JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 326
I was much taken with the splendid woodcut illustrations by the prolific and erudite Jost Amman for one of a series of cycle books known as the Standebuch, or "Book of Trades". This work, printed in Nuremberg in 1568, contains 114 woodcut illustrations, and is one of at least fifty books illustrated by the (busy) artist. Amman is particularly well known for his attention to detail and factual portrayals--something that was not a particular characteristic of artists portraying the less-than-noble folks in the Northern high Renaissance--and especially for his attention to clothing and shoes.
At first what brought me to Amman for this post was listing the disappeared trades from his list of 114 different jobs--frankly, there weren't all that many that have just completely disappeared, which i s a little surprising. One example for this is found at left, with the thong maker--it is a little funny-sounding to today's ears, but 450 years ago the thong was an essential piece of a man's wardrobe.
(The most obvious basically-gone professions included typefounder, block cutter, illuminator, glass painter, coin stamper, gold leaf maker, bag maker, miller, dyer,hatter, bath house proprietor (in the old sense), barber-surgeon, thimble maker, brush and comb maker, cloth shearer, spur maker, scythe maker, nail maker, basin maker, pewterer, armorer, needle maker, crossbow maker, lantern maker (for everyday lanterns, large artistic church lanterns, dark lanterns...), mirror maker,. grinder, joiner, wagonwright, cooper, parchment maker, sievemaker, rope maker, oil maker, wire maker and thong maker. That makes about a third of the professions that are now almost entirely gone; more significant though is that two-thirds of the jobs listed in 1568 are still around.)
Then I was drawn to the windows of the interior shops and the window design and glassware; and then from there I became interested in the goods that the tradesman hung in his open window as both finished product and advertising, a kind of calling card if you will. So for example the thing maker of course had thongs hanging (like throttled chickens) in his window. One particularly nice showing of goods was for the dentist (pictured at right)
who even though he was operating without walls hung up some teeth just to make sure that folks knew what he was doing, even though the "doing" stuff was happening right there in front of the casual passerby.
The locksmith displayed hinges hinges and keys and locks from his rope, as did the shoe maker (fairly industrious with two helpers), who even displayed a pair of baby shoes.The image for the gunsmith is also interesting because of the detail of the front of the stall/window of the gunmaker--it has a fold-down ledge or table on retractable legs.
And, well, I lied about the urine. (Its not often you get to write a sentence like that, or, for that matter, say that you lied about it too.)
Of the many images of physicians from this period that I have seen many do indeed show the doctor holding a flask of urine on high for inspection, but I never have seen one illustrating the flask for the doctor's "offices". It was one of the principal duties of the Renaissance physician to inspect the urine of his patients, examining it for clues to ill humors and other persuasive unhealthy fortunes.
One could put together the business section for a fair-sized Renaissance city with these images, assembling them side-by-side. The Amman woodcuts even come with customers and layabouts--there are plenty of people who just "happen by" in these pictures, watching, passing the time of day, observing the tradesmen at work. Much like today, these open windows beckoned o people in the streets much like a construction site calls out to old men, or an open car hood cries for its neighbors to come and take a peek.