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    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2018
    Hi All :)

    Just recently I've been considering medieval signage - those hanging wrought iron signs that dangle in front of the shops?

    Most people were illiterate back in the early medieval period, so most shop signs were images of what the merchant dealt in. Here is a list of the obvious ones.

    Anvil and hammer - Blacksmith
    Boot - Cobbler
    Mortar and pestle - Alchemist
    Loaf - Baker
    Apples/grapes/oranges - Grocer
    Fish - Fish monger
    Bull - Butcher
    Book - Book seller
    Harp - musical instruments
    Tankard(s)…. :)
    Wine bottles and glass - Vintner?
    Scissors - Tailor (or with comb, a barber)
    Horse with tack - horse dealer or tack shop
    Horse and carriage - stagecoach?

    I was hoping to make a full list of all trades and associated signage with a view to making a small set of map symbols. Does anyone know any more of these traditional sign associations?
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2018 edited
    Not everyone used such signs with a symbol though, there were different ways of announcing what you did. For example, the barber's pole was the symbol of the barber-surgeons in medieval times. Not everyone needed signs to identify their business either, it was often obvious what happened there for multiple reasons.

    Of course, from an illustrative point of view, these are much more needed than for a person living in that street, and from a fantasy point of view, many types of signs not found in medieval ages would be needed, for example signs for city services, various guilds (both more historical ones, as well as pure fantasy like adventurer's guild, fighter's guild, rogue's guild, wizard's guild, etc)
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2018
    Great points, Remy - thanks :D
    • CommentAuthorweogarth
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2018
    Interesting question - I would tend to agree with Monson to a point. I think you'd more likely see those symbols in conjunction with something for the name, it at all.

    An example from the town of Bree: the people in the area are likely to know that the Prancing Pony is an inn, travelers are likely to know an inn when they see one, so just having an image of a restive horse would likely suffice.
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2018
    Signs that don't at first appear to be obvious you mean? the red and white barber's pole (mentioned by Monsen above) is one such symbol. Another one mentioned by a user over on the FB page this afternoon was the three balls used to denote a pawn shop. I had completely forgotten about that one as well. Strange, since I once knew it. I think my memory leaks over the years when I am not reminded of these things by seeing them in use.

    I wonder what other things I will remember only when someone mentions them? :)
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2018
    Here are a couple more - some of which are logical guesses:

    Tooth - Dentist
    Tree of Life - Herbalist (I think!)
    Open sack of flour - Miller
    Axe - Armourer
    Hooded hawk - Falconer
    Plough share - Ploughman
    Ring - Goldsmith
    Spinning wheel - Weaver
    Animal pelt (shown like sheepskin rug) - furrier
    Pipes or other instrument - Minstrel
    Barrel - Cooper (a barrel maker)

    There are more trades listed on the page where I found these, here:

    A very interesting webpage listing reference books I may well read when I get some time, which was shown me by Rob Andrews over on the FB Group page.


    And here is a correction from my first comment. A Cobbler didn't make shoes but only repaired them so a boot may not be the right sign for him. A man who made shoes was known as a Cordwainer. I'm not sure how to do different signs for the two distinct trades.

    Another thing:

    Notice I talk about tradesMEN. Things were very straightforward for any woman who wasn't Xena the Warrior Princess. She either got married, worked in the sex trade or the fields (depending on choice), or became a midwife a herbalist or nun. There is a strong link between the roles of midwifery and herbalist, and the tendency for the church to label such women as witches in later centuries (which is down to the fear of powerful women shown by the churchmen of that time, and which is also a great pity since most of our understanding of the practical and sometimes very effective medicinal uses of herbs was lost as a result of their persecution).

    And here is a curious anecdote: A rather unusual practice that still carried on less than 100 years ago on Portland (the original Isle of Portland in Dorset, UK) was that a woman could only marry a man who had successfully fathered her first child - a proof of the fertility of the union. On an island infertility was a bit of a problem it seems! On this same island it was the women who farmed the land and held the title of 'Reeve' (a sort of head farmer, or farmer's foreman in charge of gathering an island tithe (nothing to do with the church) and redistributing the harvest to feed the poor), while the menfolk worked in the quarries. Things were very different it seems to the classical and rather quaint way of life we just assume. I presume, but have no proof, that the sign of a Reeve would have been the long staff on which account of the various harvests and payments were marked as notches cut in its length - a new staff for every year that passed.
    • CommentAuthorWyvern
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2018
    Sue: The signs you're talking about are essentially medieval guild signs, so not just craft trades are involved here, but also merchants. If you're looking for online artwork inspiration, "guild signs" seems to be the way to go, judging by what my quick trawl turned-up. For some reason, these seem to have survived best across the more Alpine, German-speaking parts of Europe particularly - this page has a handy illustrated discussion, for instance.

    There's another type of sign used for places selling alcohol - pubs, inns, etc. - which can have a more complex nature overall. I came across an interesting paper online here about this topic. It looks from that as if there was a legal requirement in England for inns to be signed by the 15th century, at least in some places.

    On the cordwainer/cobbler front, it's primarily British English usage that seems to insist on the distinction, as this isn't always found elsewhere. To keep things simple, just call them "shoemakers" (or if you want to irritate the odd pedant, "bootmakers")!
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 30th 2018
    Oh thank you, Wyvern :D

    That should prove to be really useful. With the sheer number of sign-symbols to be made I think I might have to do them all a bit 'after the fact' where the first isometric set is concerned. I might manage to get a few done in time, but not all of them.

    Any further ideas are still welcome, since I would like to make as complete a set as possible ;)
    • CommentAuthorJimP
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018 edited
    Not sure what a fletcher, who makes arrows and quarrels, would use for a symbol.

    Sword for swordsmith.
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018
    A bow and arrow?

    A sword could be used as an alternative to an axe for the armourer... or have I got two jobs muxed ip?
    • CommentAuthorJimP
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018
    If I remember correctly, a swordsmith, and someone who makes axes, may not necessairly be the same person. A castle would likely have one of each.
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018
    Granted... which means this set of symbols continues to grow!

    I don't think I have time to combine this with the February annual (the isometric buildings) - not if I want to do them all properly as a nice even set of symbols that belong with each other, but I will get around to doing it sometime soon :)
    • CommentAuthorWyvern
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018 edited
    Complete, eh? Well, you might try this page, Sue. I can't vouch for its complete accuracy, but it is aimed towards fantasy RPGs, while being based on medieval factual data, and overall seems pretty comprehensive (more so than others I've spotted online, particularly as it has basic notes on what most of the occupation names mean). I'd recommend especially scrolling down about halfway, as there's a LONG list of occupations starting there taken from the Paris tax lists in 1292. I think there are 300+ occupations itemised, though of course not all would have needed premises to work from, and some occupations would have gone on in the same place as others.
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018

    OMG! 300 symbols? That's an annual all by itself! LOL!

    Thank you so much for the link, Wyvern :)
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018
    I suppose now would be a good time to ask if this has been done before - if I am in danger of simply repeating something that is already done?
    • CommentAuthorWyvern
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018
    I've not come across any isometric drawings for trades/guild signs before, Sue. Most fantasy RPGs do use emblems, and of all kinds (e.g. this free online fantasy RPG emblem creator), frequently invented for the specific game involved, but those I can recall seem to be face-on designs intended to be viewed clearly, rather than used as artwork options as you're intending here. I can't think of any kind of comprehensive set of actual medieval trade signs like this at all. More comments from others here would be useful though, as my experience will necessarily be limited to those systems and items I've used or chanced-upon.
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018
    Hmmmm. I was intending to do the signs 2D flat so they could be pasted over the city like labels, but if its already been done several times over...

    Not sure how useful isometric trade and guild symbols would be, since they aren't meant to be actually attached to the buildings - just used as map symbols - a bit like the stylised symbols on modern OS maps that you get for historical sites, vantage points, car parks and so on - but ones that are relevant to medieval/fantasy maps instead of the real world.

    I'm probably not really explaining it all that well, but imagine a set of 300 little round counters of roughly the same size and design that you can just paste in the vicinity of the chosen buildings like counters to show where you need to go to get your magic wand/dragon/saddle/new pair of boots before you head off on your epic adventure.
    • CommentAuthorWyvern
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018
    Ah, I see. I was thinking you were going for something like the fancy Germanic examples in the link in my earlier posting above, and attached to the isometric buildings that way. If they're to be 2D though, that also runs into the question of whether they may have been done as fonts, and that I can't answer, as there are a LOT of fonts about, both paid-for and free.

    However, if you were intending on doing the symbols as coloured, or even varicolored, versions, those would be useful still, I think. I've run into the problem repeatedly that there aren't enough economic-type symbols available, such as those for different types of animals and birds (wild and domesticated), and resources like different types of metals, stones, gems, plants, etc. In fantasy RPG settings, these can be important at times.

    That being the case, I'd be inclined to suggest concentrating less on the various specific trade guilds & co., and go with symbols that would be useful in this regard on fantasy maps, because those will have a much wider potential usage than simply identifying the uses of certain buildings.

    Oh, and I forgot to mention earlier, one item from my later "complete" posting's link had the cordwainer as producing fancy leatherwork, while the cobbler made shoes! Don't you just love the Internet ;)
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeDec 31st 2018
    The definition of cordwainer you found makes much more sense than the one I found! (Unless you make shoes with chord)

    I think I may put this idea well and truly on the back-burner - give it a chance to mature properly in my subconscious before I think about actually doing it at some point in the future. I think that maybe a set of waterfalls might be more useful... its definitely been asked for a couple of times now... and then there are a couple more sets of isometric buildings of different types, and a new overland style to finish ;)
    Here's another resource to take a look at, a fantasy tavern sign generator.
    • CommentAuthorLoopysue
    • CommentTimeJan 6th 2019
    Thank you, LE :)