Re: [Cutlery] subscribe fork (Patrick Phalen)

Rohit Khare (
Wed, 3 Nov 1999 22:38:51 -0800

>[rk: *NOW * I'm scared.... !]

Actually, I'm not. It's a little sad, really, to be posting bits
without attribution...

And as is our custom, Patrick, the obligatory recompense is New Bits
for Old (TM)...
text follows

p-tableware-msg - 6/1/99

Period tableware, knives, spoons, forks, salt cellars. Paintings and
other period referances to tableware.

NOTE: See also the files feastgear-msg, utensils-msg, iron-pot-care-msg.

KEYWORDS: tableware knives forks spoons mugs chalices cups


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 Stefan1s Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:

I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with
seperate 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
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time. If information is published from these messages, please give
credit to the orignator(s).

Thank you,
Mark S. Harris AKA: Lord Stefan li Rous

From: (david director friedman)
Date: 22 Oct 91 03:47:28 GMT
Organization: University of Chicago

Everyone knows that the fork was introduced at the end of our period.
In fact, the earliest known picture of people eating with forks is
about 12th or 13th century (I can check--it is shown in a V&A
pamphlet on cutlery that I have). There are two Anglo-Saxon forks in
the British museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art has a Byzantine
fork that is quite early (10th century? I don't remember). The fork
does not seem to become a standard utensil until c. 1600, but it
exists much earlier.



From: (Victoria Carpentier)
Subject: Re: Request:medieval feast
Date: 23 Sep 1994 23:15:06 GMT
Organization: BSI

> >I want recipes to cook a medieval feast, with my kids. We have read a few
> >>kids books that describe the royal banquet. They didn't have plates, they

> "They didn't have plates" is an overstatement. I believe at least the
> wealthier feasters would have trenchers ON plates. Anyway, many rich

You can find references to wooden and pewter plates in art works and old
writings. At least for the Rennaissance. Bowls were also common.


From: jtn@cse.uconn.EDU (J. Terry Nutter)
Subject: Period tableware and dishes
Date: 20 Mar 1995 20:57:59 -0500

Greetings, all, from Angharad ver' Rhuawn.

Lady Bronwen Selwyn writes:

> I have been asked to teach a class on Period place settings....
> I am fairly...{18 months} to SCA and do not know much more that from
> personal experience. I would appreciate it if anyone could help give me
> some facts on the matter, in particular, forks. I have heard so many
> various things on them. I know about being three pronged and making there
> way from Italy. But there always seems to be a great deal of variance on
> the time, anywhere from beginning in the 13th century to being only late
> period. Also I am curious as to what social classes tended to use them.

With regard to forks, there was an article by Catherina Sforza d'Agro
in _TI_ about five years ago on forks; someone in your area may have
the edition. (Sorry, my _TI_s are in Virginia, and I'm in Connecticut.)

However, that isn't where I'd start, in your place. If you have access
to a serious library, look for (or request by interlibrary loan) the
following volume:

Furnivall, Frederick J., _Early English Meals and Manners_,
Early English Text Society Original Series #32, (London:
Oxford University Press), 1868.

Don't be scared away by the date! This is an edition of several period
manuscripts on the subject, including John Russell's Boke of Nurture,
Wynkyn de Worde's Boke of Kervynge, and the Boke of Curtasye. They
include all _kinds_ of details about how tables should be set. The
scholarship of the edition is as fine as you will find.

Many, many libraries have copies of the Early English Text Society's
series; this is quite accessible.


-- Angharad

From: (david director friedman)
Subject: Re: Period tableware and dishes
Organization: The University of Chicago
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 1995 04:30:17 GMT

Angharad writes:

With regard to forks, there is a pamphlet from
the Victoria and Albert Museum on tableware that has a discussion of
their history. I believe a short summary is that forks exist through
most or all of our period (the Cleveland Museum of Art has a
Byzantine fork on display, I think c. 8th century, and the British
Museum owns two Anglo-Saxon fork and spoon sets, one unfinished), but
do not become part of the standard set of utensils everyone uses (as
they are now) until the seventeenth century, at least in England.
Think of them in most of our period in most places as analogous to
fondue forks today--they exist, but are used only for specialized


From: sniderm@mcmail2.cis.McMaster.CA (Mike Snider)
Subject: Re: Period tableware and dishes
Date: 22 Mar 1995 00:25:50 -0500
Organization: McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Forks are a tricky subject. Those references I have come across in
period descriptions of feasts etc.. the fork is used to spear food from
comunal dishes, rather than to convey food to the mouth. Several items
from the fourteenth century, originally thought to be hair accessories,
are now being recatalogued as forks. These impliments are just pointed
tools with decrative finials at the end, but some have been found which
clearly match spoons. They look much like skewers. I hope this helps.

Elizabeth Cadfan

From: (rosalyn rice)
Subject: Re: Period tableware and dishes
Date: 24 Mar 1995 11:30:07 GMT
Organization: Indiana University, Bloomington

Greetings from Lothar,

Ah, the joy of the recurring thread, "When did they introduce the
fork?" This is a favorite Mynydd Seren conversation changer, rapidly gaining
popularity against "Pity about that Marie Antoinette woman...." or "Look,
a pterodactyl!" in the fight against dull or suddenly embarrassing

P. 184-189 of (Feast and Fast; food in medieval society, Brigit
Anne Henisch; Pennsylvania University Press:1976. ISBN 0-271-00424-X) has
the fork being introduced in the 4th c. in Byzantium as a table instrument,
although it was known from antiquity as kitchen implement. It was known
in Western and Southern Europe as a rarity from then on, though its use
was remarkable. It seems to have only really caught on late in Period,
in the 16th and 17th centuries. Even then they were rare.

Feast and Fast is a good book for other things concerned with medieval
food and cooking. I recommend it to anyone interested in such things.


From: (Patricia Hefner)
Subject: Re: Period tableware and dishes
Date: 25 Mar 1995 05:55:21 GMT
Organization: Prodigy Services Company 1-800-PRODIGY

Mikjal--I found reference to "vessels" in the early regulations of the
College de Sorbonne from around 1260. Napkins are also mentioned, but
forks are not! ---Isabelle

From: (Kati Norris)
Subject: Re: Period tableware and dishes
Date: 25 Mar 1995 17:50:14 GMT
Organization: Cathlin ban Gerald / Stargate / Ansteorra

In article <3kvugp$>, (Antonio Bastiano) says:
>In article <>, jtn@cse.uconn.EDU (J. Terry
Nutter) says:
>>> I have been asked to teach a class on Period place settings....
>Actually, one discovery that I have made about period settings is rather
>interesting. We spend a great deal of time discussing flatware, but from
>what I have seen the centerpiece of the table was the salt-cellar. It
>was a container for holding salt, and from early period to late period
>was designed to make a statement. They were ornate and usually designed
>to look as though they contained more than they did--with pedestals and
>bulky decoration.
>I have been assembling a salt cellar from "bits." It does change the
>point of view of the table. Gives it a different emphasis. (It's so
>hard for us to relate to because we throw salt on the street and try not
>to over use it on our food!)
>Yours, etc.
>Antonio Bastiano

We've been trying to get a small wooden (or ceramic) bowl and tiny
spoon for a salt cellar. But I've also read in Life in Medieval
Cities (or Times) that the salt was put in a piece of bread with a
hole scooped out for the salt. We'd also like a place to keep pepper
(OOP I know because of the cost back then) and garlic powder on the
table. It seems that feast fare lacks these items and my lord
(almost) requires them in his food. Any suggestions will be most

Many thanks,
Caitlin ban Gerald
Barony of Stargate / Kingdom of Ansteorra

From: (Mark Schuldenfrei)
Subject: Re: Period tableware and dishes
Date: 28 Mar 1995 20:02:43 GMT

Someone (lost in the attributions) wrote:
I have been asked to teach a class on Period place settings....

Do take the time to find "The Boke of Nurture" John Russell, reprinted by
the Early English Text Society. It covers linens, napkins, table service
and more.

It actually explained a few modern things for me.... if you go to a proper
restaurant, the waiter serves from over your left shoulder. Why? Boke of
Nurture mentions that a long napkin should be placed on your lap, and over
your left shoulder, so the server doesn't drip with a full plate on you...

Some day, probably not far off, I am going to prepare full table service
that matches what is required by Boke of Nurture. Teach my friends and
frequent table mates to use it, and have a *good* time.

Tibor (working from memory, and therefore possibly in error)

Mark Schuldenfrei (

From: (Monica Cellio) Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Period wares (was jurying merchants) Date: 2 Jul 1996 10:35:24 -0400 Organization: Telerama Public Access Internet, Pittsburgh, PA USA

... And a couple years ago at Pennsic I actually had a merchant show me documentation. (This was for those utensils that have tines (like a fork) at one end and a spoon at the other; turns out they're 9th-century Anglo-Saxon, not a modern invention. And not nearly as difficult to eat with as you might think.)


From: Patsy Dunham <Patsy.R.Dunham@CI.Eugene.OR.US> Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Period knives and shoes (was jurying merchants) Date: 3 Jul 1996 15:56:44 GMT Organization: City of Eugene, Eugene OR USA

For a good Norse eating knife, check your local hardware store. We have found Swedish knife blanks (blade is about 4 1/2", tang is 3 1/2") that look exactly right; all you have to do is add a handle. (they're imprinted with the co. name and "Suede" in a little round pattern near the hilt end of the blade-- sorry I can't be more specific but mine's at home, not at work)

For period shoes (esp. Norse), short of do-it-yourselfing, you can also try taking your pattern to the local hippie marketplace (we have a BIG Saturday Market here about 9 mo. of the year) and look for the best moccasin/boot maker...


From: Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Table settings Date: Tue, 24 Sep 1996 13:17:59 +0100 Organization: Cripps Computing Centre, The University of Nottingham

Kristine E. Maitland wrote: > I'm entering a contest (next Septentrian 12th Night) which involves > setting a table. Can anyone recommend books/journal articles/primary > sources on table setting (ceramics, glassware, silverware, linens etc...) > circa early 1500s Italy.

I have seen an absolutely superb book for this - it contained hundreds of pictures from renaissance italian paintings to illustrate domestic architecture, including table settings. One thing I remember particularly is that a common drinking vessel is a clear straight sided glass - it looks exactly like a modern "highball" glass. Now, annoyingly, I can't find the reference: if anyone could help out I'd be grateful.


From: (Iain Odlin) Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Table settings Date: 25 Sep 1996 09:31:47 GMT

Kristine E. Maitland wrote: > I'm entering a contest (next Septentrian 12th Night) which involves > setting a table. Can anyone recommend books/journal articles/primary > sources on table setting (ceramics, glassware, silverware, linens etc...) > circa early 1500s Italy.

*The* book to look for: The Italian Renaissance Interior 1400-1600 by Peter Thornton. ISBN 0-8109-3459-0. Nearly five hundred pictures in four hundred pages. Excellent source, hard to find.

-Iain, who got his copy at a used bookstore for $15 from the "It's been here for a long time" bin ------------------------- Iain Odlin, ------------------------- 42 Clifton Street, Portland ME 04101

From: pat@lalaw.lib.CA.US (Pat Lammerts) Newsgroups: Subject: Table settings Date: 25 Sep 1996 19:47:42 -0400

It was written: > *The* book to look for: The Italian Renaissance Interior 1400-1600 > by Peter Thornton. ISBN 0-8109-3459-0. Nearly five hundred pictures in > four hundred pages. Excellent source, hard to find. > > -Iain, who got his copy at a used bookstore for $15 from the "It's been here > for a long time" bin

Boy, what a bargain you got, Iain!

The book is still in print and, per Books in Print, it is $125.00.

Here are the details:

Thornton, Peter, 1926- The Italian Renaissance interior, 1400-1600 / Peter Thornton. New York : H.N. Abrams, 1991. 407 p. : ill. (some col.), plans ; 27 cm.

ISBN 0810934590

or, since Kristine is in Canada, here is the British version for L65.00:

Thornton, Peter. The Italian Renaissance interior, 1400-1600 / Peter Thornton. London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, c1991. 407 p. : ill. (some col.), plans ; 27 x 27 cm.

ISBN 0297830066

Huette (

From: (DeeWolff) Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Table settings Date: 25 Sep 1996 20:17:59 -0400

"The Art of Dining- A History of Cooking and Eating" Sara Paston-Williams ( The National Trust1993 ), I got it from Poison Pen Press in the East Kingdom. Excellent background on food, tables set, and service of such. Wish you luck !! Andrea MacIntyre of Ostgardr

From: (Ronald L. Charlotte) Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Table settings Date: 27 Sep 1996 11:13:56 GMT (Kristine E. Maitland) wrote: > I'm entering a contest (next Septentrian 12th Night) which involves > setting a table. Can anyone recommend books/journal articles/primary > sources on table setting (ceramics, glassware, silverware, linens etc...) > circa early 1500s Italy. Articles on the same for the Mamluks and the > Ottoman empire would also be appreciated.

> Ines

The first that comes to mind is Castiglione's _Book of the Courtier_.

Another is by R. Strong, _Splendour at Court: Renaissance Spectacle and Illusion_. I have heard recommended _Savouring the Past: the french Kitchen and Table from 1300 to 1789_ by B. Ketchan Wheaton, but I've not yet had a chance to read it.

      al Thaalibi ---- An Crosaire, Trimaris
      Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL

From: (Dick Eney) Newsgroups: Subject: Re: Forks? Date: 14 Jan 1997 20:36:36 -0500 Organization: Express Access Online Communications, Greenbelt, MD USA

BlackCat <> wrote: >Does anyone know where in Europe forks were popular as individual dining >implements in the late 1500's?

Italy, especially Venice. Englishmen who went to visit and brought one of these decadent things home -- as if fingers weren't good enough for Queen Bess! -- were one of the "types" denounced under the general heading of an Englishman Italianate/ is a devil incarnate.

|---------Master Vuong Manh, C.P., Storvik, Atlantia---------| |Now, let's stop and think: how would Bugs Bunny handle this?| |----------------(|

Date: Sat, 28 Jun 1997 14:01:18 -0500 (CDT) From: To: Subject: Re: Chalice, goblet, something

>It is my intentions to attempt a drinking vessel and maybe a bowl and plate >in brass for Queens Prize. Just looking for documation ideas. Know of any >good books? >Ld Malgar Thorvik

I found a great book for documentation of high-end medieval cups, &c. is _Secular Goldsmith's Work in Medieval France: A History_ by Ronald W. Lightbown, F.S.A. ISBN 0 500 99027 1 You might be able to get it from Amazon. Also there is a medieval catalog of 1940 (or something to that effect) put out by the Museum of London which has a some pieces which represent the more common items of the time. This book covers many topics and the cup info may be sparse. Beakers are a cool item which seem to have come in all levels of cost and quality and are certainly under represented in the SCA....So are most metal cups for that matter...

Hope this helps, Timothy

Date: Wed, 23 Jul 1997 23:57:49 -0500 (CDT) From: Mark Weiland <> Subject: SC - Re: sca-cooks V1 #208

>From: Philip & Susan Troy <>

I must apologise for not making it clear that most, but not all, of my research is focused on the Italian Peninsula of the 13th thru 17th centuries.

>Hmm. While in general I agree with you, but when you say that >presentation is more vital to an accurate recreation of period food than >we give it credit for, you lose me. It's not that I don't feel >presentation is important, but it sounds, from what you say, that you >are superimposing modern values on our medieval or renaissance >counterparts.

While many good cooks in the Society go to great lengths to ensure well researched recipes, how many times is the hall and table setting catch as catch can. The first part of Cristoforo da Messisbugo's BANCHETTI is dedicated to who came to dinner, how to set the hall, how many table cloths to place on the table, how many silver candlesticks should be used, how many silver salt cellars to use, and more in the same vain. When Montaigne visited Rome in 1580 he wrote"In front of those to whom they want to do particular honor,who are seated beside of opposite the master, they place big silver squares on which their salt cellar stands, of the same sort they put before the great in France. On top of this there is a napkin folded in four and on this napkin is the bread, knife, fork, and spoon." In Sano di Pietro's (1406-1481) painting the ST. PETER HEALING PETRONELLA one can see wonderful clear glass carafes and glasses filled with red wine. There are more paintings that help us to come to a more clear understanding of what a period table and meal would have looked like and I contend that the guests (nobles) did not bring their own plates,linens and candles and that the food was presented in the most appealing way possible.



Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 18:17:55 -0500 From: (Valoise Armstrong) Subject: Re: SC - Carving books?

Several years ago I got a great German book on carving through interlibrary loan. The title says that it's about table customs to the end of the Middle Ages, but as I recall there was quite a lot about carvers and the art of carving. It's a good secondary source and if you can handle the German worth looking up. There are also some great photographs of dishes and eating utensils.

Schiedlausky, Gunther. Essen und trinken: Tafelsitten bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters. Munich: Prestel Verlag, 1956.


Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 21:37:26 EDT From: (Timothy A Whitcomb) To: Subject: Re: Wooden feast gear documentation

>A question has been put to me by a member of my canton, as to >documentation for a set of wooden feast gear she would like to make - >what it might look like (plates vs. trenchers, for instance), what kind >of wood to use, etc. She has been having some trouble finding adequate >resources locally. > >Rhodri ap Hywel

This may help just a little: in "medieval Pottery in Britain AD900-1600" by McCarthy and Brooks, there is a chapter on alternatives to clay wares and I believe there is a photo of a wooden platter.


Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 08:53:47 -0500 From: (Valoise Armstrong) To: Subject: Re: Wooden feast gear documentation

>A question has been put to me by a member of my canton, as to >documentation for a set of wooden feast gear she would like to make - >what it might look like (plates vs. trenchers, for instance), what kind >of wood to use, etc. She has been having some trouble finding adequate >resources locally.

There are some pictures in Essen und Trinken: Tafelsitten bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters by Guenther Schiedlausky that show round wooden plates. These are simple rounds of wood with no rim of any kind - soupy stuff would run off the sides. One group of plates is completely unadorned, but there is another set that has scenes painted in the center, like sewing, harvesting, etc. from different months of the year. There is lettering running around the the outside the painted scene. Schiedlausky doesn't say what kind of wood it is, but hardwood seems reasonable. Should be easy to make.

Have you looked at any Brueghel peasant paintings? He depicts feasts in simple settings, maybe he shows some wooden tableware along with the pottery.


Date: 21 May 98 09:06:12 AST From: To: Subject: Re: Wooden feast gear documentation

I would suggest that you look at The Wedding.

In the foreground you can see table ware.


Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 04:59:48 -0400 From: Melanie Wilson <> To: "" <> Subject: Wooden feast gear

I just remembered I saw an article on turning of bowls etc in a UK re-enacting mag some time again as I remember most were turned wet, bowls were popular not platters or plates as the wood warped and a platter then became unusable. If you want more I think there is some refs etc, let me know and I'll try to find it , otherwise it might be on the web page of the mag. Search for CALL TO ARMS they have a web page.


Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 19:56:22 EDT From: Subject: Re: SC - feastware question writes: << Don't forget everyone; glassware has been around forever. Jugs, mugs, glasses, bowls, the lot. People seem to forget glass and only go for ceramic, metal or wood. . .

More glass more glass!

Kiriel >>

This is correct. The Cloisters in NYC has a collection of medieval glassware on display that is to die for. The intricacy of the patterns is astounding. They even have salt cellars of hand blown crystal that look like ships with rigging and sales all done in glass. There is a tendency for some recreationists to wrongly emphasize the simple wares when the reality of medieval culture is exactly the opposite.


Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 19:58:20 EDT From: Subject: Re: SC - feastware question writes: << Considering the most likely price of extensive amounts of glass in "my" time and place I would not have been using much of it. >>

According to the tour guide at the Cloisters glass plates, etc. were 'common' enough that wagons went around collecting the broken glass dishes so they could be remelted and fashioned into more glassware. This does not indicate that they were either rare of terribly expensive.


Date: Mon, 04 Jan 1999 16:02:23 -0500 From: (Carolyn Priest-Dorman) To: Subject: RE: placemat size? [SCA]

Eachna wrote: >My question (I realize it's not *your* question, but, just to clarify since >I started the thread), is not about the "periodness" of things. It's about >what size placemat people use with feast gear.

The ones I just wove are about 11x17" finished size. We use placemats every day at home (although never at feasts), and that's a fairly typical size for boughten ones also.

>OTOH, it would be interesting to learn when placemats were >first guess would be whenever tablecloths were first valued for their >decorative purposes...(that is, to catch drips and stains from food >dropping off plates)

"Valued for their decorative purposes" is, I suspect, in the eye of the beholder. ;> After all, linen cloths, even plain ones, can be easier on the eyes than boards over trestles! And they're easier to launder than pretty much anything out there; linen seems to thrive on hot water and soap.

Copious napkins, towels, and cloths were used at table (read some of the fifteenth-century English treatises about table service in _Early English Meals and Manners_--it's fascinating!), perhaps obviating the need for specialized mats. The sixteenth century was a high point in the weaving of elaborate linen damasks for table use, but I've never heard of a placemat that early.

Carolyn Priest-Dorman Thora Sharptooth Frostahlid, Austrriki

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 09:36:10 SAST-2 From: "Christina van Tets" <> Subject: SC - goblet covers

Do the covers have to be cloth? There are plenty of secular goblet pictures which have a matching lid (not quite hemispherical, with knob). The only time I have seen a cloth cover is the square kind that covers the paten dish (for holding the bread) when it is on top of the chalice in a communion set, and I don't think that's awfully appropriate.


Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 19:43:50 -0500 From: rmhowe <> To: Subject: Spoon Book from Coventry

Well, here goes another citation from Magnus - (If we all do enough of them maybe we can all get authentic. I remember when you couldn't find a decent sword.)

I got a book today from a used bookstore in Scotland:

Pewter Spoons and Other Related Material of the 14th - 17th Centuries. By Sara Muldoon and Roger Brownsword In the collection of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum Coventry. Published Apparently by the City of Coventy Leisure Services ISBN 0901606286 Paper, no date. Looks very recent though. Large Format, a bit over 30 pages with good illustrations and schematics of spoon handle shapes. Shows the major bottom part of one mold quite clearly. 31 large clear illustrations. Has a detailed analysis of alloys including latten, and a short discussion of molding and casting techniques and materials. Page and a third biblography.

If anyone learns of any other books from this series I'd like to have them cite them.


<the end>