Buying glasses in C.17th York

Evidence for spectacle manufacture on the European mainland goes back to the island of Murano in the Republic of Venice – at least as far back as 1284. The term ‘roidi da ogli’ (standard Italian: ‘vetri da occhi’) is found for the first time in 1300. A person wearing spectacles seems to have been depicted for the first time in 1352 by Tomasso da Modena (1325 – 1379) in which Cardinal Hugh of Provence was depicted reading in the Chapter House (traditionally, the place of reading – hence the name) of the Monastery attached to Treviso’s Basilica of San Niccolo. We know that in fifteenth century Florence spectacles were easy to come by and that greater quantities of manufacture in the city were making them relatively cheap.

In York, there was one place all the ministry seemed to go to buy glasses…

Foster’s was actually a highly successful stationer and bookseller outlet between at least the spring of 1572/73 and 1616, situated in a street called ‘Bookbinder’s Alley’ or ‘Bookland Road’ over various different points of time (now ‘Minster Yard’).  In 1572/73 it was described as a ‘new builded shoppe’ run by the ‘Stacioner’, Anthony Foster.

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