How did pre-industrial leather tanning work?
July 6, 2008 1:08 PM Subscribe
AskMe Reference Desk: Pre-industrial production and trade of leather and leather goods - how did it work?
posted by CKmtl to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm trying to collect as much information as possible on the workings of tanneries, and the associated trade in leather goods, prior to the industrialization (i.e., dedicated machinery, easy access to bulk purified chemicals, etc.) of the process.
So far, I've tracked down one book that looks promising (English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen, Techniques, Products by John Blair & Nigel Ramsay) and that I'll be checking out tomorrow, but I'd appreciate any further recommendations. Online resources would be extra handy.
A couple of the specific points that I'm stuck on:
- How broadly applicable was the tanner's knowledge? Would someone who was 'specialized' in tanning, say, cow hide know how to tan deer skins? Boar? Reptiles? Fish? Emu? And so on...
- Pit-tanning apparently took upwards of a year. If there was a somewhat continuous supply of incoming raw hides, and a somewhat continuous demand for outgoing tanned hides, how would a pit tannery reconcile the two? Wouldn't today's (~1 year old) tanned hide be stuck at a the bottom of the pit, covered by the rest of the year's unfinished hides?