Pouches & Purses
Purses in Pieces: Archaeological Finds of Late Medieval and 16th century Leather Purses, Pouches, Bags and Cases in the Netherlands

Dress Accessories

Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York

Material Culture in London in an Age of Transition: Tudor and Stuart Period Finds c. 1450-1700 from Excavations at Riverside Sites in Southwark

The Medieval Art of Love: Objects and Subjects of Desire

Period Patterns: Bags, Pouches, and Purses



Pursemakers in the Mendel Hausbuch:
Herman (c. 1425) makes a few different styles.
Eberhart Taschner (c. 1425) and Fritz Nutzel (1501) make girdle purses.
Peter Islinger makes the metal bits for escarcelles (1469), and Mertein Newpaur makes a simpler style of spring catch frame.
Hans Rossner (1526) and Jorg Schteiner (1540) make pouches with pouchlets, in styles with and without spring catches.
Hans Feirlein (1508) makes a round-based style with exterior pouchlets.

This page has been reorganized to coordinate with the taxonomy of medieval bags, pouches, and purses in Purses in Pieces by Olaf Goubitz. Since his survey only covers late medieval and 16th century Dutch examples, I have included related earlier examples (as well as examples from beyond the Netherlands) as well.

See also these links relating to pouches, purses, bags, and satchels. There are some details of men's purses at From the Skin Out as well (many of which appear below).

You should also read Purses for the Company of Saint George and On Carrying Things: Packs, Baskets, Bags and Bundles if you're interested in late 15th century examples; if alms-purses or embroidery interest you, see Aumônières, otherwise known as alms purses: Embellished textile purses in the European 14th century; there are several embroidered purses photographed and re-created at the Taschen blog as well.


Girdle purses

"The girdle purses is a leather, bag-shaped container with one or two loops on the top by which the purses is strung onto the girdle." (Goubitz 15-35)


Pouch purses

"The pouch purse is a girdle purse with a single suspension loop." (Goubitz 41-42)


Girdle bags

"Girdle bags are bag purses closed with a flap and may have girdle loops." (Goubitz 43-45)


Framed purses

“A category of distinctive purses with metal frames and suspension features by which they are suspended from the girdle … From the frame, made of iron, tin-plated iron, brass, silver or gold, hangs the leather bag part of the purse. In later centuries, other materials too were used, mainly textile. The frame surrounds the purse’s aperture. Therefore it must be wide enough to admit a hand.” (Goubitz 47-59)

I have moved all of the framed purses (14th-17th century) to their own linkspage.


Money pouches or Drawstring pouches

"Pouches are bag-shaped leather or textile receptacles of thin and supple material." (Goubitz 61-69)

I have moved all of the money pouches and drawstring pouches to their own linkspage.


Girdle pouches

"Some images show receptacles that show pouches carried closely below or on the girdle. Sometimes there is evidence of some kind of suspension loop, but often the top of the pouch appears to sit immediately on the girdle. This could be achieved with short loops on the back of the pouch. Also it is imaginable that the pouch is integral with the girdle. Its overall shape is similar to that of a pouch purse or pouch suspended from the girdle with a thong or strap." (Goubitz 71)


Waist bundles

"Shepherds wore their plain, black leather girdle purses or bundles tied around the waist. Apparently, this bundle was strung through with a thong or strap, which after being tied left two loose ends. How exactly this worked and what constitutes the bulging shape ni the painting may only be guessed at. It could be a broad linen bag which after being partially rolled up, was tied around the waist so that it would not get in the way while the wearer was at work." (Goubitz 73)

Examples and further discussion of these waist bundles can be found at the shepherds' budgets linkspage.


Money-changer's purses

"The money-changer's purse is in fact a pundle of pouches that was used especially by people who needed to deal with several different currencies ... The so-called money-changer's purses helped to keep apart as many currencies as possible. To this end, the purses incorporated not only several pouches, but also extra pouchlets stitched onto each pouch. Of course any type of purse with multiple compartments could serve this purpose ... Two principal types can be distinguished. one has a large central pouch surrounded by several smaller pouches, each with their even smaller pouchlets: what one might call a 'mother purse'. The other type has a stick handle, to which are attached four to six pouches, each with their pouchlets: a 'father purse'. All of the pouches and pouchlets were closed with a thong or strap according to the drawstring principle." (Goubitz 75-78)


Bags

"The term 'bag' here generally refers to what nowadays we know and use as a 'shoulder bag', for the simple reason that in the Middle Ages (and later) people wanted to keep their hands free, as we still do … Those who carried shoulder bags, mostly men, tended to be artisans, traders, farmers, hunters, pilgrims, and beggars." (Goubitz 79-81)

More examples of the pilgrims' bags can be found on the pilgrims’ scrips & bags linkspage. Traders can be found in the peddlers linkspage.