Drei Schnittbücher: 3 16th c Austrian Master Tailor Books
A book by Katherine Barich and Marion McNealy
Extant garments from the 16th century are very rare, and are such a small sample of the wide variety of garments which were worn, that many questions are left unanswered. About twelve years ago, Drea Leed posted microfiche scans of the Leonfelder Schnittbuch on her website. I was entranced by these line drawings of pattern shapes laid out on the cloth. There were no drawings of the finished garments, just the pieces on the page. It was like a puzzle, in which you had pieces, and several possible pictures that the pieces might make.
I made one dress from the Leonfeld Schnittbuch, and set out on a long path to learn more about this book, and whether there were any more to be found. Over the years, I have found and studied two more Austrian tailor’s masterbooks: Enns (1590), and Nidermyer (1560), as well as a few German ones which will not be included in this volume.
Drei Schnittbücher is the result of a collaborative effort between Katherine Barich and myself to publish these three rare Austrian tailors' guild masterbook manuscripts, or schnittbuch.
What is a Tailor's Masterbook?
A tailor’s masterbook contains drawings of all of the major garments and other items that a Master Tailor would be expected to make. Tailors didn't just make clothing, but also tents, saddle covers, flags, wagon covers, and clothes for the clergy. These books were the master books for the Tailors Guilds, which they contained the material that the journeyman would be tested on to become a master.
These books do not include all the information that the aspiring master would have needed to know, however because of this, we have gone beyond a simple translated facsimile of the manuscripts, and have included the additional information that the journeyman would have needed to know to pass the exam.
The Master Tailor's Exam
In order to become a Master Tailor, the journeyman had to pass an oral examination in front of the head of the Tailors Guild in the town or region in which he wished to practice, as well as provide actual garments to be examined by the Guild Master and examining board. The exam typically consisted of several parts:
1. FABRIC WIDTHS
Fabrics came in many different widths, and the journeyman had to know which fabrics came in which widths, if they needed to be shrunk before use, and whether they had a nap, grain, or pattern that would affect the placement of the garment pieces on the fabric.
The Enns manuscript includes a list of fabrics and their widths, which is a helpful start for a glossary of fabric names and information, as well as colors which derived from a contemporary Austrian cloth merchant's inventory. There is also a contemporary toll list for wares sold on the Mauth River, which also give key details on local fabric availability.
2. TYPES OF GARMENTS AND THE FABRICS USED
The journeyman had to know what types of fabrics would be appropriate for each garment, given a particular length and width of the garment, so that when a customer came into the shop, he could give a complete answer to the customer of what fabrics they were legally allowed to wear according to their station.
3. SUMPTUARY LAWS
The journeyman had to know the local social structure and applicable sumptuary laws as well. The type of cloths allowed to Bauren (farmers and peasants) was quite different from those allowed to the Burgher (merchants and craftsman) class. Even within classes, there were differences. Burghers who were common city dwellers, laborers, and grocers were not able to wear silk or camlet, but Burghers who were merchants could wear these fabrics. We will include several applicable regional and Imperial sumptuary laws, translated into English.
4. AMOUNT OF FABRIC NEEDED FOR EACH GARMENT
The journeyman would then be tested on how much fabric was needed for a list of garments. Because fabric came in so many different widths, he would need to be able to answer how much fabric would be needed for the same garment in different fabric types.
5. PATTERN LAYOUTS
The journeyman would then take his chalk and mark out the width of the fabric on a board. Whether this was a piece of the wall or a cutting table, we don’t know, but we do know this was done with chalk. He would then draw the pattern layout of the garments chosen by the Guild Master as part of the test. These are the diagrams that we see in the three Austrian tailor’s masterbooks: Leonfelder, Enns, and Nidermyer.
In our book, each pattern from the manuscripts will have:
- Photo of the original manuscript page
- Transcription of the original German handwriting with an English translation
- Diagram of the pattern pieces, laid out for you to see how the pieces probably fit together.
- Artwork depicting similar styles and examples of extant garments when they can be found
Over 80+ Patterns included in the book:
- 39 men's garments, including 6 in Hungarian styles
- 11 women's garments, including 4 dresses
- 4 tent patterns, single and double pole
- 9 horse garments and saddle covers
- 18 clerical garments for priests and monks, for Mass and everyday wear
Why did these books exist? How were the tailor's guilds organized and structured? The Enns book contains 15 or so pages of the guild articles, and we will include sections which explain why these books were created.
TOOLS OF THE TAILOR
What tools did the tailor have? How did he use them? We’ll explore the tools they had available.
Where Will All the Funding Go?
How will the money be spent? We've developed a detailed budget and plan, and here's how it breaks down:
50% will be spent on:
- Photography fees for two of the manuscripts (which have never been photographed before!)
- Art fees to museums for photographs of paintings, extant garments and items similar to the garments in the manuscripts. Museums include: Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (SLUB) and others.
- Professional design and layout, making the book easy to use.
The truth about crowdfunding is that the remaining 50% is spent as follows:
- 8-10% goes to Kickstarter as funding fees for a successful campaign and credit card processing fees.
- 40% goes to printing and shipping costs for the Kickstarter rewards.
Want to be a project angel? Support at the higher levels. Your pledges stretch farther there.
Hi! I am a child of a German mother and while my first language was German, I grew up in the US so that I developed bilingual skills. I am passionately interested in historical clothing, which obsession started at age eight when reading an entry in the encyclopedia about styles of dress through the ages. Pursuit of the subject continued along with my studies in languages through university.
Subsequently, after spending 15 years as a genealogical librarian helping to read various kinds of old handwriting and documents, I've spent many years combing through 16th century books and manuscripts looking for ever more information. My absolute specialty is vocabulary based on clothing and textiles, and in addition I do make and teach about early modern German clothing. I have been blessed with a talent and background that allows me to channel these old words into modern language – and it isn't always easy!
It is my distinct pleasure to help bring to life the secrets that lie in the squiggly lines decorating the pages of these wonderful master tailor’s books. They humble and excite me, and it is my wish that the talented folk that I hope will be our readership use our offering to take German Renaissance clothing to the “next level”. Thank you for supporting this project to make the knowledge available to all.
I began researching Early Modern German clothing and household subjects over 12 years ago and am still fascinated by the daily life of the 16th century. I am so excited to be able to make this book of over 80 extant clothing patterns available to you!
I have been the Editor of Your Wardrobe Unlock'd and Foundations Revealed for five years and recently published "Landsknecht Woodcuts", a reprint of 1883 volume of rare 16th century woodcuts.
Risks and challenges
Every project has risks and challenges, which is why we have waited to launch this Kickstarter. We didn't want to launch a funding campaign until we were almost ready to publish the book.
The translation work is almost finished, the permissions have been granted to have the manuscripts photographed and published, a graphic artist has been lined up to do the work.... all of these pieces had to be in place before we felt comfortable launching this campaign.
There might still be delays due to issues that are out of our control, but we will keep you updated if any of these occur and what our new target date of publication will be.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)