Medieval dress and textile vocabulary in unpublished sources project
This three-year research project is based at the Universities of Westminster and Manchester and is funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust.
The aims of this project are to assemble a collection of previously unedited documents relating to the Royal Wardrobe as well as petitions to Parliament relating to cloth and clothing in order to conduct research into the linguistic choices they display and to produce a sourcebook of the Vocabulary of Dress and Textiles in Medieval Britain, including representative documents from our corpus and short texts and textual extracts from published sources. The volume will focus on non-literary material such as wills, petitions, wardrobe accounts, ecclesiastical, civic and manorial accounts, civic records, and glosses, as well as relevant selections from drama, alliterative verse, romances and saints' lives, all of which have given us words which name medieval garments and fabrics.
We welcome queries, advice and commentary from interested academics and students.
The Medieval Petitions and the Royal Wardrobe accounts and relevant legal documents are an important but neglected source of medieval cloth and clothing vocabulary. The lists of garments and accessories offer information about the language of the aristocratic and mercantile classes who petitioned parliament for such things as reinstatement of their livery or the reinstitution of an allowance in order to purchase winter clothing for their children, for example.
Many of the administrative records from the later medieval period are in a mixture of languages, having Latin as the base language with French and/or English terms inserted or having been composed in French with lexical items from Middle English added. The collection of documents will enable us to shed light on such questions as whether what appears, on etymological evidence, to be a loan word, was an exotic-sounding foreign usage or had already been assimilated into the English of the period.
Aims and objectives
We are producing a sourcebook of the Vocabulary of Dress and Textiles in Medieval Britain provisionally titled Medieval Dress & Textiles: An Anthology of Texts from Britain, which includes representative documents from our collection and short texts and textual extracts from published sources. The volume will focus on non-literary material such as petitions, wardrobe accounts, ecclesiastical, civic and manorial accounts, civic records, glosses, and the other major sources of medieval technical terminology. It will also include relevant selections from the medieval drama, alliterative verse, romances and saints' lives which have given us words which name medieval garments and fabrics.
Previously unknown words or new usages which we find in our corpus are being handed to those working on historical dictionaries such as the Middle English Dictionary, Anglo-Norman Dictionary and Oxford English Dictionary. In addition, the sourcebook will make available an array of documents specifically related to medieval clothing and textiles, most of which have been largely unavailable to the wider scholarly community.
The project has the benefit of an advisory board consisting of Professor Jane Roberts, emerita professor, King’s College London, Dr Richard Ingham, Senior Lecturer, Birmingham City University, and Dr Maria Hayward, Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton.
Louise Sylvester is Reader in English Language at the University of Westminster. Dr Sylvester has previously worked on successful funded projects including Word Studies in Middle English (resulting in the volume Middle English Word Studies: A Word and Author Index) and the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary based at the University of Glasgow. Recent work includes a co-edited collection, Teaching Chaucer (2007), and a monograph, Medieval Romance and the Construction of Heterosexuality (2008), as well as articles and chapters on the semantics and lexis of Middle English and the vocabulary of medieval cloth and clothing.
Professor Gale Owen-Crocker
Gale Owen-Crocker is Professor of Anglo-Saxon Culture at the University of Manchester. She has worked extensively on the dress and textiles of the Anglo-Saxon period. Her recent books include Dress in Anglo-Saxon England (revised ed. 2004) and King Harold II and the Bayeux Tapestry (2005). She is co-Director of the Manchester Medieval Textiles Project, co-founder/editor of the annual Journal of Medieval Clothing and Textiles and editor of Brill’s forthcoming Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450-1450 (2011).
Post-doctoral research assistant
Mark Chambers is Research Associate at the University of Westminster. He has lectured on medieval English language and literature at the University of Durham and at Trinity College Dublin and has published articles on late-medieval dramatic allegory, costuming and clothing terminology. Recent publications may be found in Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture and its Meanings (2010), The Anglo-Norman Language and its Context (2010) and in the forthcoming Medieval Clothing & Textiles (2011).
Please direct comments, queries or suggestions to Dr Chambers or to Dr Sylvester:
Department of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies
University of Westminster
32-38 Wells Street
London W1T 3UW
The Lexis Cloth and Clothing Project
The University of Manchester
Manchester M13 9PL
Part of the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures