Hand warmer 16th century

Brass, sawn through
diameter 11 cm
Inv. 1877.61.

2434px x 2509px
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Hand warmers in the form of two perforated hemispheres forming a 'Wärmeapfel' (warming apple) are known since the end of the C12. The earliest description known to date, of a "silver apple for warming the hands", is found in the 1214 inventory of Salisbury Cathedral. The use of hand warmers whether in church or elsewhere peters out around the C18. These two hemispheres, pierced with simple star and wave patterns, are joined by a hinge and are closed with a hook and eye. The container inside held a liquid combustible material, which was drawn up for burning by a wick through the spout. However the sphere is turned, the container always remains horizontal, to avoid spilling the contents. This mechanism, the so called Cardan suspension, is found in all hand warmers and is illustrated for use in an "échaufaude de mains" in the mason's workshop book of Villard de Honnecourt about 1235. At least two rings (here three) enclose the container concentrically. Each ring is attached by a free turning pin at two opposite but offset points both to the outer wall and to the burner. These elements, swinging freely on their axes, keep the fuel container upright in all positions.

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