[HNW] class on researching mistakes

Chris Laning claning at igc.org
Thu Apr 24 18:50:16 PDT 2003

Terrific summary, Christina, of some of the more outstanding research
mistakes I've seen.

You note:
>A common mistake I've seen in application of research is a
>time/place/object mismatch.   Some people do careful research for the
>stitch/motif, but apply it to something "wrong." ...[snip]...or
>assuming that any form of needlework/handwork found on household
>furnishings must also have been used on clothing.

Or vice versa -- what was done on clothing doesn't always apply to
household stuff. From what I've seen, for instance (including sources
like the inventory of Henry VIII), the Elizabethans liked their table
linens white . . . JUST white.  Yet lots of people who do historical
needlework want to do "Elizabethan" tablecloths and napkins with
elaborate blackwork on them. (Handkerchiefs yes, napkins and table
linens no, is my impression.)

>...[snip]...OR, that recent sources are automatically better/more correct
>than older sources.  If Arnold contradicts Linthicum, is Arnold
>automatically correct?

In historical textiles, I actually don't think this is a bad starting
assumption. I've seen so much change even in the last ten or fifteen
years in what we know about (for instance) knitting, nalbinding, and
Elizabethan embroidery that someone who only knows what was "common
wisdom" fifteen years ago now sounds seriously out of date. (For
instance, the idea that _all_ blackwork has to be completely
reversible...) One reason for this is that I think much more research
into actual period items has been done, and published, in the last
twenty years than ever before.

I'd say Arnold _is_ better than Linthicum overall, at least where
they are both discussing the same subject (which isn't always). I
think part of that is because the newer mindset of "examine the
actual period items first" provides information that is vital in
testing the truth of what we think we know based on documentary
evidence (and my impression is that that's Linthicum's main focus).

>Another mistake I often see is forgetting to look in tangential books. For
>instance, it is difficult to find clothing information for Hungarian
>clothing (that isn't semi-modern folkloric).   I found a book about
>Hungary on our shelves  (_Information Hungary_ edited by Ferenc Erdei). On
>page 203, we have a woodcut from a contemporary newssheet of one of the
>"crusaders of Gyorgy Dozsa," who was the leader of the peasant war of
>1514.    King Louis I (1342-1382) is illustrated in a striped cote on page
>191.   There are just tons of woodcuts & pictures in this book - but you
>won't find it in either the clothing or the history section of your
>library.   We classify the book under Geography & Travel.

Another example: almost all of the information I've gathered about
what kinds of beads were used for rosaries before 1600 comes from
books on jewelry, not books on rosaries (of which there are very few,
in English at least).
O    Chris Laning
|     <claning at igc.org>
+    Davis, California

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