Wednesday, 6 April 2016


There is a pretty spiffy kind of bag called a market wallet or simply wallet and it's quite useful. It's sort of like a saddlebag, except you carry it over your shoulder or over a stick - I've never actually seen one on an animal in my scanty store of 12th C images although it would make sense to use it in such a way.

Wallets are also are one of the simplest sewing projects you'll ever find. This page give a description of an 18th C original, and if you can't work out how to construct it from that, this page describes how to make your own.

Karen Larsdatter has an excellent links page on market wallets with images of wallets in artwork from the 13th to 16th Centuries, I'm not going to relink all her excellent work, instead I'm going to focus on a few examples from her list that give some additional clues to how these may have been used and their construction.

I've found several examples of these wallets displayed in 12th C artwork, so we know they date from this period, even though I'm aware of no extant ones. Where the slits are visible, they all seem to run along the length of the bag.

The Copenhagen Psalter (Thott 143 2º) England, 1175-1200 f12r "The flight into Egypt"

Zillis, St Martin. Painted ceiling, detail panel "The flight into Egypt" c1140-60

Is he about to load that Wallet onto an ox?
 Stuttgart Passionale I (Stuttgart Cod bib 2°57) f253 "Life of Saint Maximus" 

This I've shown you before (yes another depiction of the flight into Egypt).
Periscope book of St Erentrud, Nonberg Abbey, Salzburg around 1140 (München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. lat. 15903) f14 "The flight into Egypt" 

And a new one today courtesy of the wonders of pintrest:
Psalter, North England, 12th C (Bodleian Library, Ms Douce,293) fol 10 "The flight into Egypt" 

So, you have historical context and some tips about construction, go play with a wallet today. They are a most useful carrying device.