Want to know what kind of jobs there were in the Middle Ages? A unique source from 15th century Germany gives us some beautiful images of medieval people at work. Known the House Books of the Nuremberg Twelve Brothers Foundation, these were records of a charitable foundation started in the city of Nuremberg in 1388. The foundation would take 12 poor and needy people and provide them with training in a trade.
Starting around 1425 their books would contain one-page illustration of the people they had helped, usually giving their name and what profession they were in. Here are twenty examples of medieval jobs from around the mid-15th century.
Hans Lengenfelder is cutting on meat on a thick table, while other products, including sausages, are for sale.
Konrad is using a pickaxe and other tools to work over the stone blocks.
Hans is working on a loom.
Hans is using a sickle to cut the grapes from the vine.
Werndlein Mawrer is building a wall with the use of a crane.
Reinhold is using a two-handed plough in his fields.
Peter is standing in a bell tower and blows the hourly chime.
9. Shoemaker / Cobbler
Peter Velner sits in his workshop, working on a shoe with a curved knife. Other leather shoes are on display.
Thomas Wagner is using a hatchet to work a spoked wheel lying on the wooden frame.
Fritz is standing on a ladder, and is placing tiles on the roof with the use of a bucket of mortar and a trowel.
Albrecht is sitting by his iron anvil with a hammer and a padlock.
Peter is stepping into a tub to work on an animal skin.
14. Tax Collector
This unnamed man is at a gate house and taking payment from a merchant.
15. Belt maker
Herman Paumgartdener is using a hacksaw and anvil to punch holes in the belts.
16. Grocer / Merchant
Berthold Uslaunb is selling spices from a table he set up on a barrel. He holds a pair of scales in his hands to weigh the product.
Hans Pernecker is polishing various pieces of armour, while other tools of his trade are spread around his workshop.
Rudolf Meier has finished the framework for a house. You can see some of his tools.
Wilhelm is standing in a kitchen, cooking food on a fire. There are spoons and jars around him, and a pot hanging from the ceiling.
Fritz Hufschmied is hammering a red-hot horseshoe on the anvil.
The Nuremberg Twelve Brothers Foundation continued this practice into the nineteenth-century, giving us almost 1,200 illustrations of people in their various crafts and jobs. You can see the entire manuscript at this German website or on Wikimedia Commons.