About Billy and Charlie's Finest Quality Pewter Goods
Thank you for visiting Billy and Charlie's. We are pleased to offer a line of replica medieval pewter jewelry, belt fittings, pilgrim signs, spoons, bells, whistles, and knicknacks which are cast in handmade stone molds. We welcome your comments and suggestions for items to add to our inventory.
In our Web catalog, we have shown the brooches, buckles, and other trinkets at roughly their true size (depending on your screen size, resolution, etc.). It's tough to get an idea of them on the screen, but we find it works to put your hand up next to them as if you were picking them up. (We have also supplied dimensions for each piece.) Then, because we know you can hardly tell anything about the pieces at that size, we have also shown them at approximately twice life size; for most images, if you click on the picture itself, you will go to the enlargement. Click on the large image to return to where you were.
We cast in a modern lead-free pewter, but our stone molds are authentically medieval. Most of our designs are based on examples from the mid-fourteenth through the fifteenth centuries; some of the items are appropriate for periods before and after that. The majority of our pieces are copies or near copies of extant medieval works. A handful are extrapolations which combine the features of several remaining brooches or signs. A few are fantasies - adaptations of pieces or techniques to a modern purpose, such as badges of affinity for re-enactors. At the request of some of our customers we are switching over to black iron tongues in our buckles with wire tongues; if there are details of authenticity which concern you or which prevent the use of our goods in your organization, please write us; we may be able to fulfill your requirements.
You will find the source for each piece and the level of authenticity noted at the end of the catalog entries. For example, in the following description:
The Pattens are copied from a Netherlandish trinket. They represent a common type of footwear, worn over (but most importantly, under!) your shoes to keep them out of the dirt and mud.
the source is van Beuningen, number 993. Follow the link from the asterisk * to a bibliography which gives full publication information for each abbreviated reference work.
When the asterisk * is used, the item is a very close copy of the single piece identified, with no changes made except to fill in minor losses or damage. When the hatch mark # is used, the item is different in some minor way from its examplar(s) - usually it includes a reconstruction of a missing section based on closely related original pieces or we have given an attachment pin to an item that was originally supposed to be sewn on, or have produced the item in mirror image. When a tilde ~ is used, we have produced an item without copying a specific examplar; these are usually items in pewter where our source was in a different material or items created on iconographic evidence.
We usually work from photographs in books on large collections of medieval pewter. The collections at the Museum of London and the Cluny Museum in Paris, as well as the personal collection of H.J.E. van Beuningen, are especially rich repositories which have published catalogs within the last decade. A good beginning bibliography includes many of our published sources.
We also have a small personal collection of authentic materials from which we have copied some of our pieces. Please contact us if you have medieval examples to sell; we are interested in pieces we can reproduce, of course, and in things we have reproduced (although it's always distressing to find out where one has fouled up). We are interested in belt fittings, especially if they differ from the ones we have seen published, and in hollow items (other than ampullae), hollow-backed castings, and items which have been made with cores. We are also interested in materials from which we can learn about the technologies of production, even if they are not complete or in good shape: items where you can see the remains of sprues, where there are thickened places or other traces of the mold on the back of the piece, etc. and in molds themselves.
We are Marianne Hansen, a rare books librarian at Bryn Mawr College, and Robert MacPherson, one of the foremost armorers in the world today. Mac is a tech wiz and Marianne loves the medieval technologies of mass production - casting and printing in particular. Billy and Charlie's grew out of our involvement with a couple of groups of re-enactors, although we are now only tangentially involved with them. You can still find us dressed up every so often, especially at the SCA's Pennsic War. Other than that event, we do not usually sell in person, but drop us a line if you are running a market, fair, event, or other get together where we might add to the fun.
They were a couple of semi-literate ditchdiggers who moved aggressively to supply "medieval" artifacts when a taste for them arose among British collectors in the middle of the nineteenth century. Large scale public works in London and Paris led to excavations and dredging operations in which a number of authentic pilgrim signs, brooches, and other items came to light. When the demand outstripped the supply, these enterprising men produced a line of (stunningly inauthentic) items which they sold with great success. The story of their operation (including its ending in the courts) is recounted in B. Marsden, 'The Shadwell Shams - The Story of the "Billy and Charley" Forgeries.' Popular Archaeology, April, 1982, 17-19. Their products are called "Billys and Charleys" in their honor.
We spell Charlie with IE, instead of EY - so much more refined, don't you think?
We are, incidentally, interested in hearing from you if you have real Billys and Charleys to sell; we would like to add another to our collection of antique pewter goods.
Good! We've got answers! Please review our QFA's (Questions Frequently Asked) if it's a question about our materials, processes, or morals. Other than that you can write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll do our best to answer.
We are continually building this site. If you find areas of confusion, types of information you need that we have not yet provided, services that will help you that we don't offer yet, etc., please let us know. We appreciate your help in solving these problems by letting us know about them and by offering your suggestions. We would also be glad to receive your suggestions for items to add to our line.