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HISTORY OF BOOTS AND SHOES.
ON THE MOST ANCIENT COVERINGS FOR THE FEET.
F we investigate the monuments of the remotest
nations of antiquity, we shall find that the earliest form of protection for the feet, partook of the nature of sandals. The most ancient representations we possess of scenes in ordinary life, are the sculptures and paintings of early Egypt, and these the investigations of travelled scholars from most modern civilized countries have, by their descriptions and delineations, made familiar to us, so that the habits and manners, as well as the costume of this ancient people, have been handed down to the present time, by the work of their own hands, with so vivid a truthfulness, that we feel as conversant with their domestic manners and customs, as with those of any modern nation to which the book of the traveller would introduce us. Not only do their pictured relics remain to give us an insight into their mode of life, but a vast quantity of articles of all kinds, from the tools of the workmen, to the elegant fabrics which once decorated the boudoir of the fair ladies of Memphis and Carnac three thousand years ago, are treasured up in the museums, both public and private, of this and other countries.
With these materials, it is in no wise difficult to carry our history of shoemaking back to the earliest times, and even to look upon the shoemaker at his work, in the early days of Thothmes the third, who ascended the throne of Egypt, according to Wilkinson, 1495 years before Christ, and during whose reign, the Exodus of the Israelites occurred. The first of our plates contains a copy of this very
curious painting, as it existed upon the walls of Thebes, when the Italian scholar Rossellini copied it for his great work on Egypt. The shoemakers are both seated upon low stools (real specimens of such articles may be seen in the British Museum), and are both busily employed, in the formation of the sandals then usually worn in Egypt, the first workman is piercing with his awl the leather thong, at the side of the sole, through which the straps were passed, which secured the sandal to the foot; before him is a low sloping bench, one end of which rests upon the ground; his fellow-workman is equally busy, sewing a shoe, and tightening the thong with his teeth, a primitive mode of working which is occasionally indulged in at the present day. Above their heads is a goodly row of sandals, probably so placed, to attract a passing customer; the shops in the East being then, as now, entirely open and exposed to every one who passed. As the ancient Egyptian artists knew nothing of perspective, the tools of the workmen that lie around, are here represented above them : they bear, in some instances, a resemblance to those used in the present day; the central instrument, above the man who pierces the tie of the sandal, having the precise shape of the shoemaker's awl still in use, so very unchanging are articles of utility. In the same manner, the semicircular knife used by the ancient Egyptians three or four thousand years ago, is precisely similar to that of our modern curriers, and is thus represented in a
painting at Thebes, of that remote antiquity. The workman, it will be noticed, cuts the leather upon a sloping bench, exactly like that of the shoemaker already engraved.
The warmth and mildness of the East, rendered a close, warm shoe unnecessary; and, indeed, in the present day, they partake there more of the character of slippers ; and the foot, thus unconfined by tight shoes, and always free in its motion, retained its full power and pliability : and the custom, still retained in the East, of holding a strap of leather, or other substance, between the toes, is represented in the Theban paintings; the foot thus becoming a useful second to the hand.
Many specimens of the shoes and sandals of the ancient Egyptians, may be seen in our national
Wilkinson, in his work on the “Manners and Customs” of this people says, “Ladies and men of rank paid great attention to the beauty of their sandals : but on some occasions, those of the middle classes who were in the habit of wearing them, preferred walking barefooted; and in religious ceremonies, the priests frequently took them off while performing their duties in the temple.”
The sandals varied slightly in form; those worn by the upper classes, and by women, were usually
pointed and turned up at the end, like our skates, and the Eastern slippers of the present day. Some had a sharp flat point, others were nearly round. They were made of a sort of woven or interlaced work, of palm leaves and papyrus stalks, or other similar materials; sometimes of leather, and were frequently lined within with cloth, on which the figure of a captive was painted ; that humiliating position being thought suitable to the enemies of their country, whom they hated and despised, an idea agreeing perfectly with the expression which so often occurs in the hieroglyphic legends, accompanying a king's name, where his valor and virtues are recorded on the sculptures : "you have trodden the impure Gentiles under your powerful feet."
The example selected for pl. I., fig. 1, is in the British Museum, beneath the sandal of a mummy of Harsontiotf; and the captive figure is evidently, from feature and costume, a Jew : it thus becomes a curious illustration of scripture history.
Upon the same plate, figs. 3 and 4 delineate two fine examples of sandals formed as above described, of the leaf of the palm. They were brought from Egypt by the late Mr. Salt, consul-general, and formed part of the collection sold in London, after his death, and are now in the British Museum. They are very different to each other in their con