MEDIEVAL VESSELS

An enquiry into the forms and uses of medioeval vessels shows that the modern habits and customs of entertaining guests, and of partaking of meals, food and the use of certain household appointments are the same now as then. Modern developments are for the most part but the out-come of changed conditions and the result of the supply of different foods available. The altered conditions of the surroundings and common mode of life of the middle classes and other groups which have sprang up as it were out of the gap between the two great divisions of the population in the Middle Ages-the ruling classes and the serfs or workers. Both of the extremes as well as the intermediate classes have been divided many times in subsequent periods, thus providing intermediate articles of plate so that although there are many new things the older plate based upon common requirement and use are to-day but replicas in moderated forms of vastly older things. It is in the earlier forms of common articles that are found the most interesting relics, because we can understand their use and surmise if not fully realise the conditions under which these other curios were used. The curiosities of the table are almost of paramount importance. The modest salt cellar of to-day had its beginnings in the Middle Ages when the silversmiths fashioned a suitable receptacle for the salt-a generally eaten condiment of ancient use, for it was and is still the chief condiment of the East, and its presence is essential to the ceremonial welcome of the guest. We can imagine the bowl in which the salt was passed to every guest and the formal way in which the ancient reception of welcome was carried out. The salt was on every table and alike used by the wealthier classes and the common folk. On the board of the noble lord it was the distinguishing mark ; the line drawn between the upper and lower guests when all feasted at the same table. Most of these ancient pieces of plate have their counter-parts to-day ; there are some, however, that passed out of use within the period in which they were used, although vessels for similar purposes used in a more modified form name into being at a later time. Cleanliness has always been regarded as necessary at meal times, although in ancient times the opportunities for washing were not .always available. The washing of hands in days when there were few knives and forks, and fingers took their place, was a much needed ceremony. At the baronial feast a silver or brass aquamarile, a massive ewer, was, with a bowl into which the water was poured, passed round among the guests. Some of these ewers took quaint and grotesque forms being hammered by the silver-smiths into shapes intended, not always successfully, to imitate dogs, animals of various kinds, and sometimes men on horseback.