Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Double the fun

A jewelry historian colleague, Danielle Nunn-Weinberg, sent me a bunch of rosary references that have showed up in the manuscripts she's been using for her research. It's a somewhat random sampling, but has some interesting stuff. I will try to "translate" the 16th century English as best I can.

From the Lisle Letters - specifically pg. 192 of Volume 6 in the Inventory of Lisle's Household Goods:

Item a payre of beades of amytazes and golde gilt ijciijxx lynckes (the c and the xx are superscript): A pair (set) of beads of amethysts and gold-plated [something, probably silver] with IICIIIXX links [I'm not sure whether this represents 223, 125 or some other number...].

This one sounds more like a long necklace than a rosary, since there's no mention of "gauds" or marker beads, and the number doesn't seem to fit a typical rosary pattern either, whichever way you count them.

Item a payre of beades of granardes gawdyd with gold: A set of beads of garnets, gauded with gold.

Item A payre of beades of pearle & gold (just take out the extraneous e's :)

Item a payre of beades of gold whyte & blacke enamylyd gilt viij sett lackyng one stone with viij gawdys: A set of beads of gold, white, and black enameled [silver]-gilt, 8 set [?] lacking one stone, with 8 gauds.

I'm not sure whether this refers to gold beads that are enameled white and black (if so, what's the "gilt" doing in there?) or whether they are gilt (silver) beads enameled in white, black, and gold colored enamel. I'd be inclined to guess silver, enameled black and white and gilded wherever the enamel isn't.

One can't rely on inventory clerks to be always perfectly clear, since they're often in a hurry or writing from dictation.

Item a payre of beades Callyd ffrenche beanes with x gawdyes of golde: A set of beads called "French beans" with ten gauds of gold.

I have no idea what "French beans" are -- clearly they're not the modern vegetable by that name, which is a thin and delicious type of string bean! I would guess they might be some type of natural seed, but this definitely requires more research.

From wills:

These were left by Wyllam Symons, in 1538, to his nieces.

a peyre of bedes of corall dobull gawdyd ["double-gauded"] with sylver

a peyre of black bedes of gett [jet] gawdyd with sylver

In 1540, Elyzabeth Spenser bequeathed a payre of currall beedes ["coral beads"] to her daughter.

From the 1542 inventory of Johanne Awdy:

a payre of blacke gett [jet] beades with 4 rynges

a payre of currall beades [coral beads] with 15 gawdyes of sylver

The next two were listed under the heading of “Juelles” in Katheren Bracye’s inventory from 1543:

a payer of bedys [beads] of corall gaudyed with sylver and gylt

a payer of blacke bedys gaudyd with sylver

Also in 1543 Ame Rian left my best beades gaudyd with syl[ver] to another woman.

In 1544 A pere of bedis with dobbull gawdys of sylvir gilte were bequeathed from a woman to a man.

In the inventory of Annys Borde from 1544: sertyn beedstonys with a payr of amber beedes: "Certain bead-stones with a pair of amber beads."

Two interesting sidelights: use of the word "pair" to describe beads, and the presence of "dobbull gawdys".

It's very common to see the description "a pair of beads" used to describe a rosary. This is "pair" in the older sense, where it meant "a set." A "pair of beads" is thus a single object, a loop or string holding a number of beads. It's similar to the modern "pair of scissors" which is also a single object.

I have not seen a lot of rosaries with double rather than single gauds, but they do seem to occur. Judging by the two examples I can turn up offhand -- one surviving rosary(scroll down the page) and one painting -- this refers to marking the end of a group of Ave (small) beads with two identical gauds (larger or more decorative beads), strung one after the other. I can think of other bead arrangements that might be described as "double gauded", but this seems likely to be what's meant.

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