Occupation Product or Service Description
Baker Bread Baker
Bookbinder Books Bookbinder
Built homes, wagons,
Carpenter furniture, etc. Carpenter
Dyers Inks Dyers
Engraver Etching of personal items Engraver
Jeweler Jewelry Jeweler
Secured castles and homes
Minstrel Traveled and played music Minstrel
Wrote books, did research
Shoemaker Shoes Shoemaker
Spy Informer to the King Spy
The Baker was a common occupation but not as easy as some may
think. In the Renaissance there was a period when bakers began
cheating the public at such a rate that public outcry reached the ears
of several kings. As bread was a daily staple of Renaissance life, the
bakers knew that they could charge a lot of money for minimal
portions of their products. As such, kings levied laws against bakers
stating that they were to lower their prices and keep honest. In fact
the common term "A Baker's Dozen" (meaning 13 instead of 12) came
from this time period. Any baker caught selling less than an even
dozen was strictly and harshly punished. As a result bakers began
adding one extra loaf to be certain their count would be correct or
even over the amount decreed by law.
Good bakers were often invited and employed by the rich and elite as
personal cooks and chefs inside the safety of castles. Their duties
included the preparation of dinners and large feasts. There were
exceptional bakers of all classes.
An occupation that was extremely important but receives very little
credit is the position of the Renaissance Bookbinder. This skill was
very important as journals, diaries, and manifests were being written
during the time period. News of discoveries, law, science, medicine,
technology and industry were recorded on paper and were then
bound together in the format of a book by professional binders.
As there were no machines for printing, each journal and book was
meticulously and painstakingly handwritten. The Bookbinder had to
be careful when setting the pages together to not tear, damage or
destroy any portion of the manuscript.
Many of these books still survive today in Churches and museums
and serve as a testament to the excellent work performed.
Bookbinders usually joined a guild where they learned the trade as
Carpenters were highly skilled and considered to be elite tradesmen.
To become a Carpenter it was usually necessary to join a guild as an
apprentice and learn the craft.
Most items used during daily life in the Renaissance were produced
and manufactured by carpenters. Homes, wagons, tables, furniture,
tools and utensils were all the creations of these gifted workers.
Knowledge of math, woodworking and the use of tools was required.
Though many of the implements used were basic in comparison to
those employed today, it can be argued that some fine examples of
work were produced during the Middle Ages.
Kings and nobles often sought out the finest carpenters and kept
them retained on their staffs as specialists. Furnishing castles and
estates was not only done for decorative purposes but also to
demonstrate prestige and status to visitors. Thus a master carpenter
was always in demand and could stand to earn high wages.
Dyers used their skills to mix different components to form inks, dyes
and colorful stains that could add tint and hue to clothing, furniture,
fabrics, materials and artwork. Not only did they possess the ability
to decorate fashionable wear but they also provided scribes and
artists with the materials necessary for them to complete their work.
The Dyer had a multi-faceted job. Not only was the making of the
various dyes difficult and tedious work but often it was dangerous
too. Different berries and plants used to create the pigments often
contained a degree of poison that was lethal if handled, inhaled or
accidentally ingested. Though the Dyer put his or her life in jeopardy
by working, the wages earned were quite meager and below average.
Most women held the positions of Dyers and though some were
elevated to strictly work for the elite and nobility, most worked in
small towns and communities.
An Engraver was a specialist who was often called upon to etch
messages and designs into swords, shields, armor and metal plaques.
An artist in his own right, he worked with a variety of custom tools
to produce his trade.
Though the art form has been modified by the advances in
technology of today, the Renaissance Engraver practiced his craft in a
most time consuming and painstaking way. If the results of his work
were unattractive or undesirable, the customer would often not pay
or even had legal grounds to sue the Engraver for ruining a piece of
private property. As such the Engraver had to produce quality work.
Despite being a specialty, Engravers were quite common throughout
the Renaissance. The wages earned were generally modest but being
conscripted or hired by a noble or monarch for a custom project
could find him the recipient of high pay.
Jewelers held great positions of status within Renaissance
communities and towns. As foreign wars took troops into exotic
lands they often returned with precious stones and minerals. Not
knowing the value of them, it was up to the Jeweler to determine
Diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires were the most common
stones found during the Renaissance. Gold, silver and bronze were
also held in high regard. The Jeweler not only held the knowledge of
assessing values on these items but he was also skilled in setting the
stones into rings, pendants, medallions, bracelets and amulets. The
Jeweler also knew how to set the items into sword hilts and other
placements that exhibited the status and wealth of their holders.
Jewelers were respected but there were many who knew the
advantages of being less than honest. The untrained eye of the public
did not easily distinguish stones with minimum value such as quartz,
zirconia, and even fool’s gold. Therefore it was common for a Jeweler
to accept a valuable diamond with the promise of setting it into a ring
or pendant for its owner. Simply, he would polish a quartz or
zirconias of similar size and dupe the owner by giving him the
worthless item. The Jeweler could then sell the original and more
valuable stone and reap a quick and high profit.
Locksmiths were integral parts of Renaissance society. Though most
homes held little more than an internal wooden slide lock on the
insides, Locksmiths became important with the developments and
security of castles.
Their talents were in the beginning stages but an intricate lock that
resisted the efforts of picking or tampering was soon highly valued.
Criminals and the residents of dungeons often escaped rather easily
when not secured with locks or shackles. To maintain security
Locksmiths were trained in guilds and the secrets of their craft were
kept highly guarded.
As such, Locksmiths were considered to possess the knowledge and
skills of a specialty organization and as a result earned high wages.
Minstrels were musicians. Various instruments included the
mandolin, fife, flute, dulcimer, drums, violin and harpsichord. A
great deal of skill and training was required to become a professional
musician and those lucky enough to have proficiency on an
instrument often found themselves entertaining kings and nobles for
Minstrels often would record the deeds of heroic knights and go from
tavern to tavern playing these odes of homage. Not only did it make
for an interesting song, but it gave the knight publicity and
established a degree of respect and status for him. Throughout the
Renaissance, Bards became the popular employees of any knight or
common man who wanted their deeds enshrined in a public song.
The deeds were embellished of course but it was a wonderful way to
spread the fame of a knight from kingdom to kingdom. The talented
Minstrels and Bards frequently charged high prices for these services.
To become a Scribe required skills in reading, writing and
comprehension. Scribes not only wrote volumes of works on the
Renaissance but were also often asked to research laws and other
matters for kings and nobles.
The Scribe was often a historian, poet and philosopher. His acquired
knowledge was advantageous at the workings of social interaction
and his skills provided a written overview of the time period.
Scribes usually were of nobility in that the education needed to attain
the post was not affordable or available to peasant and common
classes. Most Scribes came from religious abbeys where the skills
were learned within the vast libraries of the church.
Their wages were usually standard and average, however the Scribe
was entitled to all the benefits and luxuries of castle life.
Shoemakers (or cobblers) were often common laborers who designed
and made footwear. Anything from shoes fashioned from burlap,
hide or leather to elaborate and fancy boots made from reptile skins.
Their work was regarded as necessary but as the materials they
worked with fetched high prices, not all were able to afford them.
Shoemakers eventually curtailed their businesses to suit the needs of
most people and designed lesser pieces of footwear from cloth and
even wood. Though they appealed to the mass populace and even
though their product was necessary, Shoemakers often earned only
It was a wise king or monarch that kept informed of what was going
on in rival and neighboring communities and towns. Therefore it
became necessary to hire Spies to secretly find out what was afoot.
Contrary to popular belief, most Spies were women. It was generally
accepted that women could move in certain social circles more easily
than men and using their inherent charm, could naturally coax more
information out of trusted employees of rival houses.
These Spies were often trained with the uses of various skills such as
reading, writing and often speaking more than one language. They
were also trained assassins and took oaths that obligated them to take
their own lives rather than risk being caught by an enemy.
Spies were usually paid high wages and were given the luxuries of