A Different Tale

It’s been said that with enough time a cage full of monkeys randomly pounding on typewriters could produce the entire works of Shakespeare.  Sadly, the internet has been around long enough to disprove that theory.  The moral to this story?  One should always look over one’s shoulder when confronting data.

Case in point: the porringer.

Examples of this small, handled, shallow bowl that date from as late as the 15th century could have knobbed feet and one or two flat eared handles.  Examples from the 17th century might have loop handles.  By the 18th century, they generally dropped down to a single looped handle.  From the early 19th century they got a little deeper in capacity.  Porringers have been made in almost every lead-glazed earthenware production center of Europe and (Europeanized) America.

It’s ironic that early cups without handles (bowls) were commonly used for drinking, while bowls with handles (cups) were commonly used for eating.

As to it’s name, Dictionary.com describes the “porringer” as:

“Late 15c., alteration of potynger from potage (see pottage) by influence of porridge, with intrusive -n- by 1530s (cf. passenger, messenger).  1515–25; variant of earlier poddinger, akin to late Middle English potinger, nasalized variant of potager, Middle French.”

Sounds reasonable, if somewhat jargony.  Other names and definitions are possible.  For example, “The Concise Encyclopedia of Continental Pottery and Porcelain,” tells a very different tale.  In the Encyclopedia small, shallow porridge bowls with handles are called Bagyne Cups:

“…with two flat ears or handles level with the edge of the bowl and projecting horizontally, so-named from the bagynen or beguines, Roman Catholic lay sisters whose order was founded by Lambert Bague the Stammerer.”

So, to name an old bowl as a derivative of porridge, or as the namesake of a stuttering 12th century Monastic bureaucrat?

Got Monkeys?

303 Porringers, Norwalk

The Concise Encyclopedia of Continental Pottery and Porcelain.  Reginald Haggar.  Hawthorn Books/New York.  1960.

Early New England Potters and Their Wares.  Lura Woodside Watkins.  Harvard Univ Press/Cambridge MA.  1968.


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2 Responses to “A Different Tale”

  1. Lemnian Earth | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] This dated compendium of minutia concerning all things European includes some pretty odd entries.  But other entries present interesting perspectives on early pottery.  The following […]

  2. Viva Tonalá | This Day in Pottery History Says:

    […] Concise Encyclopedia of Continental Pottery and Porcelain mentions a Central American “scented clay.”  Pots made from this clay were supposedly […]

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