JJ (justjayj) wrote in little_details,

17th Century London: Spyglasses and Livrey Companies and Christmas

How's that for a subject line?

I'm in the preliminary research stages of a story about the Great Fire of London, so for all of the below questions, the context is December 1665 through September 1666.

The story has four main characters from two families. Edward and Agnes are husband and wife. Robert and Thomas are brothers. All are shop proprietors living in East Cheap. (Ringside seats!)

Robert and Thomas are printers, but I would like for Thomas to have an extracurricular interest in astronomy. (I won't bore you with the whys; in short, it's symbolic knowledge/reason thing.) I know that not anyone would be able to buy a good seaman's spyglass, but I have given Thomas a childless uncle who was a [Navy man? Merchant sailor? Privateer? Not sure yet.] who left it to Thomas when he died. Two questions:

1. Does that sound like a believable scenario for the time?

2. What would the power of such a spyglass be? I'd imagine you'd get a much better look at the features of the moon. Would it be possible to see the light/dark color patterns on Mars with such a spyglass? Individual points of light in Andromeda? Any of these will do, but I'd like the most impressive one possible.

Now, I have been to Wikipedia on this, as well as to a handful of other sites. I here admit (*dance of shame*) that I haven't done much book research. The Wikipedia entry in particular confused me more than it helped me on the Corporation of London and the various livery companies (though the order of precedence may come in handy). So here's what I'm still left wondering:

1. Robert and Thomas are brothers in the stationer business. Robert is the master, Thomas the apprentice. Would they actually use the terms "master" and "apprentice" as titles?

2. About what age would Robert have to be--or how long at master status--to be a freeman? A liveryman?

3a. Assuming the above, would it be unusual for Thomas to still be an apprentice at around 18 or 19 years old? Would the fact that they're the second generation owning this shop factor into any of it?

3b. Edward is a scrivener. The first female freemen were admitted to the scriveners in 1665. (Whew!) Assuming that Agnes was also his apprentice, how old would she have to be/how many years' training would she need to be a master? To take over her husband's practice once he died? Would she have to be accepted as a freeman for her business to survive?

3c. Would Edward have an office-ish setup, or would he just hang a shingle and do his work wherever the client(s) were?

I know that Christmas as we know it was essentially invented by the Victorians. I'm trying to identify reasonable Christmastime practices for folks of their station. Google isn't turning up anything detailed, as far as I've found.

I know Cromwell banished the celebration and Charles II revived it. I've found a bit about the feasting that would've gone on at court and among other rich folk. But what about merchant types? Specifically, how likely is it that my four characters, having no other family in London, might celebrate with a meal together, either just the four of them or with other friends and neighbors? Were gifts being given in this place and time, even small ones? (Let's assume they're CoE, not Puritan.)

I know that's a lot of little details, but any and all help would be much appreciated, including the names of useful books. Thanks in advance!
Tags: 1600-1699, ~holidays, ~science: astronomy, ~technology: pre-industrial

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