"Cordwainers." In An Universal History of Arts and Sciences; or, a Comprehensive Illustration, Definition, and Description of All Sciences, Divine and Human; and of All Arts, Liberal and Mechanical, ed. Dennis De Coetlogon, 2, 833-834. London: J. Hart, 1745.  The information on Cordwainers is ascribed to "J. Martin of Taunton".


CORDWAINERS, or Cordiner, from the French Cordonnier, is the Term whereby the Statutes denominate Shoemakers, who are a Set of Mechanicks employed in making Accoutrements for our Feet, proper to shelter them from several Inconveniences, and even Accidents, to which, without a Cordwainer's Assistance, they would be exposed.

The Art of Cordwaining, tho’ consider’d as a very Vulgar one, and not much esteem’d, has, notwithstanding, its particular Rules, like all other Arts, and some of them so indispensibly necessary in the Practice, that they must be exactly follow’d, to be accounted a good Cordwainer.

Before we enter into an exact Detail of those Rules, and reduce them to Practice., we must fit up our Cordwainer's Shop, with all the Utensils belonging to his Craft; as Lasts of all Sizes and Shapes; Sliding-Rules, and Lines of Inches; Knives, Awls, Wax, Thread, Blacking, Stools, Stirrups, Sticks, Bones, &c. but, above all, with a good Quantity of Leather, both for the Upper Leather, and the Soal.

Our Cordwainer's Shop thus fitted, we’ll set him to work; making him, first, take Measure for a Pair of Shoes. Therefore he must take his Sliding-Rule, or, what is still better, a Line, which may be very commodiously made of tape, and divided into Inches, and Decimal Parts, or any other Ways, as shall best please.  He must apply one End of this Line to the End of of the Heel, and guide it from thence to the End of the Great Toe, which will be the Length of the Shoe, allowing something for the stretching of the Leather. The next Thing he must do, is, to take the  Height of the lnstep, by thrusting his Line under the Foot, and coming round to join both Ends over the Instep, taking Care to not allow too much there, nor too little for the stretching of the Leather; for if he allows too much, and the Instep be much higher than needs be, the Shoe will never wear well; but, on the contrary, will always make Grimaces, both before and behind: If, on the contrary, he allows too little for the Height of the Instep, besides that the Shoe must then be unshapeable, it must pinch the Foot, and prove very prejudicial to the Health of the Person who wears it, by obstructing the Circulation of the Blood in that Place, which in Length of Time would be attended with dangerous Consequences. When he has took the Height of the Instep, he afterwards takes the Breadth of the narrower Part of the Foot.

The next Care of our Cordwainer, is, to find in his Shop a Last which will answer that Measure in Length and Breadth, and what it wants in Bigness, is supplied with Instep Leathers, and a Cork. In cutting our his Upper Leather, he mull allow something for the reaching, and reach well the Quarters in Length, that they may not reach in Lasting. If it be a long Quarter, the Straps ought to be very broad, and mount high on the Instep, that the Quarter may fit tight behind, making the Seam even, and firm; tho’ at Paris they make often their Quarters all of a Piece, without any Seam behind: And to me, who have often wore such, they appear tighter, and fit a great deal better.  The Sides must be well clos’d, few’d, and lin’d round.

Before the Cordwainer can pretend to last his Leather, he must wet it, and lay it to dry, that it may be mellow; then reach and hammer it very close; afterwards he tacks on the In-Soal, lasts his Toe-Lining, taking Care to leave it as strong as possible, i.e. not pare it too thin; then lasts his Upper Leather, and slicks the Toes of it bright, rubbing it over with some Paste, to keep it smooth, sewing it afterwards with a Thread well wax’d, taking Care to wax it often in working; otherwise it would soon be worn out.

The Heel if it be Wood, must be put in next, pulling up the Rand tight, slicking it, rubbing it over with Paste, or Gum Adragante, to render it smooth, and bracing it afterwards; which done, the outer Soal is to be rounded, tack’d on, and rubb’d close with the long Stick; then the Channel must be cut, and slick’d, rubbing once more, afterwards, the outer Soal, to cover the Stitches: Next, the Heel is tack’d, well beaten down, cut round even with the Soal, and sew’d down; this done, the remaining Lifts and Top-pieces are tack’d on, but they must not be all sew’d down, unless it be a very low Heel: When they are all tack’d, and well beaten down, our Cordwainer shapes his Top-piece rough, pares his Heel, pegs it and rough pares it again, plaining the Sides of it afterwards, to make it solid and close; he also plains the Soal even to the Stitches, and then takes of the Edge even to the Stitches, pares it smooth, and rasps is rubbing it over afterwards with a Sand Stone, blacking it with Copperas-water, doing it over with Paste, and rubbing it well with the Rubbing Stone; then blackens his Shoe, for the last Time, with the Blacking Brush, clearing it afterwards with a Piece of black Crape, which done, he slicks the Upper Leather, rubs up the Seams, pulls out the Last, and the Shoe is fit to put on.

In Double Channel Pumps, the Heel-Part is made first, then the Last is pull’d out, and the Channels stitch’d.

As to the cutting of Boots, the Tongue, after trench’d out, must be braced very well with a Cord, then cut fit, and beaten afterwards into the Leg, (which Leg must be first shap’d to the Person’s Leg;) the Tongue having been thus beaten into the Leg, must be cut a little lesser, that it may fit clean. These Directions were sent me by my honest Friend, and Subscriber, J. Martin, of Taunton.

As to the Antiquity and Origin of Cordwaining, or Shoe-making, Benedict Baudouin, (a Native of Amiens in Picardy, the Son of a Cordwainer, and himself a Workman in his Father’s Shop) maintains in his learned Treatise of the ancient Shoe, De Solea veterurs, that God, in giving Adam Skins of Beasts to cloathe him, did not leave him to go bare-footed, but gave him Shoes of the same Matter; that after raw Skins, Men came to make their Shoes of Rushes, Broom, Paper,  Flax, Silk, Wood, Iron, Silver and Gold; so Different has their Matter been. Nor was their Form more stable, with Regard either to the Shape, Colour, or Ornaments; they have been square, high, low, long, and quite even, cut, carved, &c.

Pliny, l. 7. c. 56. tells us, that one Tychius of Bæotia, was the first that us’d Shoes. Mr. Nilant, in his Remarks on Baudouia, observes, that he quotes Xenephon in vain, to shew, that even in his Time they still wore Shoes of raw Skins. Xenephon relates that the 10000 Greeks, who had follow'd the young Cyrus, wanting Shoes in their Retreat, were forced to cover their Feet with raw Skins, which occaisioned them great Inconveniences. Nilant will not even allow that the Shoes of the Country People, call’d Carbatinæ and Peronæ, were of crude Skin, without any Preparation.

The Patricians among the Romans, wore an Ivory Crescent on their Shoes: Heliogabalus, had his Shoes cover’d over with a very white Linnen, in Conformity to the Priests of the Sun, for whom he professed a very high Veneration. This Kind of Shoe was called udo, ude, or ode. Caligula wore Shoes enrich’d with precious Stones. The Indians, like the Egyptians, wore Shoes made of the Bark of the Papyrus. The Turks put off their Shoes, and leave them at the Doors of the Mosques.

In Paris, they have two pious Societies under the Title of Freres Cordonniers, Brothers Shoemakers, establish'd by Authority towards the Middle the seventeenth Century; the one under the Protection of St. Crispin, the other of St. Crispianus, two Saints, who had formerly honour’d the Profession. They live in Community, and under fix’d Statutes and Officers; by which they are directed, both in their spiritual and secular Concerns. The Produce of their Shoes goes into a common Stock, to furnish Necessaries for their Support; the rest to be distributed among the Poor.

John Babtista Gallo, a Shoemaker of Florence, has publish’d some fine Pieces, in the Italian Language; and, among others, Dialogues in Imitation of Lucian.