Monday, 11 June 2012

A treasure trove of links on 17th century daily life

I'm a day late posting to this blog. The reason: the final draft of my Work In Progress is due on June 15, the same day our daughter is due to give birth! This will also explain my current fascination with all-things-maternity in the 17th Century.

In researching 17th century maternity wear recently, I came upon a treasure-trove of information on 17th century daily life in Holland, compiled by art historian Kees Kaldenbach. The facts of daily life are deducted in part from the detailed inventories of the Vermeer household, as well as paintings.

The history geeks among us will know well the feeling of coming upon such a resource. I call it "Falling into the Black Hold of Research" when I emerge to see that hours have passed.

Consider yourself warned!


On courtship and making love

Childbirths, midwives, obstetricians



Maternity dress and trousseau

Children's chair, potty chair

Baby child presented in a crisom



Feeding brest milk/mother's milk

Vaginal syringe

Fire basket, fire holder



Mattress, bed, blanket. A bed was made of three layers:
  1. a flat mattress filled with bedstraw, horse hair or sea grass. 
  2. a soft cover filled with feathers, down or "kapok" from silk-cotton trees. This is the layer a person would sleep on. 
  3. sheets and blankets
Every day the sheets and blankets were folded so that the head-end and the foot-end did not touch. The pillows had to be shaken and aired for one hour, to dry the feathers, which tended to lump.
pillows (pillows, ear cushion, sit cushion, tapestry cushion — there were no chairs for the children. They were to use pillows when the adults used the chairs.); blanket,
bed cover: fascinating! The Vermeer household of 3 or 4 adults and 11 children had few blankets. People slept sitting up, two to a bedstead, propped up by pillows. The children slept in wheeled drawers which slid under the bed. 
bedsheets, pillow cases, bed linen: 8 pairs of sheets were valued at 48 gilders — the equivalent of a workman's wage for 24 to 48 days.



In the cooking kitchen

In the basement, or cellar

In the inner kitchen

Delft markets

Market bucket

Tables: fold-out table, pull-out table, round table, octagonal table, sideboard: This includes instructions on table manners. ("Do not propose to sing at the table oneself ; wait until one is invited repeatedly to do so and keep it short.")
Trestle table

Foot stove: "One placed an earthenware container within the foot stove and filled it with glowing coals or charcoal. One then placed the feet on it. If a large dress was then lowered over it, or a chamber coat, it warmed both feet and legs."

Pots, vats and barrels in the basement



Chimney hanging; pelmet, valance, rabat; large chimney covering cloth; gold tooled leather (wall covering);

Hall stand or hat stand;

Cloth drying sticks: long, round sticks that rested on attic ceiling beams. The sticks were pushed through sleeves of wet clothes and thus would allow for drying.

Wood chairs, covered with red Spanish leather.


Tapestry table rug: "Only the most wealthy of Dutch households put Turkish rugs on the floor."

So, you see? I hope you enjoyed this little trip back into the 17th century.



Sandra Gulland


Author of The Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

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2 comments:

Julie McNeill said...

Marvelous share. Humble thanks from first time author in progress.

Wonderful role-model too, that you can fit in writing and researching, and sharing knowledge and have see to the love and demands of new generation! Cheers!

Deborah Swift said...

What a fabulous hoard! I will be returning to this post again. Thanks for posting it, the pictures are wonderful. And I echo Julie's thoughts - good luck with the new arrival!