1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Glove

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GLOVE (O. Eng. glof, perhaps connected with Gothic lofa, the palm of the hand), a covering for the hand, commonly with a separate sheath for each finger.

The use of gloves is of high antiquity, and apparently was known even to the pre-historic cave dwellers. In Homer Laërtes is described as wearing gloves (χειρῖδας ἐπὶ χερσί) while walking in his garden (Od. xxiv. 230). Herodotus (vi. 72) tells how Leotychides filled a glove (χειρίς) with the money he received as a bribe, and Xenophon (Cyrop. viii. 8. 17) records that the Persians wore fur gloves having separate sheaths for the fingers (χειρῖδας δασείας καὶ δακτυλήθρας). Among the Romans also there are occasional references to the use of gloves. According to the younger Pliny (Ep. iii. 5. 15) the secretary whom his uncle had with him when ascending Vesuvius wore gloves (manicae) so that he might not be impeded in his work by the cold, and Varro (R.R. i. 55. 1) remarks that olives gathered with the bare fingers are better than those gathered with gloves (digitabula or digitalia). In the northern countries the general use of gloves would be more natural than in the south, and it is not without significance that the most common medieval Latin word for glove (guantus or wantus, Mod. Fr. gant) is of Teutonic origin (O. H. Ger. want). Thus in the life of Columbanus by Jonas, abbot of Bobbio (d. c. 665), gloves for protecting the hands in doing manual labour are spoken of as tegumenta manuum quae Galli wantos vocant. Among the Germans and Scandinavians, in the 8th and 9th centuries, the use of gloves, fingerless at first, would seem to have been all but universal; and in the case of kings, prelates and nobles they were often elaborately embroidered and bejewelled. This was more particularly the case with the gloves which formed part of the pontifical vestments (see below). In war and in the chase gloves of leather, or with the backs armoured with articulated iron plates, were early worn; yet in the Bayeux tapestry the warriors on either side fight ungloved. The fact that gloves are not represented by contemporary artists does not prove their non-existence, since this might easily be an omission due to lack of observation or of skill; but, so far as the records go, there is no evidence to prove that gloves were in general use in England until the 13th century. It was in this century that ladies began to wear gloves as ornaments; they were of linen and sometimes reached to the elbow. It was, however, not till the 16th century that they reached their greatest elaboration, when Queen Elizabeth set the fashion for wearing them richly embroidered and jewelled.

The symbolic sense of the middle ages early gave to the use of gloves a special significance. Their liturgical use by the Church is dealt with below (Pontifical gloves); this was imitated from the usage of civil life. Embroidered and jewelled gloves formed part of the insignia of the emperors, and also, and that quite early, of the kings of England. Thus Matthew of Paris, in recording the burial of Henry II. in 1189, mentions that he was buried in his coronation robes, with a golden crown on his head and gloves on his hands. Gloves were also found on the hands of King John when his tomb was opened in 1797, and on those of King Edward I. when his tomb was opened in 1774.

See W. B. Redfern, Royal and Historic Gloves and Shoes, with numerous examples.

Gages.—Of the symbolical uses of the glove one of the most widespread and important during the middle ages was the practice of tendering a folded glove as a gage for waging one’s law. The origin of this custom is probably not far to seek. The promise to fulfil a judgment of a court of law, a promise secured by the delivery of a wed or gage, is one of the oldest, if not the very oldest, of all enforceable contracts. This gage was originally a chattel of value, which had to be deposited at once by the defendant as security into his adversary’s hand; and that the glove became the formal symbol of such deposit is doubtless due to its being the most convenient loose object for the purpose. The custom survived after the contract with the vadium, wed or gage had been superseded by the contract with pledges (personal sureties). In the rules of procedure of a baronial court of the 14th century we find: “He shall wage his law with his folded glove (de son gaunt plyee) and shall deliver it into the hand of the other, and then take his glove back and find pledges for his law.” The delivery of the glove had, in fact, become a mere ceremony, because the defendant had his sureties close at hand.[1]

Associated with this custom was the use of the glove in the wager of battle (vadium in duello). The glove here was thrown down by the defendant in open court as security that he would defend his cause in arms; the accuser by picking it up accepted the challenge (see Wager). This form is still prescribed for the challenge of the king’s champion at the coronation of English sovereigns, and was actually followed at that of George IV. (see Champion). The phrase “to throw down the gauntlet” is still in common use of any challenge.

Pledges of Service.—The use of the glove as a pledge of fulfilment is exemplified also by the not infrequent practice of enfeoffing vassals by investing them with the glove; similarly the emperors symbolized by the bestowal of a glove the concession of the right to found a town or to establish markets, mints and the like; the “hands” in the armorial bearings of certain German towns are really gloves, reminiscent of this investiture. Conversely, fiefs were held by the render of presenting gloves to the sovereign. Thus the manor of Little Holland in Essex was held in Queen Elizabeth’s time by the service of one knight’s fee and the rent of a pair of gloves turned up with hare’s skin (Blount’s Tenures, ed. Beckwith, p. 130). The most notable instance in England, however, is the grand serjeanty of finding for the king a glove for his right hand on coronation day, and supporting his right arm as long as he holds the sceptre. The right to perform this “honourable service” was originally granted by William the Conqueror to Bertram de Verdun, together with the manor of Fernham (Farnham Royal) in Buckinghamshire. The male descendants of Bertram performed this serjeanty at the coronations until the death of Theobald de Verdun in 1316, when the right passed, with the manor of Farnham, to Thomas Lord Furnival by his marriage with the heiress Joan. His son William Lord Furnival performed the ceremony at the coronation of Richard II. He died in 1383, and his daughter and heiress Jean de Furnival having married Sir Thomas Nevill, Lord Furnival in her right, the latter performed the ceremony at the coronation of Henry IV. His heiress Maud married Sir John Talbot (1st earl of Shrewsbury) who, as Lord Furnival, presented the glove embroidered with the arms of Verdun at the coronation of Henry V. When in 1541 Francis earl of Shrewsbury exchanged the manor of Farnham with King Henry VIII. for the site and precincts of the priory of Worksop in Nottinghamshire he stipulated that the right to perform this serjeanty should be reserved to him, and the king accordingly transferred the obligation from Farnham to Worksop. On the 3rd of April 1838 the manor of Worksop was sold to the duke of Newcastle and with it the right to perform the service, which had hitherto always been carried out by a descendant of Bertram de Verdun. At the coronation of King Edward VII. the earl of Shrewsbury disputed the duke of Newcastle’s right, on the ground that the serjeanty was attached not to the manor but to the priory lands at Worksop, and that the latter had been subdivided by sale so that no single person was entitled to perform the ceremony and the right had therefore lapsed. His petition for a regrant to himself as lineal heir of Bertram de Verdun, however, was disallowed by the court of claims, and the serjeanty was declared to be attached to the manor of Worksop (G. Woods Wollaston, Coronation Claims, London, 1903, p. 133).

Presentations.—From the ceremonial and symbolic use of gloves the transition was easy to the custom which grew up of presenting them to persons of distinction on special occasions. When Queen Elizabeth visited Cambridge in 1578 the vice-chancellor offered her a “paire of gloves, perfumed and garnished with embroiderie and goldsmithe’s wourke, price 60s.,” and at the visit of James I. there in 1615 the mayor and corporation of the town “delivered His Majesty a fair pair of perfumed gloves with gold laces.” It was formerly the custom in England for bishops at their consecrations to make presents of gloves to those who came to their consecration dinners and others, but this gift became such a burden to them that by an order in council in 1678 it was commuted for the payment of a sum of £50 towards the rebuilding of St Paul’s. Serjeants at law, on their appointment, were given a pair of gloves containing a sum of money which was termed “regards”; this custom is recorded as early as 1495, when according to the Black Book of Lincoln’s Inn each of the new Serjeants received £6, 13s. 4d. and a pair of gloves costing 4d., and it persisted to a late period. At one time it was the practice for a prisoner who pleaded the king’s pardon on his discharge to present the judges with gloves by way of a fee. Glove-silver, according to Jacob’s Law Dictionary, was a name used of extraordinary rewards formerly given to officers of courts, &c., or of money given by the sheriff of a county in which no offenders were left for execution to the clerk of assize and judge’s officers; the explanation of the term is that the glove given as a perquisite or fee was in some cases lined with money to increase its value, and thus came to stand for money ostensibly given in lieu of gloves. It is still the custom in the United Kingdom to present a pair of white gloves to a judge or magistrate who when he takes his seat for criminal business at the appointed time finds no cases for trial. By ancient custom judges are not allowed to wear gloves while actually sitting on the bench, and a witness taking the oath must remove the glove from the hand that holds the book. (See J. W. Norton-Kyshe, The Law and Customs relating to Gloves, London, 1901.)

Pontifical gloves (Lat. chirothecae) are liturgical ornaments peculiar to the Western Church and proper only to the pope, the cardinals and bishops, though the right to wear them is often granted by the Holy See to abbots, cathedral dignitaries and other prelates, as in the case of the other episcopal insignia. According to the present use the gloves are of silk and of the liturgical colour of the day, the edge of the opening ornamented with a narrow band of embroidery or the like, and the middle of the back with a cross. They may be worn only at the celebration of mass (except masses for the dead). In vesting, the gloves are put on the bishop immediately after the dalmatic, the right hand one by the deacon, the other by the subdeacon. They are worn only until the ablution before the canon of the mass, after which they may not again be put on.

At the consecration of a bishop the consecrating prelate puts the gloves on the new bishop immediately after the mitre, with a prayer that his hands may be kept pure, so that the sacrifice he offers may be as acceptable as the gift of venison which Jacob, his hands wrapped in the skin of kids, brought to Isaac. This symbolism (as in the case of the other vestments) is, however, of late growth. The liturgical use of gloves itself cannot, according to Father Braun, be traced beyond the beginning of the 10th century, and their introduction was due, perhaps to the simple desire to keep the hands clean for the holy mysteries, but more probably merely as part of the increasing pomp with which the Carolingian bishops were surrounding themselves. From the Frankish kingdom the custom spread to Rome, where liturgical gloves are first heard of in the earlier half of the 11th century. The earliest authentic instance of the right to wear them being granted to a non-bishop is a bull of Alexander IV. in 1070, conceding this to the abbot of S. Pietro in Cielo d’ Oro.

During the middle ages the occasions on which pontifical gloves (often wanti, guanti, and sometimes manicae in the inventories) were worn were not so carefully defined as now, the use varying in different churches. Nor were the liturgical colours prescribed. The most characteristic feature of the medieval pontifical glove was the ornament (tasellus, fibula, monile, paratura) set in the middle of the back of the glove. This was usually a small plaque of metal, enamelled or jewelled, generally round, but sometimes square or irregular in shape. Sometimes embroidery was substituted; still more rarely the whole glove was covered, even to the fingers, with elaborate needlework designs.

Liturgical gloves have not been worn by Anglican bishops since the Reformation, though they are occasionally represented as wearing them on their effigies.

See J. Braun, S.J., Die liturgische Gewandung (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1907), pp. 359-382, where many beautiful examples are illustrated.

Manufacture of Gloves.—Three countries, according to an old proverb, contribute to the making of a good glove—Spain dressing the leather, France cutting it and England sewing it. But the manufacture of gloves was not introduced into Great Britain till the 10th or 11th century. The incorporation of glovers of Perth was chartered in 1165, and in 1190 a glove-makers’ gild was formed in France, with the object of regulating the trade and ensuring good workmanship. The glovers of London in 1349 framed their ordinances and had them approved by the corporation, the city regulations at that time fixing the price of a pair of common sheepskin gloves at 1d. In 1464, when the gild received armorial bearings, they do not seem to have been very strong, but apparently their position improved subsequently and in 1638 they were incorporated as a new company. In 1580 it is recorded that both French and Spanish gloves were on sale in London shops, and in 1661 a company of glovers was incorporated at Worcester, which still remains an important seat of the English glove industry. In America the manufacture of gloves dates from about 1760, when Sir William Johnson brought over several families of glove makers from Perth; these settled in Fulton county, New York, which is now the largest seat of the glove trade in the United States.

Gloves may be divided into two distinct categories, according as these are made of leather or are woven or knitted from fibres such as silk, wool or cotton. The manufacture of the latter kinds is a branch of the hosiery industry. For leather gloves skins of various animals are employed—deer, calves, sheep and lambs, goats and kids, &c.—but kids have had nothing to do with the production of many of the “kid gloves” of commerce. The skins are prepared and dressed by special processes (see Leather) before going to the glove-maker to be cut. Owing to the elastic character of the material the cutting is a delicate operation, and long practice is required before a man becomes expert at it. Formerly it was done by shears, the workmen following an outline marked on the leather, but now steel dies are universally employed not only for the bodies of the gloves but also for the thumb-pieces and fourchettes or sides of the fingers. When hand sewing is employed the pieces to be sewn together are placed between a pair of jaws, the holding edges of which are serrated with fine saw-teeth, and the sewer by passing the needle forwards and backwards between each of these teeth secures neat uniform stitching. But sewing machines are now widely employed on the work. The labour of making a glove is much subdivided, different operators sewing different pieces, and others again embroidering the back, forming the button-holes, attaching the buttons, &c. After the gloves are completed, they undergo the process of “laying off,” in which they are drawn over metal forms, shaped like a hand and heated internally by steam; in this way they are finally smoothed and shaped before being wrapped in paper and packed in boxes.

Gloves made of thin indiarubber or of white cotton are worn by some surgeons while performing operations, on account of the ease with which they can be thoroughly sterilized.

  1. F. W. Maitland and W. P. Baildon, The Court Baron (Selden Society, London, 1891), p. 17. Maitland wrongly translates gaunt plyee as “twisted” glove, adding “why it should be twisted I cannot say.” An earlier instance of the delivery of a folded glove as gage is quoted from the 13th-century Anglo-Norman poem known as The Song of Dermott and the Earl (ed. G. H. Orpen, Oxford, 1892) in J. H. Round’s Commune of London, p. 153.