Wednesday, 24 August 2016

for the nonce

Thanks to our friends the OED, we learn that today, the Saint Day of Bartholomew the Apostle, patron of bookbinders, butchers and cheese-mongers, was traditional feted with a charter fair in London (chartered in the sense the market days were established to help raise fund for religious and municipal buildings, namely the priory of Saint Bartholomew) and marked the end of Summer. The evening’s repast for members of the printing guild (this day also marking the anniversary of the first printing of the Gutenberg Bible in 1456 in Mainz) was concluded with a special banquet given by a publishing house proprietor for the benefit of his apprentices.
After this break, called a wayzgoose, with the days waning shorter, scribes and later typesetters would now by working by candle-light. Although I much prefer the folk-etymology of “wase-goose”—that is a sheaf or wayward goose, for the way it sort of links the traditional dinner to customs attached to Saint Martin’s day in November, the goose being a creature that meanders aimless and betrayed the reluctant saint’s hiding spot, and in the sense of a sheaf of paper, the practise of paper-makers to use the last of the season’s pulp for making windows to be hung by Saint Martin’s Day (in commemoration to his selfless act of giving his cloak to a beggar to protect him from the element—however, it probably is a corruption of the Danish word for Weghuis—that is, an inn or guesthouse where these banquets were held. In modern parlance, the term occasionally appears when speaking of an annual outing or Organisational Day for a Fourth Estate institution. In any case, we all ought to celebrate with a little wayzgoose this evening.