Wednesday, September 23, 2009

more specimens of the literature of Sweden


This grass, which was formerly named "renrepe", is fairly low, around 1/3 of a meter in height, with an erect stem and the flowerhead, which is a compact spike, is confusingly similar to couch grass (no. 110). But there is a crucial difference between them: the spikelet of Agropyron, Elytrigia, Roegneria etc. has its flat side, of Lolium on the other hand one of its edges, adjacent to the common spike-axis. Because of this arrangement the Lolium spikelet is missing the glume that would otherwise be closest to the spike-axis.

In central Europe this grass has greater significance than it does with us. There it has been cultivated for several centuries, especially in pasturage, as it tolerates close grazing. It is also makes an attractive and smooth turf for lawns. In Sweden it is of fairly common occurrence, either self-seeded or as an escape from cultivation, in the southern and middle part of the country, but normally in cultivated ground or close to human habitation, on building-lots, rubbish-tips and so on; in the north it is not hardy and grows as an annual.

PLATE 77. Fig. 1 The plant's lower part and the stem's upper part with spike in flower, 2 spikelets (x4).

(from C.A.M. Lindman's Nordens Flora, text revised by Magnus Fries 1964)



As with all other professions during the era of the guilds, the copperbeating workforce comprised masters, journeymen and apprentices.
The ancient statutes, which regulated the exercise of the profession, remained in force until 1846. The general guild system (under royal warrant) appeared in 1669, with a revision in 1720.

Every Swedish youth who wished to follow a craft profession had to demonstrate from his birth certificate that he was of legitimate birth. To be sure, it was later asserted that illegitimate birth ought not to hinder a lad from enrolling in some form of training, but this represented merely the authorities' idle hope, in the form of a decree that officials paid little attention to.

Drinking mug from the beginning of the 19th Century. Height 15 cm.

Miniature coffee-pot made out of an emergency coin from 1721. The coin is 2.5 cm in diameter. Probably a journeyman-piece.

In general it seems that apprentices in the copperbeating trade were bound to a master from the age of 12. From the master they could expect board and lodging, and such training as would prepare an apprentice, some four or five years in the future, to be employable as journeyman. A certain cash salary was also payable to the apprentice. In the 1880s an apprentice could earn 35 kr in the first year, 45 kr in the next, 55 kr in the third and 75 kr in the fourth. The master reserved the right to set the boy to work at miscellaneous duties, which did not necessarily relate to the craft he was learning. In the Guild statute of 1720 it was asserted that the apprentice, since from his master he "enjoyed meals, clothing and house-room, was fully bound to run the master's errands, provided they were imposed in moderation and were in the main connected with the training and craft to which he was apprenticed". An apprentice boy's first year at the works was certainly no picnic. Hard masters and bullying from the journeymen meant that a boy who survived this introduction was pretty toughened.

Beaker, stamped AB, perhaps from Avesta works. 19th Century. Height 20 cm.

If a son chose his father's profession it was of course quite common for his apprenticeship to begin considerably earlier. The coppersmith Bergström in Falun reported that he was already assisting his father in the workshop at the age of 9. His father would wake him at three in the morning to help with the hammering. By the time he set off to school, which started at 0900, he had already had a long working day.

When the apprentice came to the end of his final year at the master's he had to be formally discharged from his training. The alderman entered in the record the day of discharge, a fixed sum of money was paid into the officials' coffers, and then the young man received his letters of training and the title of journeyman. He had moreover to produce a journeyman-piece for the approval of certain impartial examiners. The ex-apprentice would then be adopted into the union of journeymen, which was a junior counterpart to the society of master coppersmiths. Often this initiation was a particularly painful procedure.

The society of journeymen decreed, among other things, that a journeyman who was out on his travels looking for work must wear a hat and carry a wanderer's stick. He had to have three buttons done up on his coat, set his hat upon his stick when he crossed the threshold of a strange workshop and pronounce the words "lass åff fon tell", a corruption of the German "Landsauftenhalt". The senior journeyman at the workshop would then answer "hjelt", a corruption of "gilt" i.e. "Approved". The newcomer was presented to the master and might receive a contract for 14 days' work. If there wasn't any work for him then each of the other journeymen was obliged to give him at least 25 öre as travel-help. And it wasn't unusual for some consumption of brännvin to take place. If the journeyman who was looking for work managed to find it with another master in the same town, he was obliged to repay the travel-help he had received.

The copperbeating journeymen were predominantly a wandering workforce. Many journeymen had their reference diary fully filled out with 14-day contracts for different masters. It was often impractical for them to acquire a home or family since it was exceptional for the many small concerns to to be able to make room for married workers in their workshops. The wage for a journeyman in the 1880s varied between 6 and 9 kr for a working week consisting of 12-13 hour days. It is said of the journeymen "that they were often tramps who would stay a few weeks in one place and then move on. It could become habitual to work only until they had built up a little store of wages and then hit the road again. Few journeymen put by any savings so they could eventually set up their own workshop.

When the new journeyman set forth from the workshop where he had learned his trade an apprentice was assigned to ceremonially bear his rucksack through the town. In the 1880s the boy earned 25 öre for this service. The journeyman must never buy his own wanderer's stick. Anyone who broke with this rule had no hope of making good in the world. Either the master and his old comrades would present the stick to him, or (if he truly wanted to ensure success on his journeyings) it should happen that the stick was a gift from a young lady.

(from Per Henrik Rosenström, Gammal Koppar 1965)

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