lead, such as was commonly used for ampoulla-style items) and made in mass quantities. Higher quality badges for higher ranking folk were made in silver and gold, often as custom work. Some shrines, like that of St. James of Compostela, used found objects (scallop shells) as well as the manufactured badges.

rings

Fancy rings

pilgrim badge

Pilgim badge: St. Edward

mug

Drinking vessel: a pottery baluster mug

old shoes

Tired old shoes

Other stuff to stuff in your bag or cram into your box

Eating gear. A bowl of treen (wood) or rough pottery is excellent for lower classes. Pewter appears among middle income and continues on up. Only high nobles or the very rich could be expected to have silver or gold items. Pottery is acceptable at any rank (given increasingly elaborate decoration and progressively finer execution). Possibly you might have a plate (materials as for bowls) though it seems typical for two people to share a plate at table. Nobles would have a wider variety of eating utensils and tableware such as masers, a selection of glasses and goblets, a carving set, a range of ewers for oil and vinegar, washing water, wine and so on.

Devotional Objects. Religious objects are integral and intimate part of fourteenth century life and many would be worn or carried. The nature of the objects remains fairly constant over the social classes, but as usual the quality and quantity increase with higher rank. Typical objects include pilgrim badges, beads (rosaries), crucifixes, etc. Nobles could have reliquaries, portable shrines, devotional paintings and carvings (possibly set up as diptychs or triptychs), devotional books (such as psalters and books of hours). The richest would have portable altars, vessels and vestments for Mass, and their own priests.

Drinking vessel. A mug or cup of pottery or wood (turned or possibly stave-built) would seem to be the most common. Horn is a possibility, as is leather, but the exact form of such vessels remains elusive. Richer folks may have metal, crystal, and glass as well as combination material vessels.

Horse and Horse Care Stuff: a male (mallet for driving the tether peg), hode (tether line?), halter, saddlecloth, spurs, ... and a horse combe (a curry comb) would seem to comprise a basic equestrian kit.

Knife. Didn’t we see this somewhere before? Why not have another one? After all, it’s 1382 and we’re all barbari-- er, civilized.

Lyngel. Wey’s reference appears to be to a "first-aid kit" of linen thread and possibly small strips of linen to serve as bandages.

Nightcap and kerchief. These are for wear in bed. Most likely these are your only bedclothes.

Shoes. Good shoes are recommended by Wey, but he doesn’t mention pattens, which many of our folk find indispensable for inclement weather. Nobles would almost certainly want boots or houseaux (leather covers for to protect hosen while riding.)

Whetstone. A fine-grained stone to sharpen one’s knives, etc. Many medieval ones have holes drilled in them, presumably so they may be suspended from a thong. Reapers are occasionally seen in manuscripts with a whetstone in a leather sheath.

knife and sheath

Whittle tang knife