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Alex W.




Location: Canada, Alberta
Joined: 16 Feb 2016

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Tue 16 Feb, 2016 2:43 pm    Post subject: Pair of plates         Reply with quote

Greetings and salutations!
I have been lurking about for a while now as I am interested in making a late 14th century harness, but I have only now made the onerous commitment of registering an account.

I make this post as, while reading over many threads both on this site and others, I have repeatedly heard the term "pair of plates". A google search gives a bunch of pictures of modern plates and what appears to be a modern ballistic armour manufacturer, while some "medieval dictionary" type sites just say "see coat of plates".

From context and etymology I have assumed that it meant a coat of plates with few, large plates, likely just the two for the chest, much like a corrazina. However I have also heard references to the same in earlier periods where plates of that size would be uncommon if not unheard of.

However, without any way to confirm my hypothesis I come to you helpful folk in looking for a more exact definition and hopefully some examples (either historical or reproduction) of the article in question.
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,280

PostPosted: Tue 16 Feb, 2016 4:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Pair of plates         Reply with quote

Alex W. wrote:

I make this post as, while reading over many threads both on this site and others, I have repeatedly heard the term "pair of plates". A google search gives a bunch of pictures of modern plates and what appears to be a modern ballistic armour manufacturer, while some "medieval dictionary" type sites just say "see coat of plates".


Medieval inventories tend to say "pair of plates" or simply "plates", while the modern preferred usage is "coat of plates". I wouldn't use either term to infer any difference to style or number of plates, as they are interchangeable.

Thom Richardson of the Tower Armouries has suggested it's from a modern misreading of gauntlets of plate. "The word cerothes is usually contracted to cothes de platis, and the incorrect reading of this may be the origin of the modern term ‘coat of plates’ for what is invariably called a ‘pair of plates’ in the documents."

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Reading list: 13 books

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PostPosted: Wed 17 Feb, 2016 12:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Indeed. "Pair" used to mean something closer to "a set" rather than "two" in Medieval usage. It has absolutely nothing to do with the number or size of the plates.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Alex W.




Location: Canada, Alberta
Joined: 16 Feb 2016

Posts: 10

PostPosted: Wed 17 Feb, 2016 11:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the clarification!
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Thu 18 Feb, 2016 12:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe that that meaning of "pair" is preserved in "a pair of pants".
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,280

PostPosted: Thu 18 Feb, 2016 2:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the Canterbury Tales Prologue, the Prioress' rosary is described as, "A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene,".
http://www.jstor.org/stable/454193?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

The English construct might be necessary to make the plural clear. For example scissors are a singular item with a plrual form, like pants or plates. If one has more than one, it's two pairs of scissors, four pairs of plates, three pairs of pants rather than the singular pair of scissors, pair of plates, or pair of pants. Stairs used to be called a "pair of stairs". I suppose if you had more than one set of stairs in the house the pairs would be plural since stairs already ended in an s. A pair of beads, two pairs of beads, etc.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Quinn W.




Location: Bellingham, WA
Joined: 02 May 2009

Posts: 197

PostPosted: Thu 18 Feb, 2016 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just something to keep in mind - medieval people didn't have the same fascination with categorizing and labeling things as we do. As such, period definitions can be a lot looser than what we modern folk are often comfortable with. It can get frustrating when trying to determine the distinction between different terminology since the "exact definition" you're asking for may not exist. You can certainly argue differences between coat of plates, pair of plates, corrazine, brigandine, etc but with the lack of standardization the argument might not be a clear one.
Jut a heads up that you might not get a very satisfying answer out of this. But that's just one of the things that makes this kind of research interesting!

"Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth"
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Reading list: 13 books

Posts: 981

PostPosted: Fri 19 Feb, 2016 7:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quinn W. wrote:
Just something to keep in mind - medieval people didn't have the same fascination with categorizing and labeling things as we do.

No, no, I cannot agree with this at all. Happy

As far as I can tell people in the past were just as obsessed with the minutiae of exactly what to call things, it's just that they - or at least those of them who wrote down their thoughts - tended to focus on different kinds of things than we with our centuries-distant hindsight and modern mentality tend to, and communication was much, much slower so everything was far less standardized (the sort of public and academic discourse that today takes hours and days would take years or decades because information moved at the speed of travel) and far less accessible (and even more so now, centuries later).

I mean, if I want to learn about automobile design jargon all I have to do is spend some time on Google and BAM! it's all there, but back then learning the professional lingo of cartwrights with its no doubt finely detailed vocabulary for all sorts of largely similar doodads and thingies a layman would see no meaningful difference between would have required personally interviewing a cartwright, and wasn't something most people would have wasted precious writing materials on...

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Fri 19 Feb, 2016 8:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:
As far as I can tell people in the past were just as obsessed with the minutiae of exactly what to call things


According to innumerable chronicles, court and estate records, and legal documents, it's pretty clear that many people in the Middle Ages couldn't even tell you when they were born, or give an accurate account of the distance between their hometown and the next over. A number of people as high as royalty signed their names with different spellings at different times in their lives, and professional court reporters might do as much during the course of a single case. The list of examples is long, and it suggests that a typical medieval mind cared little for and took less time to obsess over details than we do nowadays. Certainly, there were proficient and intelligent people then as well as now who were very careful about all sorts of details, but it was not the norm.

The people who were actually writing important documents were among the most educated by quite a margin - the percentage of Europeans who could write up a detailed lists of armament can probably be counted on one hand at any given time before the fifteenth century. The lack of semblance between surviving documentary evidence suggests that there was in fact a lax attitude towards precise terminology.

-Gregory
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2016 5:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

precision and uniformity are not the same thing.
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2016 6:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nat Lamb wrote:
precision and uniformity are not the same thing.


Do you care to elaborate? If medieval people proved in many instances unable to be precise in their conception of things such as time, distance, spelling and terminology, then how can we expect any more uniformity among the populace at large in such a variety of regions and period of time as the Middle Ages? Even if we limit ourselves to scrutinizing documents from particular decades and regions where there was a dominant spoken language, we oft come across diversity in the evidence. Where do dynamics of individual precision and popular uniformity, looking back in hindsight at a handful of surviving documents, really make much difference to the claims we can argue?

-Gregory

P.S. I don't mean to imply that there is any lack of precision or uniformity in medieval documents. There are plenty of corresponding details from a variety of evidence pertaining to all manner of things - a grand majority of it tallies up just fine. I jumped in specifically to point out that there is also a surprising amount of discrepancy that cannot be overlooked, and which does not correspond to the suggestion that medieval people were just as picky about details as modern folk.
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2016 6:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"more than 20 peckels" is less precise than "27 peckels"
one person saying "22 peckels" where another says "27 peckels" because one is using a peckel to describe the number of skutz that a master and 3 apprentices can make in a week, while the other is using peckels to describe how many a master and 2 aprentices can make in a fortnight, is an example of lack of uniformity.

As for spelling, if a single writer swaps between different spellings in a single text, or between texts, that is imprecise. Different writers using different spellings, but each one always using the same one, would be a lack of uniformity.
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Sat 20 Feb, 2016 7:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry Nat,

I didn't realize that you were simply referring to the two terms in a literal sense. Of course they're not the same. However, in the broad yet hazy picture formed by medieval documentary evidence, it is often hard to distinguish whether something is simply imprecise based on an authorial error, or hints at a lack of uniformity among a group of writers. There is evidence for a lack of both, but in any given scenario there may be none, or some of one or the other - each case must be appraised individually. I am speaking loosely about mentality and not referring to any particular instance, hence my generalization of the defects. Cheers!

-Gregory
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Quinn W.




Location: Bellingham, WA
Joined: 02 May 2009

Posts: 197

PostPosted: Sun 21 Feb, 2016 2:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry guys, I didn't mean to derail the conversation. If anyone has examples of a pair of plates please share that.I'm happy to be ignored Happy

Communication was slower and less universal and that's a big reason I think getting to attached to specific terminology can lead to frustration. An armorer learned from an older armorer generally. There's a good chance that he was in a guild that might standardize terms and practice within its own ranks. But they didn't go take internationally accredited courses or read mass printed books or use google the model number so you aren't going to have any sort of governing body declaring "this is the difference between a brig and CoP" or "this is the distinction between a bastard sword and a long sword".
I think people weren't as nitpicky with their terminology because there just wasn't a lot of point. There isn't a period version of the Oakeshott typology. Modern archers all need to know the poundage of their bows, but we don't seem to see that in period records. If a bow is strong enough to get the job done but light enough to draw effectively then it doesn't really matter whether you can give it a number or not.
The Shakespeare quote "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" comes to mind here.

Now it's true that some people did get really particular. The middle ages were big and nuanced so any generalization is just that. There are accounts of doctors during the plague that recognized that since the plague started when Jupiter was in the house of Aquarius that it's elemental composition was hot and wet. Therefore a cure should involve crushed emeralds because they are classified as cold and dry. (Not sure if I got every one of those details right but the point stands even if it was actually Saturn, I hope). That's about as classification oriented as you can get.
Obviously a certain vocabulary is necessary to communicate - that's what language is, after all. And it is hard to talk about non-academic fields because by definition they were less likely to be put into writing. But these examples tend to come from those who are specifically scholars, scientists or otherwise full-time academics. To my knowledge that mentality was not common.

This is a really interesting conversation and I'm happy to see it continue, but as far as the original post is concerned, let's say I'm completely wrong and people were indeed as big on classification and terminology as we are now. The fact is that the terminology is poorly standardized across time, regions, guilds etc. Which means regardless of the reason, you as a researcher can't treat a particular term as universal in the same way you can modern ones.

"Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth"
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Sat 27 Feb, 2016 1:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Medieval people could be pretty precise when they felt it was important. How many people today know the difference between "men-at-arms" ("hommes d'armes" in heavily modernised spelling) and "armed men" ("homes armetz" in one medieval document) -- and yet the two terms clearly made a pretty important distinction to the people keeping records of military recruitment and pay in late 14th-century England, and a pretty consistent one at that. It's also why I sometimes like to compare contemporary translations of foreign documents (if any exist) with more modern translations since the older translations, though they might be harder to read, tend to preserve the precision of contemporary terms better.

Of course, this kind of precision wasn't always universal, in the same way that soldiers today make a big fuss about the distinction between an "assault rifle" and a "machine gun" or between a "tank" and an "armoured car" while the press rarely does.
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