Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Medieval Life; It’s a Living, Barely


This week we will head back to the middle ages, and concentrate on some of the people I will feature in my sequel to "Legend of the Mystic Knights" .
My novel has not had the sales I hoped for, even though it has received excellent reviews. This may result in the novel not being carried by my publisher. I hold no animosity toward them for not wanting to handle it, because the name of the game in publishing is sales. Perhaps, the novel will pick up, and my chances of it coming out will increase.

So if there is a sequel, here are some of the things you might read about.

Fewster- This is a specialist trade. He makes the tree (frame) for the saddle. Each type of saddle was designed for different purposes; a riding saddle was constructed differently than the saddle used by a knight in combat.

Saddler-Once the frame is made, this person covers it with leather. Saddles in those times were handmade specifically to the person’s needs.

Since the transportation of the medieval world was horses, both of these men were an important part of medieval society.

Gong Farmers- You may think you have a bad job, but wait until you hear about them. Gong farmers in medieval days collected human sewage. After collection the waste, it would be taken to a storage area. The gong farmers might send the waste to farmers to be used as fertilizer, or the urine to leather makers. Urine is used in the processing of leather.

The gong farmers were also known as “Nightmen” since they were only allowed to perform their duties as night.

Even though the gong farmers were paid handsomely for their services, it was a dangerous job. Not only were they subjected to diseases, the fumes from the human waste could cause you to pass out. Many gong farmers become unconscious due to the toxic gas and drowned in the cesspools of sewage.

Medieval Cartographer- This became an import part later in medieval history. The knowledge of map mapping which was gained by the Greeks and Romans was virtually lost in Europe during the Dark Ages. Other areas of the world flourished at map mapping, including China and the Middle East. It was after the crusades, where the knowledge from the Middle East, and trade, that cartography became important. Map mapping became vital to show trade routes for sailors and merchants to use. Initially, these trade routes were well guarded secrets by the countries that used them, ensuring a monopoly on the goods from that country. Later, cartographers were able to recreate these routes and trading between countries flourished.

In my novel I describe in detail the medieval process of creating a manuscript. This work was done mostly by scribes.  People had the impression that a scribe just copied the original into the new book; however, many scribes had different skill, using them to create the final product.

Scribes (Copyist) -Those who copied books during the middle ages.  Many of these scribes, were monks, who copied books (particularly the bible), word by word from the original. This was a painstaking task, which took weeks, months, if not years to make a copy an entire manuscript. Many scribes could not read, they were trained in copying letters, but not the ability to read them. This illiteracy was thought to be an asset to the scribes, since it removed the possibility of them misinterpreting the original document by reading it.

Limners-Drew the original or copied the drawings of the original book.

Rubricators- Penned in large words. These are usually the first word of a chapter in an old medieval manuscript and were normally penned in red. This is where we get the phrase “Red Letter Day” which means something special.

Once copied the process of making a book was not completed.

The paper was then sewed together, and then the edges are trimmed for uniformity.

The cover of the books were made of wood, and then covered by leather or other material. This material could then be decorated by taking a brass tool, and heating it up and placing it, or hammering it into the leather in a process called bling tooling.

Some books of importance or those owned by important people, were even painted or applied with gold leaf.

Next week, weather permitting, I may do attend another renaissance fair and will describe it here.


  1. Oh I just love all this! So much history I wasn't aware of makes me wonder if I was even present in history or if they didn't teach any of this at all. For sure, I didn't ever hear anything about gong farmers!

  2. Fascinating, how books were once made! And the trades that have become obsolete - maybe we should be grateful that no one need work as a gong farmer! Interesting that scribes couldn't read, but simply copied the form of letters. I wonder if the work would go along faster, had they been able to understand their work?

  3. Fascinating William! Oh ya, definitely wouldn't want to be a gong farmer, but I could go for being a scribe! Each period in history has it's quirks, but gotta say that when I think of the "good old days" the very last period that might come to mind would be the middle ages! Thanks for the great read. :-)

  4. I have always enjoyed looking at maps in atlases. I can only imagine how challenging it must have been to construct maps before satellites, before computers, even before Magellan circumnavigated the globe. Cartographers clearly had to be very skilled and creative guys back in the day.

  5. Have you thought about writing a book that takes place both in today's world and medieval times? It would most likely help sales a lot. And how about replacing the monsters with a detective and a murder mystery? Personally read at least a book a week. Everything from Cicero and Dostoevsky to John Grisham but monster books I would not read:-)

    1. I included the monsters because I needed something that was strong enough to keep the world from progressing from the middle ages. Also, the monsters are in a sense secondary, the story is a coming of age novel, and also a moral tale, of good vs. evil.

  6. Great information! I didn't know any of these. Thanks for sharing.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. I do hope sales pick up for you and soon William. A gong farmer is a new concept to me. Being from a literary family, where and how books are created have been of great interest to me. I do hope the print form stay in style.