Your Character's Profession

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You've been an apprentice pig farker for how long now? Find yourself a new profession and carry around a few implements of the trade. The street will revel with delight when you appear!

For most of history, nearly everyone was a poor dirt farmer, growing barely enough to support themselves. But in the relative peace and prosperity of Elizabethan Era towns, economic specialization (once the domain of the wealthy) began serving the desires of an emerging middle class. In a market fair, these tradesmen (often still farmers themselves) would hawk their wares.

In the streets of faire, you can play one of these entrepreneurs by toting around a few tools. A blacksmith might have a heavy leather apron with burns. A baker, an apron with flour. A scribe, a pen, paper and inkstained hands. A barber-surgeon, some questionable tongs and elixirs. The dung-monger, a cart full of dung. Make it obvious! A customer should be able to guess your profession just by looking. You'll want to learn about your chosen profession so you can talk about it too.

Hans Sachs, writing verse in 1568, selected a list of All the Trades on the Earth. Sachs, with Jost Amman's illustrated woodcuts, published Eygentliche Beschreibung Aller Staende auff Erden..., an compilation of 114 craftsmen, costumes and tools of the period. This has been republished by Dover Press as the Book of Trades.

According to Sachs, your new profession might be:
Apothecary, Armorer, Astronomer, Bagger, Baker, Balance-maker, Barber (Surgeon), Basin-beater, Bather (owner of a bath), Beer-brewer, Bellfounder (large church bells), Bellmaker (small bells for sleighs and clothing), Belter (belt maker), Blockcutter (for block printing), Bookbinder, Bookprinter, Bowyer (bow maker), Bricker (brick baker not mason), Bronze-founder, Brush-binder, Buffoon, Butcher, Carpenter, Clockmaker, Combmaker, Compass-smith, Cook, Cooper (barrel maker), Coppersmith, Dentist, Doctor, Drummer, Dyer, Embroiderer, Engraver (for printing not to decorate items), Fabric-shearer (trims nap and makes pleats), Falconer, Farmer, Fiddler (this is an unfair translation Geiger is applied to any player of bowed and stringed instruments), Fisher, Fisherman, Fool, Fool for Money, Furrier, Gemcutter, Glasspainter, Glazier, Gluttonous Fool, Goldbeater, Goldsmith, Grinder (knife sharpener), Gunsmith, Gunstocker, Harper, Hatter, Huntsman, Illuminator, Jew, Joiner, Kettledrummer, Knifesmith, Lantern-maker, Lawyer, Locksmith, Lutemaker, Lutenist, Mail-maker, Merchant, Miller, Miner, Mintmaster (coin stamper), Mirror Maker, Miser, Nailer, Needler (needle maker), Oilmaker, Organist, Painter (portraits and landscapes), Paperer (this is an Parchmenter), Peddler, Physician, Pilgrim, Pin-maker, Piper, Potter, Priest, Prince, Procurator (or Proctor this is a kind of legal Agent or Representative), Redsmith (brass), Roper, Saddler, Sculptor, Scythe-smith, Ship's Captain, Shoemaker, Siever (Sieve maker), Singer, Smith (blacksmith), Spectacle-maker, Spurrer (spur maker), Stonecutter, Tailor, Tanner, Tapestry Weaver, Thimbler (thimble maker), Thonger (maker of leather straps or laces), Typefounder (printing type), Vintner, Wagoner (wagon driver), Wagonwright (wagon maker), Weaver, Wheel-wright, Wire-drawer, Woodturner

A truly incredible list of medieval occupations is available in Middle English Occupational Terms by Bertil Thuresson. Nendeln/Liechtenstein: KrausReprint, 1968. (reprint of Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1950. from the Lund Studies in English). This beauty made the circuit of the College of Arms a few years ago, and might be available through a good Herald. I can't begin to list the 240 pages worth of material available there. [Contributed by Gwynyth]

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