The art of navigation, though still crude, had by the 15th century so advanced that the sailor was no longer compelled to skirt the shore, with only rare ventures across open stretches of sea. The use of the compass, originating in China, had been learned from the Arabs by the crusaders, and is first mentioned in Europe towards the close of the 12th century. An Italian in England, describing a visit to the philosopher Roger Bacon in 1258, writes as follows: "Among other things he showed me an ugly black stone called a magnet ... upon which, if a needle be rubbed and afterward fastened to a straw so that it shall float upon the water, the needle will instantly turn toward the pole-star; though the night be never so dark, yet shall the mariner be able by the help of this needle to steer his course aright. But no master-mariner," he adds, "dares to use it lest he should fall under the imputation of being a magician." By the end of the 13th century, the compass was coming into general use; and when Columbus sailed he had an instrument divided as in later times into 360 degrees and 32 points, as well as a quadrant, sea-astrolabe, and other nautical devices. The astrolabe, an instrument for determining latitude by measuring the altitude of the sun or other heavenly body, was suspended from the finger by a ring and held upright at noon till the shadow of the sun passed the sights. The cross-staff, more frequently used for the same purpose by sailors of the time, was a simpler affair less affected by the ship's roll; it was held with the lower end of the cross-piece level with the horizon and the upper adjusted to a point on a line between the eye of the observer and the sun at the zenith. By these various means, the sailor could steer a fixed course and determine latitude.
Certainly Lana's project is impracticable: the learned Jesuit did not foresee that his empty copper balloons would be crushed by the external atmospheric pressure; but he nevertheless had a very clear idea and very remarkable for his time of the principle of aerial navigation by balloons lighter than the volume of air which they move. He ends his long chapter with some very curious considerations:
I do not see any other difficulties that can be opposed to this idea, except one which seems to me more important than all the others, and that God will not allow this invention to be ever successfully applied in practice, in order to prevent the consequences which would result from it for the civil and political government of men. Indeed, who does not see that there is no State which would be insured against a stroke of surprise, because this ship would be heading in a straight line on one of its strongholds, and, landing there, could descend there soldiers.
The attached engraving is the exact reproduction of the parachute that the author also defines in the following terms, certainly inspired by those of Leonardo da Vinci:
With a square veil stretched out with four equal poles and having tied four ropes to the four quinces, a man without danger will be able to throw himself from the top of a tower or some other prominent place; because although, at the hour, there is no wind, the effort of he who falls will bring wind which will hold back the sail, lest it fall violently, but gradually descend. The man therefore must measure himself with the size of the sail.
If Leonardo da Vinci's aerial flight experiments do not seem to have been carried out on a large scale, it is perhaps not the same with the parachute, the use of which is much safer. The description of Leonardo da Vinci was reproduced later, not without a notable improvement in the mode of representation of the apparatus, in a collection of machines, due to Fauste Veranzio and published in Venice in 1617.
Principle of the helicopter, drawing by Leonardo da Vinci
The idea of forming of a number of bells a musical instrument such as the carillon is said by some to have suggested itself first to the English and Dutch; but what we have seen in Asiatic countries sufficiently refutes this. Moreover, not only the Romans employed variously arranged and attuned bells, but also among the Etruscan antiquities an instrument has been discovered which is constructed of a number of bronze vessels placed in a row on a metal rod. Numerous bells, varying in size and tone, have also been found in Etruscan tombs. Among the later contrivances of this kind in European countries the sets of bells suspended in a wooden frame, which we find in mediæval illuminations, deserve notice. In the British museum is a manuscript of the fourteenth century in which king David is depicted holding in each hand a hammer with which he strikes upon bells of different dimensions, suspended on a wooden stand.
A very interesting representation of the Psalmist [King David] with a kind of rotta occurs in a manuscript of the tenth century, in the British museum (Vitellius F. XI.). The manuscript has been much injured by a fire in the year 1731, but Professor Westwood has succeeded, with great care, and with the aid of a magnifying glass, in making out the lines of the figure. As it has been ascertained that the psalter is written in the Irish semi-uncial character it is highly probable that the kind of rotta represents the Irish cionar cruit, which was played by twanging the strings and also by the application of a bow.
A representation of David playing on the rotta, from a psalter of the seventh century in the British museum (Cott. Vesp. A. I). According to tradition, this psalter is one of the manuscripts which were sent by pope Gregory to St. Augustine.
In the rotta the ancient Asiatic lyre is easily to be recognized.
One of the most interesting stringed instruments of the middle ages is the rotta (German, rotte; English, rote). It was sounded by twanging the strings, and also by the application of the bow. The first method was, of course, the elder one. There can hardly be a doubt that when the bow came into use it was applied to certain popular instruments which previously had been treated like the cithara or the psalterium.
In the illustration from the manuscript of the monastery of St. Blasius twelve strings and two sound holes are given to it. A harp similar in form and size, but without the front pillar, was known to the ancient Egyptians.
The Anglo-saxons frequently accompanied their vocal effusions with a harp, more or less triangular in shape,—an instrument which may be considered rather as constituting the transition of the lyre into the harp. The representation of king David playing the harp is from an Anglo-saxon manuscript of the beginning of the eleventh century, in the British museum. The harp was especially popular in central and northern Europe, and was the favourite instrument of the German and Celtic bards and of the Scandinavian skalds.
A small psalterium with strings placed over a sound-board was apparently the prototype of the citole; a kind of dulcimer which was played with the fingers. The names were not only often vaguely applied by the mediæval writers but they changed also 89in almost every century. The psalterium, or psalterion (Italian salterio, English psaltery), of the fourteenth century and later had the trapezium shape of the dulcimer.
a very simple stringed instrument of a triangular shape, and a somewhat similar one of a square shape were designated by the name of psalterium
Thirteenth-Century Hospital Interior (Tonerre)
From “The Thirteenth: Greatest of Centuries,” by J. J. Walsh
This was built by the sister of Louis IX of France, Marguerite of Bourgogne, who retired to it herself to spend her life caring for the ailing poor.
Surgical instruments of the Arabs, according to Abulcasim
After plates in Gurlt’s “Geschichte der Chirurgie”
1. A pincher for extracting foreign bodies from the ear
2. An ear syringe for injections
3. A tongue depressor
4. Concave scissors for the removal of tonsils
5. Curved pinchers for foreign bodies in the throat
6 to 29. Instruments for the treatment of the teeth
19 and 20. Forceps
21 to 25. Levers and hooks for the removal of roots
26. Strong pinchers for the same
27. A tooth saw 28 and 29. Files for the teeth
Surgical instruments of Guy de Chauliac, nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 (fourteenth century);
and surgical apparatus of Hans von Gerssdorff, nos. 5, 6 and 7 (fifteenth century)
After plates in Gurlt’s “Geschichte der Chirurgie”
2. Balista used for extraction of arrows
3. Cauterizing shears with cannula for cauterization of the uvula
5. Extension arrangement for reducing upper arm dislocations, called “The Fool”
6. Screwpiece for extending a knee contracture
7. Extension apparatus in the form of armour-arm and armour-leg plates
(“harness instruments”) for contractures of the elbow and knee joints
From Gurlt’s “Geschichte der Chirurgie”
Hans von Gerssdorff and Hieronymus Brunschwig, who flourished in the latter half of the fifteenth century in Germany, have both left early printed treatises on Surgery which give excellent woodcuts showing pictures of instruments, operations, and costumes, at the end of the medieval period.
This is the first picture of an amputation known
From Gerssdorff’s woodcut, reproduced in Gurlt’s “Geschichte der Chirurgie”
I believe that the imagination is the principal motive force in those who use the divining rod; but whether it is so solely, I am unable to decide. The powers of nature are so mysterious and inscrutable that we must be cautious in limiting them, under abnormal conditions, to the ordinary laws of experience.
From “Lettres qui découvrent l’Illusion des Philosophes sur la Baguette.” Paris, 1693
William de Langley, who gave to the monastery a well-built house in Dagnale Street, in the town of St. Alban’s, for which the monastery received sixty shillings per annum, which Geoffrey Stukeley held at the time of writing. William de Langley is a man of regular features, partly bald, with pointed beard and moustache, the kind of face that might so easily have been merely conventional, but which has really much individuality of expression. The house—his benefaction—represented beside him, is a two-storied house; three of the square compartments just under the eaves are seen, by the colouring of the illumination, to be windows; it is timber-built and tiled, and the upper story overhangs the lower. The gable is finished with a weather-vane, which, in the original, is carried beyond the limits of the picture.
In the Additional MS. 11,695, in the British Museum, a work of the eleventh century, there are several representations of warriors thus fully armed, very rude and coarse in drawing, but valuable for the clearness with which they represent the military equipment of the time. At folio 194 there is a large figure of a warrior in a mail shirt, a conical helmet,[Pg 316] strengthened with iron ribs converging to the apex, the front rib extending downwards, into what is called a nasal, i.e., a piece of iron extending downwards over the nose, so as to protect the face from a sword-cut across the upper part of it.
The archers of the castle found shelter behind the merlons of the battlements, and had the windows from which they shot screened by movable shutters; as may be seen in the next woodcut of the assault on a castle. It would have put the archers of the assailants at a great disadvantage if they had had to stand out in the open space, exposed defenceless to the aim of the foe; all neighbouring trees which could give shelter were, of course, cut down, in order to reduce them to this defenceless condition, and works were erected so as to command every possible coigne of vantage which the nooks and angles of the walls might have afforded. But the archers of the besiegers sought to put themselves on more equal terms with their opponents by using the pavis or mantelet. The pavis was a tall shield, curved so as partly to envelop the person of the bearer, broad at the top and tapering to the feet.
The illustration shows a group of people crossing the bridge into a town, and the collector levying the toll. The oxen and pigs, the country-wife on horseback, with a lamb laid over the front of her saddle, represent the country-people and their farm-produce; the pack-horse and mule on the left, with their flat-capped attendant, are an interesting illustration of the itinerant trader bringing in his goods.
In the middle of the picture is a castle with a bridge, protected by an advanced tower, and a postern with a drawbridge drawn up. Archers, cross-bowmen, and men-at-arms man the battlements. In front is a group of men-at-arms and tents, with archers and cross-bowmen shooting up at the defenders. On the right is a group of men-at-arms who seem to be meditating an attack by surprise upon the postern. On the left, opposed to the principal gate, is the timber fort shown in the woodcut. Its construction, of great posts and thick slabs of timber strengthened with stays and cross-beams, is well indicated. There seem to be two separate works: one is a battery of two cannon, the cannon having wheeled carriages; the other is manned by archers. It is curious to see the mixture of arms—long-bow, cross-bow, portable fire-arm, and wheeled cannon, all used at the same time; indeed, it may be questioned whether the earlier fire-arms were very much superior in effect to the more ancient weapons which they supplanted.
The Parish Clerk sprinkling the Knight and Lady
Picture shows the costume and the holy water-pot and aspersoir, and to indicate how he went into all the rooms of the house now into the hall sprinkling the lord and lady who are at breakfast.
The Parish Clerk sprinkling the Cook
The picture will shows the costume and the holy water-pot and aspersoir, and to indicate how he went into all the rooms of the house—now into the kitchen sprinkling the cook.
There is so much of character in his squire’s face in the picture, and that character so different from our conventional idea of a squire as he leans over the horse’s back talking to his master.
The illustration is from the valuable MS. Life and Acts of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. The present is part of a fight before Calais, in which Philip Duke of Burgundy was concerned on one side, and Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, Richard Earl of Warwick, and Humphrey Earl of Stafford on the other.
The use of the regular mine for effecting a breach in the wall of a fortified place was well known, and often brought to bear. The miners began their work at some distance, and drove a shaft underground towards the part of the fortifications which seemed most assailable; they excavated beneath the foundations of the wall, supporting the substructure with wooden props until they had finished their work. Then they set fire to the props, and retired to see the unsupported weight of the wall bringing it down in a heap of ruins. The operation of mining was usually effected under the protection of a temporary pent-house, called a cat or sow.
The chief sign of the Canterbury pilgrimage was an ampul (ampulla, a flask); we are told all about its origin and meaning by Abbot Benedict, who wrote a book on the miracles of St. Thomas. The monks had carefully collected from the pavement the blood of the martyr which had been shed upon it, and preserved it as one of the precious relics.
Seizing that moment, a party of camp followers run forward with a couple of planks, which they throw over the moat to make a temporary bridge. They are across in an instant, and place scaling-ladders against the walls. The knights, following close at their heels, mount rapidly, each man carrying his shield over his head, so that the bare ladder is converted into a covered stair, from whose shield-roof arrows glint and stones roll off innocuous. It is easy to see that a body of the enemy might thus, in a few minutes, effect a lodgment on the castle-wall, and open a way for the whole party of assailants into the interior.
When many combatants fought on each side, it was called a tournament. Such sports were sometimes played in gorgeous costumes, but with weapons of lath, to make a spectacle in honour of a festal occasion. Sometimes the tournament was with bated weapons, but was a serious trial of skill and strength. And sometimes the tournament was even a mimic battle, and then usually between the adherents of hostile factions which sought thus to gratify their mutual hatreds, or it was a chivalrous incident in a war between two nations.
Suppose the king and his chivalry in the following woodcut to be only summoning the castle; and suppose them, on receiving a refusal to surrender, to resolve upon an assault. They retire a few hundred yards and dismount, and put their horses under the care of a guard. Presently they return supported by a strong body of archers, who ply the mail-clad defenders with such a hail of arrows that they are driven to seek shelter behind the battlements.
The woodcut shows the style of carriage associated—grotesquely associated, it seems to our eyes—with the armour and costume of the Middle Ages. It might represent Duke Theseus going in state through the streets of Athens, hung with tapestry and cloth of gold, to the solemn deed of arms of Palamon and Arcite.
The picture which we here give of an anchoress, is taken from a figure of St. Paula, one of the anchorite saints of the desert.
The woodcut, greatly reduced from one of the fine tournament scenes in the MS. history of the Roi Meliadus, shows the temporary gallery erected for the convenience of the ladies and other spectators to witness the sports. The tent of one of the knights is seen in the background, and an indication of the hurly-burly of the combat below
Besides the pipe and horn, the bagpipe was also a rustic instrument. The picture is a shepherd playing upon one.
Saxon freemen seem to have universally borne arms. Tacitus tells us of their German ancestors, that swords were rare among them, and the majority did not use lances, but that spears, with a narrow, sharp and short head, were the common and universal weapon, used either in distant or close fight; and that even the cavalry were satisfied with a shield and one of these spears.
Saxon Soldier, in Leather Armour
Saxon Horse Soldiers
In the accompanying woodcut from a Late Saxon MS. in the British Museum we have a curious evidence of the way in which custom blinded men to any incongruity there may be in the association of the harper and the juggler, for here we have David singing his Psalms and accompanying himself on the harp, the dove reminding us that he sang and harped under the influence of inspiration. He is accompanied by performers who must be Levites; and yet the Saxon illuminator was so used to see a mime form one of a minstrel band, that he has introduced one playing the common feat of tossing three knives and three balls.
The Dominicans and Franciscans arose simultaneously at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Dominic, an Augustinian canon, a Spaniard of noble birth, was seized with a zeal for converting heretics, and having gradually associated a few ecclesiastics with himself, he at length conceived the idea of founding an order of men who should spend their lives in preaching. Simultaneously, Francis, the son of a rich Italian merchant, was inspired with a design to establish a new order of men, who should spend their lives in preaching the Gospel and doing works of charity among the people. These two men met in Rome in the year 1216 a.d.
It is curious to find that even at so late a period as the time of Queen Mary, the shepherds still officiated at weddings and other merrymakings in their villages, so as to excite the jealousy of the professors of the joyous science.
The accompanying wood-cut, from a MS. in the French National library, may represent such a rustic merry-making.
Regals or Organ (Royal, 14 E iii).
Regals and Double Pipe (Royal 2 B vii).
Of the quilted armours we know very little. In the illuminations is often seen armour covered over with lines arranged in a lozenge pattern, which perhaps represents garments stuffed and sewn in this commonest of all patterns of quilting; but it has been suggested that it may represent lozenged-shaped scales, of horn or metal, fastened upon the face of the garments. In the wood-cut here given from the MS. Caligula A. vii., we have one of the clearest and best extant illustrations of this quilted armour.
Saxon soldier in armour
Men who are in the constant habit of bearing arms are certain to engage in friendly contests with each other; it is the only mode in which they can acquire skill in the use of their weapons, and it affords a manly pastime. That such men should turn encounters with an enemy into trials of skill, subject to certain rules of fairness and courtesy, though conducted with sharp weapons and in deadly earnest, is also natural.
Pilgrim, from Erasmus’s “Praise of Folly.”
The staff, or bourdon, was not of an invariable shape. On a fourteenth-century grave-stone at Haltwhistle, Northumberland, it is like a rather long walking-stick, with a natural knob at the top. In the cut from Erasmus’s “Praise of Folly” ” it is a similar walking-stick; but, usually, it was a long staff, some five, six, or seven feet long, turned in the lathe, with a knob at the top, and another about a foot lower down.
Pilgrim on Horseback
Pilgrim in Hair Shirt and Cloak
The annexed woodcut represents passengers paying toll on landing at a foreign port. The reader will notice the picturesque custom-house officers, the landing-places, and the indications of town architecture.
The picture is a curious illumination from the Royal MS. 2 B vii., representing a friar and a nun themselves making minstrelsy.
The Chapter-house was always on the east side of the court. In establishments of secular canons it seems to have been always multi-sided with a central pillar to support its groining, and a lofty, conical, lead-covered roof. In these instances it is placed in the open space eastward of the cloister, and is usually approached by a passage from the east side of the cloister court
The Scriptorium is said to have been usually over the chapter-house. It was therefore a large apartment, capable of containing many persons, and, in fact, many persons did work together in it in a very business-like manner at the transcription of books.
The manner of bringing up a youth of good family in the Middle Ages was not to send him to a public school and the university, nor to keep him at home under a private tutor, but to put him into the household of some nobleman or knight of reputation to be trained up in the principles and practices of chivalry. First, as a page, he attended on the ladies of the household, and imbibed the first principles of that high-bred courtesy and transcendental devotion to the sex which are characteristic of the knight. From the chaplain of the castle he gained such knowledge of book-learning as he was destined to acquire—which was probably more extensive than is popularly supposed.
Man-at-Arms and Archer of the Fifteenth Century
Sometimes a little below the lower knob there is a hook, or a staple, to which we occasionally find a water-bottle or a small bundle attached. The hook is seen on the staff of Lydgate’s pilgrim.
We have specially to call attention to the two men who are throwing shells, which are probably charged with Greek fire. This invention, which inspired such terror in the Middle Ages, seems to have been discovered in the east of Europe, and to have been employed as early as the seventh century. We hear much of its use in the Crusades, by the Greeks, who early possessed the secret of its fabrication. They used it either by ejecting it through pipes to set fire to the shipping or military engines, or to annoy and kill the soldiers of the enemy; or they cast it to a distance by means of vessels charged with it affixed to javelins; or they hurled larger vessels by means of the great engines for casting stones; or they threw the fire by hand in a hand-to-hand conflict; or used hollow maces charged with it, which were broken over the person of the enemy, and the liquid fire poured down, finding its way through the crevices of his armour.
The subject represents a scene from some romance, in which the good knight, attended by his squire, is guided by a damsel on some adventure.
Knights, Damsel, and Squire
We may say here that it was not unusual for people in fine weather to pitch a tent in the courtyard or garden of the castle, and live there instead of indoors, or to go a-field and pitch a little camp in some pleasant place, and spend the time in justing and feasting, and mirth and minstrelsy.
Knight of the Fifteenth Century
The cut is a spirited little sketch of a mounted knight. The horse, it may be admitted, is very like those which children draw nowadays, but it has more life in it than most of the drawings of that day; and the way in which the knight sits his horse is much more artistic. The picture shows the equipment of the knight very clearly, and it is specially valuable as an early example of horse trappings, and as an authority for the shape of the saddle, with its high pommel and croupe.
King, &c., in Pavilion before Castle
We give another representation from the picture of John Ball, the priest who was concerned in Wat Tyler’s rebellion, taken from a MS. of Froissart’s Chronicle, in the Bibliothèque Impériale at Paris. The whole picture is interesting; the background is a church, in whose churchyard are three tall crosses. Ball is preaching from the pulpit of his saddle to the crowd of insurgents who occupy the left side of the picture.
The picture represents Johanna de Warn, who also gave what is described as a well-built house, with a louvre, in St. Alban’s town. This house, again, is of timber, with traceried windows, an arched doorway with ornamental hinges to the door, and an unusually large and handsome louvre. This louvre was doubtless in the roof of the hall, and probably over a fire-hearth in the middle of the hall, such as that which still exists in the fourteenth-century hall at Pevensey, Kent. The lady’s face is strong corroboration of the theory that these are portraits.
The custom of having instrumental music as an accompaniment of dinner is still retained by her Majesty and by some of the greater nobility, by military messes, and at great public dinners. But the musical accompaniment of a mediæval dinner was not confined to instrumental performances. We frequently find a harper introduced, who is doubtless reciting some romance or history, or singing chansons of a lighter character. He is often represented as sitting upon the floor.
It represents a sally of the garrison of Nantes on the English, who are besieging it. The man-at-arms who lies prostrate under the horse-hoofs is one of the garrison, who has been pierced by the spear whose truncheon lies on the ground beside him.
The unarmed man on the left is one of the English party, in ordinary civil costume, apparently only a spectator of the attack.
Funeral Service of a Hermit
French National Library
There were also female minstrels throughout the Middle Ages; but, as might be anticipated from their irregular wandering life, they bore an indifferent reputation.
Rogerus, chaplain of the chapel of the Earl of Warwick, at Flamsted. Over a scarlet gown, is a pink cloak lined with blue; the hood is scarlet, of the same suit as the gown; the buttons at the shoulder of the cloak are white, the shoes red.
Sir Richard de Threton, priest,who was executor of Sir Robert de Thorp, knight, formerly chancellor of the king, and who gave twenty marks to the convent. Our woodcut gives only the outlines of the full-length portrait. In the original the robe and hood are of full bright blue, lined with white; the under sleeves, which appear at the wrists, are of the same colour; and the shoes are red.
the grateful monks of St. Alban’s have recorded the names and good deeds of those who had presented gifts or done services to the convent.
At f. 106 v. is Dns. Bartholomeus de Wendone, rector of the church of Thakreston, and the character of the face leads us to think that it may have been intended for a portrait. His robe and hood and sleeves are scarlet, with black shoes.