Blackened cloth?

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narvek
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Blackened cloth?

Postby narvek » Mon Apr 28, 2008 10:45 pm

Hi, in this norse text from 13th century is mentioned "blackened cloth". Anyone has an idea about a meaning?

text:Father:...Now if your comrades are planning to go from the king’s apartments to some drinking bout or other merry-making, and you, too, have the king’s permission to seek diversion, you should prefer the forms of amusement which I shall point out to you. If you are sojourning where
horses may be ridden and you have your own horse, train yourself in the art of sitting on horseback in the firmest and most handsome manner. Train yourself to press the foot firmly into the stirrup; keep your leg stiff and the heel a little lower than the toes, except when you have to guard against thrusts from the front; and practice sitting firmly with the thighs pressed close. Cover your breast and limbs carefully with a curved shield. Train your left hand to grasp firmly the bridle and the grip of the shield, and your right hand to direct the spear-thrust so that all your
bodily strength will support it. Train your good steer to veer about when in full gallop; keep him clean and in good condition; keep him shod firmly and well, and provide him with a strong and handsome harness.

Son: Since we now have before us a discussion which teaches chiefly how a man must prepare himself to meet his enemies in attack and defense, it seems to me that it would be well to say something about how one has to fight on land, on horse or on foot, and in attacking and defending castles. Therefore, if you fell disposed to say anything about such matters, I shall be glad to listen.

Father: The man who is to fight on horseback needs to make sure, as we have already stated, that he is thoroughly trained in all the arts of mounted warfare. For his horse he will need to provide this equipment: he must keep him carefully and firmly shod; he must also make sure that
the saddle is strong, made with high bows, and provided with strong girths and other saddle-gear, including a durable surcingle across the middle and a breast strap in front. The horse should be protected in such a way both in front of the saddle and behind it that he will not be exposed to
weapons, spear thrust or stroke, or any other form of attack. He should also should have a good shabrack made like a gambison of soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth, for this is good protection against all kinds of weapons. It may be decorated as one likes, and over the shabrack there should be a good harness of mail. With this equipment every part of the horse should be covered, head, lions, breast, belly, and the entire beast, so that no man, even if on foot, shall be able to reach him with deadly weapons. The horse should have a strong bridle, one that can be gripped firmly and used to rein him in or throw him when necessary. Over the bridle and about the entire head of the horse and around the neck back to the saddle, there should be a harness made like a gambison of firm linen cloth, so that no man shall be able to take away the bridle or the horse by stealth. The rider himself should be equipped in this wise: he should wear good soft breeches made of soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth, which should reach up to the belt; outside of these, good mail hose which should come up high enough to be girded on with a double strap; over these he must have good trousers made of linen cloth of the sort that I have already described; finally, over these he should have good kneepieces made of thick iron and rivets and hard as steel. Above and next to the body he should wear a soft gambison, which need not come lower than to the middle of the thigh. Over this he must have strong breastplate made of good iron covering the body from the nipples to the trousers belt; outside this, a well-made hauberk and over the hauberk a firm gambison made in the manner which I have already described but without sleeves. He must have a dirk and two swords, one girded on and another hanging from the pommel of the saddle. On his head he must have a dependable helmet made of good steel and provided with a visor. He must also have a strong, thick shield fastened to a durable shoulder belt and, in addition, a good sharp spear with a firm shaft and pointed with fine steel. Now it seems needless to speak further about the equipment of men who fight on horseback; there are, however, other weapons which a mounted warrior may use, if he wishes; among these are the horn bow and the weaker crossbow, which a man can easily draw even when on horseback, and certain other weapons, too, if he should want them.


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Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:55 am

Any chance of the original text in Old Norse?


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Postby narvek » Tue Apr 29, 2008 9:11 am

I'll try to dig it up...


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Postby narvek » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:27 pm

Complete thing in english: http://www.mediumaevum.com/75years/mirror/
still searching for an original...


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Postby Brother Ranulf » Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:00 pm

Really just need the Norse form of the phrase "blackened linen cloth". There are three standard and relatively direct terms for black in Norse:

blar, which can mean either black or blue
svartr, which can mean dirty or dark coloured, as well as black
blakkr, which again can mean dirty or any dark colour as well as black.

The same multiple meanings are found in the case of Old English words which are often given as "black" when they can equally mean something else.
If the translator has ignored the other possible meanings of any of these, then the translation is going to be misleading.

I said "direct" terms because Old Norse is often full of obscure poetic and indirect descriptions which can be as straightforward as trying to knit fog.


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Postby narvek » Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:09 pm

still searching :(


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Postby narvek » Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:13 pm

Found something, but not sure if it is Old norse. It's rewritten.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=LgtI ... P7#PPA5,M1


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Postby Phil the Grips » Tue Apr 29, 2008 8:38 pm

That translation of the The King's Mirror is rather antiquated, being C19th, and is not to be trusted- rather a "Walter Scott" style to its prose so best to go to the original C13th Norwegian.

I do know this question was debated for an age on Swordforum and no conclusion was ever reached.


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Postby narvek » Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:18 pm

I hope I'll find the original text, but still no luck:(

Well, logic and experiments say that it could possibly mean 'quilted' or kind of jack-similar, don't they?


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Postby Colin Middleton » Wed Apr 30, 2008 12:59 pm

Wow, Narvek, thanks for posting that, there's some really interesting points in there.

There's a 15th C French text, which Gerry Embleton tranlates in his Medieval Military Costume book which talks of making a jack out of old linnen soaked in vinager to strengthen it. Might this be the 'blackened linnen' mentioned. Especially after the acid has mixed with the rider's sweat and any rust from the mail!


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Postby Lena » Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:04 pm

I can check it at the library, but I'll need some page or chapter references. I'm not fluent in Old Norse, and I don't fancy reading it from cover to cover. :)

/Lena



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Postby narvek » Wed Apr 30, 2008 3:51 pm

Lena: it's chapter XXXVIII WEAPONS FOR OFFENSE AND DEFENSE

Colin: There is one text from 14C telling to make jack from 30 layers of linen cloth, strenghed with ...eh...that thing in the trees, which after some itme turns to amber :lol: :lol: :lol:


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Postby Colin MacDonald » Wed Apr 30, 2008 6:32 pm

This one went round and round on the 75years group, to no definite conclusion, although all the usual "logically" and "surely" arguments were made. :P

Vel svartadu seems (if I follow the chain of replies correctly) to be the phrase under discussion.



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Postby Lena » Wed Apr 30, 2008 6:45 pm

"... a gambison of soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth..." =
"... pannzara af blotum leræptum oc [v]æl s[v]arta∂um..."

"... good soft breeches made of soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth..." =
"...go∂ar hosor oc linar gro[v]ar af blautu leræpti oc [v]æl s[v]arta∂u..."

(My computer doesn't quite support old norse letters. ∂ = eth, [v] = vend)


This excerpt has also been discussed on 75years in April 2007. If you haven't read those posts already, I suggest you do so. Search "black linen" and you'll find a heap of posts.



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Postby narvek » Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:22 pm

Pitch is the word I have been thinking about :lol: :lol:

So by reading all those post, it seams that 'blackened' means covered or treated by pitch. Which was one of possibilities from the beggining.


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Postby Colin MacDonald » Thu May 01, 2008 9:23 am

That's one interpretation. ;)



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Postby guthrie » Thu May 01, 2008 12:03 pm

narvek wrote:Pitch is the word I have been thinking about :lol: :lol:

So by reading all those post, it seams that 'blackened' means covered or treated by pitch. Which was one of possibilities from the beggining.

But pine resin isn't black, unless someone has any evidence otherwise. Is "Pitch pine" resin black?



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Postby Colin Middleton » Thu May 01, 2008 1:04 pm

Aha! That makes sense!

Shoemaker's code is made from a mix a pitch and resin, with other things added to improve the flow and such. It's purpose is to 'stick' the threads togeather and help them hold to the leather, thereby making a stronger stitch (if we're lucky a more experienced leatherworker will join in and give more detail on that). Many people use bees-wax for the same purpose, but it's supposed to be vastly inferior. Presumably the pitch on the linnen acheives a similar effect.

An interesting side note is that even though neither pitch and resin are black, shoemakers are referred to as having black thumbs from working with the code, perhaps it traps the dirt or some-such?


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Postby Ace Rimmer » Thu May 01, 2008 5:32 pm

It might perhaps react with sweat or skin and turn darker, giving the appearance of blackness?


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Postby Colin MacDonald » Fri May 02, 2008 9:20 am

I think that would need to be tested before we draw any firm inferences. The phrase does seem to refer to a colour, rather than any particular substance. I wonder if Marc Carlson followed through on testing it?



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Postby Margareta » Sun Jun 15, 2008 1:05 pm

Pitch (Lat. Pix Solida) is made by distilling woodtar (Lat. Pyroleum Pini). The tar is already pretty dark brown, and so the remaining substance -pitch- is black. (Hence "pitch black".) I have never heard of using pitch for other clothing than footwear, but I guess it might be possible, if you can make it non-sticky after applying.



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Postby Hraefn » Sun Jun 15, 2008 9:48 pm

You can get a tar/pitch from birch bark
a quote from the history section of the UCL website.

Birch-bark tar is produced when the bark of Betula sp. (birch) is heated in excess of 300-400º C. Chemically-identified finds of birch-bark tar span European prehistory from the Middle Palaeolithic (Koller et al. 2001) into the Roman period (Charters et al. 1993) and beyond. It is still manufactured today in some regions. Although most common in Northern Europe, finds are widespread and use of the material has been reported as far south as Greece (Urem-Kotsou et al. 2002; see Pollard & Heron (1996) for a review of finds in prehistoric Europe).

It would make the linen waterproof and a wee bit tougher and they ain't shy of birch trees up in Scandinavia.

Have a play try daubing up some linen with tar ,pitch or owt else you think and see if they dry, stay flexable etc


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Postby narvek » Sun Jun 15, 2008 10:15 pm

Yes, thats the question...How would cloth react to pitch/tar/anything else. I know how a single strip behaves after being soaked in pitch. It comes hard, thick and easily breakable and tearable. Not really sure, how would more layers of cloth react...


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Postby Margareta » Sun Jun 15, 2008 10:19 pm

Birch-bark tar works wonderfully as glue (you have to dry distill it, like pine/fir tar). A couple of my friends study to become professional ancient techniques artisans, and they have made birch tar as part of their education. You can collect it to the end of a stick, and when it dries, it looks like a giant liquorice lollipop (my opinion): black, hard (non-sticky), smooth-surfaced and slightly glossy. It becomes runny again if heated with fire. Perfect for glueing arrow-heads. And easy to store on those sticks. (I think it keeps for years.)
There would probably be some problems with applying it on clothes: it really becomes quite hard and so the surface would possibly crack. But, as previously said, I don´t know since I haven´t tried it.



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Postby gregory23b » Mon Jun 16, 2008 12:08 pm

beeswax and pitch (or un boiled rosin) will make it flexible, as Colin says in the coad like sense.

In the states the early settlers used to make pitch by burning the require trees over certain rocks with channels carved into them, the pitch then running free from the burning timber.


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Postby Hobbitstomper » Mon Jun 16, 2008 3:24 pm

Not what you want on your clothes or anywhere near hot mail in the Sun



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Postby Margareta » Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:30 pm

By the way, if you try to dye linen, remember that resin, pine tar and pitch made from it are all quite easily flammable. We usually have some strips of dry wood dipped in tar when we go camping to start the fire (especially if the firewood is moist). If we don´t have any, we just take some dried up resin from the side of a pine or a fir and use it. Works every time, so be a bit careful with it.



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Postby Colin Middleton » Thu Jun 19, 2008 12:30 pm

One of our members turned up at practice last night with a piece of armour that he had researched and made many years ago. It was made of 6 layers of linnen glued togeather to form a solid, slightly flexable defence. He's tried knives and imacts against it with considerable success. The only issue that he has warned against was thay you need to find a way to waterproof it so that the glue isn't washed out.

Could this be your black linnen?


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Postby Angie » Sun Sep 07, 2008 5:12 pm

I've come this a bit late but............

Pine pitch is a goldish colour, like black pitch if you mix it with beeswax you can get resin (rosin, code). This is used for waxing lined thread for stitching shoes amongst other things. Strangly many leather items have a white/cream thread which makes me think they have used just wax, but for most shoes it's black. The mix resin it a lot better than jusr beeswax.
The resin tends to stick to the skin which I find improves the grip on the needle. It also makes dirt stick to your fingers, but it easily washes off.
I'll try using mix resin on some linen scraps but the fire hazard bit bothers me a bit.

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Colin Middleton wrote:Shoemaker's code is made from a mix a pitch and resin, with other things added to improve the flow and such. It's purpose is to 'stick' the threads togeather and help them hold to the leather, thereby making a stronger stitch (if we're lucky a more experienced leatherworker will join in and give more detail on that). Many people use bees-wax for the same purpose, but it's supposed to be vastly inferior. Presumably the pitch on the linnen acheives a similar effect.

An interesting side note is that even though neither pitch and resin are black, shoemakers are referred to as having black thumbs from working with the code, perhaps it traps the dirt or some-such?


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Postby ViscontesseD'Asbeau » Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:55 pm

'Svart-' (as in 'swarthy' in English) I'd translate nearer to 'darkened' than 'black' - it's 'made darker' - not accurately translated as 'blackened'. If the original has a word with a 'svart-' stem in (and am not clear from the above what the actual ON words are?) then I don;t see where the translator has got the very specific 'blackened' thing from as it's not strictly that at all...

(Studied ON for three years at uni).

I think of all the languages - it's the one most prone to bad and mistranslations and not worth using translations for fine detail as you're relying on someone else - Victorians in particular got it wrong or translated purposely loosely, so maybe wise to take it all with a pinch of salt if you're reliant on translated text. Using dictionaries etc won't give you all the answers either esp. with such a subtle language (they often have 20-odd totally different nouns for things we have only one word for in English - all with subtle differences of nuance!) - best go on a course (not a book, or online - an actual live course) to learn the language as these things - like anything - whilst deadly in translation are brilliant in the original (it's like imagining yourself a medievalist if you can't read Middle English - no translation of a language gives you even the faintest glimmer of the culture. Read the original and it's right there! Particularly when it comes to ON, historians and archaelogists are still discovering stuff and getting excited over it, that English scholars have known 100 years - because it's all in the texts, not all of which are accessible in Mdn English).

19thC translations are very free. And fine if you want to read a Victorian translation - but bear in mind you're not reading the actual text. Whilst that's great for most purposes, to read in translation - if you're going through text with a fine toothcomb to then support hypotheses re. clothing, re-enactor stuff - you can't really do it if you're working from a translation.




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