It started so innocently, I wanted to reproduce a simple folding chair (stool, really). Having seen some examples around and vaguely recall seeing some medieval illustrations, I set out to see what we knew about this form and whether the reproductions floating around the SCA were anything like a period chair.
My early research turned up disturbing results. There were all kinds of medieval folding chairs alright, but they were all called "folding chairs" in the local language. No distinction seems to have been made on the finer points of chair features. All I wanted, initially, was small folding stools. But, collecting images and information, I couldn't use the source's designation for the item (if there even was one) to store and sort the info.
One thing lead to another and I decided to create a taxonomy that I could use to sort the images and information I found into meaningful categories. That document was a precursor to the folding stools I eventually built this winter and is something I will continue to gather info and expand on at least until I've gotten tired of making folding chairs.
At this time (Mar 2020) the Word document runs to 42 pages with over 100 images of medieval folding chairs of one sort or another. No one is going to read that tome, so I've decided to wiki-ify it here on the off chance that if you have some interest in one type of chair or other you'll at least see a collection of information about that form.
This source document is HERE (NOTE: this might get out of date. The wiki pages should be considered canonical)
This taxonomy is based on the main structural feature of these chairs. In this work, a stool is a seat without a back. A chair is a seat that has a back.
All types use an "X" as the main structural feature, here is the convention I use for describing how these chairs are sat:
- Along the X means you sit with your legs over the pivot joint, parallel to the rails connecting the two (or more) X frames.
- Across the X means you sit with your legs over the side of one of the rails, the X frame pivot points are to the sides.
There are two broad categories of folding chairs/stools used throughout the middle ages:
To this, I have added:
- Type 3 - Glastonbury chairs
In general, Glastonbury chairs do not fold but are frequently described as such and their lineage is clearly in this family of seating.