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Random Bits & Pieces

An Elaborate Doublet

Theatrical Costumes

Actors apparently have access to very good second-hand clothes to use as costumes. From an inventory of the Lord Chamberlain's Men (Shakespeare's company) comes this gaudy note in Henslow's Diary: "Bought: a doublet of white satin laid thick with gold lace and a pair of round hose [slops] of cloth of silver, the panes laid with gold lace."

Jewelry & Decoration

In spite of the fact that Puritan preacher Philip Stubbs complains of people wearing rings on every finger of the hand, the middle finger is very unpopular. This is apparently evidence of a common notion that the middle finger is for fools.

Among the nasty elements of that very white face makeup are antimony and lead. It all looks better by candlelight.

School terms

The civil year (legal, Parliamentary, and Oxford university) is divided into four sessions or terms, designated by the feast day which begins them.

Hilary January–April
Easter April–May
Trinity June–July
Michaelmas October–December

At Cambridge the terms are Lent, Easter, and Michaelmas.


The "bend sinister" across a coat of arms does not indicate bastardy. (Refer to Fox-Davies.) Bastards are not entitled to their fathers' coat of arms without special application, when any of several marks maybe used for this purpose.


Medicines prescribed by physicians are made up by an apothecary. The apothecaries belong to the Grocers Company and have to serve an apprenticeship.

The Seasons

The expression St. Martin's Summer refers to what Americans call "Indian summer": an unusually summery period sometime in the Fall. St. Martin's Day is November 11.

The seasons are understood to begin not on the equinox or solstice but when the weather and land actually change:

Spring Candlemas February 1
Summer  May Day May 1
Fall Lammas August 1
Winter All Saints Day   November 1


Henslow's Diary
Hutton: Seasons of the Sun
Kuntz: Rings for the Finger
Fox-Davies: A Complete Guide to Heraldry

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27 March 2008 mps