A recent comment on Destructive Testing of Black Dye finished with the remark:
Love to know your thoughts on that wee little costrel at the MOL sometime….why is it so wee?! why is it such an odd flat oval shape?
The costrel in question is this one, although others are known to exist.
Oliver Baker mentions it on p56 of his magnum opus of 1921, Blackjacks and Leather Bottels. I’ll quote the section in full.
One dimuntive but charmingly designed bottle is in the London Museum at Lancaster House, and has, between three vertical raised bands, lines of foliate decoration of Gothic character. It was found in the Town Ditch at the Old Bailey in 1913, and is of great interest as giving a rich example of the bottle of the Middle Ages. It measures nearly four inches [100mm] in length and three and three-quarters [95mm] in height.
Baker’s drawing shows it sitting on it’s base rather than lying on it’s back as in the photo at the top, and the base appears flat and much the same shape as my Mary Rose one. It is unclear if Mr Baker was drawing what he saw, or what he thought it should be, however his detail on the decoration is very good. The larger costrel in the same cabinet at the MoL also appears to be ovoid, however looking at the ends, I think I can see that it was originally flatter on the bottom and has slumped in the conditions in the museum.
The leather is thinner than on the larger costrels, so moulding would be easier. From evidence from other sites, the decoration may have been painted.
As for use, we’re getting into Making Things Up ™ territory. Baker’s measurements give it an approximate volume of 300ml, or half a pint, roughly the same as a glass of drink. That also translates to 2 gills, so two standard measured of gin in the 16th century.
I would love for it to have been for the 15-16th century version of high octane moonshine, but that would disolve the pitch lining. It may have been for a particular drink, or medicine or may have been a scale model to test a new design without using too much expensive leather. They could, like me have an order on the books to make a bottel for a small teenager…
Baker, O., Black Jacks and Leather Bottells, privately printed for W.J. Fieldhouse, Cheltenham 1921