3. The Brass Caster Part 2
In the past, brass casting was a non-environmental friendly craft
Metal casting was one of the usual crafts in a medieval town. However, not all inhabitants of the town were happy with metal casting. In 1621, there were complaints in Amsterdam about the brass foundry because:
"The smoke and vapour of this foundry spreads through the entire neighbourhood and not only destroys crops, wood, and leaves but also gets on clothes and linen".
Because of the danger of fire, smoke, and stench involved in casting, casters were usually kept on the outskirts of the city or even outside the city walls. This was also the case in Amsterdam, as no crafts were allowed to be carried out within the distinguished ring of canals. Therefore, the Jordaan became the neighbourhood for the expelled crafts and companies, and thus an unhealthy environment. In the 19th century, the Jordaan was still described as follows:
"Along the streets ran deep gutters, open sewers. Excrement, offal, and polluted water from all kinds of trades, everything remained when it was dry and flowed into the canals when it rained. "
In a densely built-up city district, the danger of fire is not imagined. Although the building of wooden houses was prohibited after the Middle Ages, nothing was said about the numerous wooden workshops and warehouses. Even when the factories were not on fire, heavy smelly clouds of smoke came out of the chimneys. The brass casters and the smithies were notorious in this respect. They not only came into conflict with local residents but also with the other craftsmen.
Passing on the art of brass casting
The art of brass casting has not been described much in the course of time. Brass casting was learned in practice. The craft was passed on orally. The casting process was often a family secret. As a result, there is little literature on brass casting. In many cases, the business passed from father to son, and the craft was learned from his father.
Family relationships played an important role in passing on knowledge, tools, and models. The diagram on the next page of the Dop and Backer families in Rotterdam illustrates this. Each layer represents a generation. Via the dark arrows in this diagram, the craft was passed on from generation to generation. The passing on of crafts within family relationships is also shown by the overview of the 'professions of the porters of Amsterdam between 1655 and 1700' in the Amsterdam City Archives, which includes the brass casters and many cases where both father and son were brass casters.
The brass casters themselves probably possessed little literature about brass casting. The Rotterdam brass caster Arnout Specht was in possession of "a few books", describes Esther Lels in her PhD thesis "Uyt den viere gevloten", where she mentions that one of these was most probably the Bible. In other cases, no books were present in the foundry.