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To remove Ink, Cherry Juice and Other Stains and Spots

In 1648 the book Flora Danica, det er: Dansk Urtebog. (Flora Danica, what is: Danish Herbal book), was published. The author of the book Simon Paulli (1603—1680) was a Danish doctor, botanist and anatomist. From 1643 to 1639 he was a professor of medicine in Rostock and in 1639 to 1648 he worked as a professor of botany, anatomy and surgery at University of Copenhagen. In 1650 he became a physician at the court and later on he became the private physician to the Kings Frederik III (1609—1670) and Christian V (1646—1699).[1]

Engraving of Simon Paulli from 1666 (Royal Library of Denmark)

Flora Danica was commissioned by Christian IV (1577—1648) in 1645 while he wanted a book for the general population.[2] This can also be seen in the introduction of the book where it is noted how the book was aimed for people such as ‘the ordinary Man who lives in the country./ who does not always have resources or money to seek Doctors against various illnesses and incidents…’[3]

The book is divided in two sections containing 384 plants: the first part describes information such as name, appearance, place and use, whereas the latter part contains woodcut illustrations of the species.

First page of the Flora Danica

Although much of the information in the first section of the book relates to health and medicine, Paulli also offers tips on caring for textiles. For example he warns readers about walnut trees advising them not to: 

 … hang your [linen] Goods under Walnut Trees to bleach or dry: while the drops that fall down from the Walnut Trees / will stain the linen garments/ and the same stains will not go away easily It can therefore be concluded/ that Walnut trees are not beneficial in bleach fields.[4]

Engraving of a walnut tree (Flora Danica).

But in case of having stained garments, Paulli also explained how juice of Malus Limonia, lemons, could work as a stain remover:

With this same juice distinguished women also care for cloths and other linen garments by applying [it] / when they have Ink / Cherry Juice or other alike are becoming stained and spotted: Then spread it [the fabric]  out / and keep some lit Sulphur matches underneath / and if the spots are not too old/ then they will vanish with this Art.[5]

This was not the only purpose for lemons, which could help with several medical problems such as rotten teeth caused by scurvy, and were used in ointments against scabs and itchiness. The peel of the lemon was also advised to be used as ‘winter room’ refreshers in fine inns. The peel should be boiled in a pot or put in a fire pan and when soaked in rose water before boiling it would leave a ‘delightful scent’ so new guests could feel ‘recreated and be refreshed’. A sweeter scent could be achieved by adding nutmeg and Indian cloves.[6]

The plant Malus Limonia ( Flora Danica).

This stain removal instructions given by Paulli were tested on the 28th of November 2019, when I arranged a session for the students participating in the course ‘Textile Archaeology – A Hands on Approach’, based at the Centre for Textile Research and Department of Archaeology at the University of Copenhagen.

For the experiment I tried to use as authentic materials as possible, however some compromises were made. I for example used bleached medium-weight machine woven linen and in case of using svovlstikker (Sulphur matches), I used modern matchsticks. The svovlstikker (Sulphur matches) mentioned in the recipe would have contained smelly and poison Sulphur and would not have been self-igniting as the matches we use today.[7] I furthermore acquired organic unsweetened cherry juice made from sour cherries, organic lemons and ink, made from oak galls, iron sulfate and gum Arabic. Furthermore, I brought some organic cold pressed sunflower oil to test if the recipe could remove oily substances.

People are testing the stain remover.

We followed Paulli´s instructions, applying cherry juice, ink and oil on linen fragments. Shortly after we applied the lemon juice and lit a matchstick underneath. After the samples were  rinsed in water and left to dry.


Before and after pictures of the stained linen fabrics. Top: before the stain removal was applied: oil, ink and cherry juice. Bottom: after the stain removal process: cherry juice, oil and beneath cherry juice is ink.

The recipe did not remove the stains completely, but the stains were improved, and you can imagine, especially in the case of cherry juice and oil, that if the fabric was bleached afterwards it would almost become unnoticeable. In all, I think the experiment was a success, not only in terms of trying out the recipe, but also in introducing the students to how historians can make use of texts to reconstruct or materialize practices or processes, in this case contemporary textile cleaning practices. It also shows how we can get a deeper understanding of how people might have cared for their textiles and to what extent it worked.


[1] http://denstoredanske.dk/Natur_og_miljø/Botanik/Botanikere_og_plantegeografer/Simon_Paulli, Salmonsens Konversations Leksikon, Christian Blangstrup, Bind XVIII Nordlandsbaad—Perleøerne (Copenhagen: A/S J. Schultz Forlagsboghandel, 1924)., 993

[2] http://denstoredanske.dk/Natur_og_miljø/Botanik/Botaniske_haver%2c_museer_og_foreninger/Flora_Danica

[3] Flora Danica, see introduction

[4] Flora Danica, p 94 Y

[5] Flora Danica, p 279 Y

[6] Flora Danica p 279 S – V, Z

[7] Self-igniting matches as we know of today were first invented in the 19-century. Svovlstikker ( Sulphur matches) is mentioned in Danish dictionaries from the sixteenth-century referring to them in Latin as Sulphurata, Fomes Sulphureus and Sulphuratum. Sulphur matches were first mentioned in England in the 1530s, see e.g. Nell DuVall, Domestic Technology: A Chronology of Developments (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co, 1988), 271.

 

 

The theft in the bleachfield

In 1629, on the 12th of December, Hanns Oellsenn and the bailiff Lauritz Christensenn gathered at the council house in Helsingør a trading town in Denmark to discuss and make an inventory of the items that were stolen from Kirstinne Berrnt’s bleachfield. It was the linen bleacher Jenns Andersenn, who reported the theft, where multiple other people also had lost their precious linen garments, left outside to be bleached. The thieves were soldiers and when they were caught, they were sent to the prison Bremerholm in Copenhagen.

Een bleekveld in een dorp, Joos de Momper & Jan Brueghel the Younger, ca, 1650. ( Wikimedia Commons)

In the household-inventories from Danish trading towns, linen items ranging from sheets, towels and clothing items constitute an important part of household and personal textiles. Textiles were  desirable items to steal, as they could be transported easily and resold or pawned, and acted as a kind of currency.  

The Bleaching ground, David Teniers II ( 1610 – 1690), The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham.

As the documents indicate, the thieves were caught, but it is a bit unclear whether the stolen linen goods were retrieved, or if the aim of the inventory was to account for how much people had lost.

The linen bleacher, Jens Andersen himself, had lost one linen shirt and some linen garments belonging to his wife and children. Among the other people who had lost linen textiles, was the woman Citze Villums. She had kept 78 ells ( 48,9 meters)  of flax linen in the fields, and had lost 42 ells ( 26, 3 meters). The wagonner, Hanns Rickersenn, was the owner of 42 ells ( 26,3 meters),  but had lost 12 ells (7,5 meters) of flax linen. Furthermore, the brewer journeyman Søffren Madsen was the owner of 4 ells ( 2,5 meters) of linen, but none of his linen fabric had been stolen by the thieves.

A page from the inventory where all the stolen goods are recorded, Helsingør Byfoged, 1628-1631, p. 246 r, Danish National Archives.

The records also indicate that the soldiers had been stealing linen from other bleaching grounds in town. Among  the goods that the bailiff and Hans Olsen made up were 32 ells (20 meters) of blårgarn, a courser variety of linen. This belonged to Lenne, the wife of a bell man named Annders, but was stolen from Christenn Dauidsenn´s bleachfield.

The goods were likely retrieved when the thieves was caught, as the council house also found items that had no owner; these included one flax linen sheet and two linen shirts. This was valued by two women and was assessed at 4 daler.

Fine linen shirt, decorated with lace trim, ca 1650. ( Rijksmuseum)

Even though this is a very small case-study, it gives us basic information about practical aspects of dress, such as how people living in towns handled the process of bleaching their linen textiles.

Furthermore, we get insight into the consequences of textile theft, and how the community handled this, and not least  how much work was put into finding the rightful owners and the extent of people’s textile losses.

Refashioning the Renaissance hosts panels in RSA Toronto

On the 17—19 March 2019, the Refashioning the Renaissance team took part of the the annual Renaissance Society of America conference, this year held in Toronto. Our project was very fortunate to get four panel sessions accepted into the conference program, focusing on different aspects of lower-class dress in Europe.

Our panels on Lower-Class Dress, Fashion and Identity in Europe, 1450–1650 took place on the first day of the conference, and included presentations from all the researchers of the team. Focusing on the Italian context, Paula Hohti presented the Refashioning the Renaissance project, and talked about fashion among artisans in Renaissance Italy, and how artisans were communicating how they wanted to be viewed by others. Stefania Montemezzo added to this by introducing an accounting book by Alessandro Vignarchi, and unspecialised trader who travelled in remote areas in Tuscan Apennines. She discussed the peddlers’ role as intermediaries between areas and markets in the spreading of fashion in especially rural areas in Italy. Furthermore, Michele Nicole Robinson examined cross-cultural exchange of dress and accessories seen in artisan inventories in Siena, Florence and Venice, with a particular focus on pearls.

We had a delightful turnout for our panels, and many stayed fro the whole day.

Focusing on England and Denmark, Sophie Pitman considered the urban dress among lower social levels of society, especially focusing on the social codes and attitudes towards fashion, as well as imitation materials. Lastly Anne-Kristine Sindvald Larsen discussed the influences of reformation in the dress of Danish artisans.

We were also were fortunate that so many scholars wanted to contribute to the discussion of dress of ordinary people, and present in our panels. This included scholars such as Joyce de Vries and Amanda Wunder, who focused on the clothing of women seen through Bolognese dowry inventories, and the clothing of the women who were admitted into the poor hospital, Hospital de la Pasión in Madrid, respectively. Francesca Canadé Sautman and Alisa M. Carlson touched on the role of hats and headdresses used by the lower levels of society, by discussing depictions of hats and headwear in the portraits painted by Hans Holbein the Elder in Augsburg, and the depictions of women’s linen head coverings in Europe, with an emphasis on Burgundy-Flanders.

Alisa M. Carlson, Francesca Canadé Sautman, Joyce de Vries, and Amanda Wunder.

After our own panels were successfully behind us, we were able to enjoy the rest of the conference. Some of our team members had been to previous RSA conferences, whereas for some this was the first time in a conference of this scale. The scope of the presentations and scholars from all areas of Renaissance studies made sure that there were at least three interesting panels going on in any given moment, and it was hard to choose where to go. It was a pleasure to meet so many old and new colleagues, engage in interesting discussions and enjoy the papers that shed light to so many various aspects of renaissance life. We look very much forward to next year´s conference!