© Cor Snabel
The craftsman of the 16th/17th century was a craftsman who loved his job. Look up at the dragons and devils on the pinnacle of a cathedral, 200 or 300 feet up, where hardly anyone can see it, look at the details and you know he must have loved his job.
This love was passed on from generation to generation by the system of the guilds.
A boy, who wanted to learn a trade, was assigned to a skilled craftsman by the guild. The Master should have the qualities needed, to educate and protect his apprentice; he had to take over the responsibility of the parents or the guardians. The governing body of the guild decided, whether the Master was capable guiding an apprentice. To insure a proper training the Master was allowed to have only one apprentice, maybe two if the first was almost ready for his exams.
The boy had to promise to obey and serve his Master and after his apprenticeship he received a testimonial, needed to go on for journeyman or Master.
The journeyman was, as the apprentice, hired by contract, often orally, sometimes in writing, even notarial. Most of the time the contract was for a year and the reputation of the journeyman must be irreproachable, not living together in concubinage or have a bad influence on his colleagues. If the journeyman wanted to become a Master, he had to pass an exam. He had to make a "masterpiece". In later years this masterpiece had to be so absurd and valuable, the average craftsman could not afford it. For years the journeyman knew he would be Master one day, but due to bad management of the guilds, their number increased and they stayed journeyman for the rest of their lives.
Mastership was the ultimate goal for the apprentice and the journeyman. The Master was not only responsible for manufacturing a good product to a reasonable price, but he had to perform a duty in the board of the guild, if he was elected to it. Once a Master he had to "suffer" a lot of specific rituals, depending on the guild he joined, but the newcomer always had to treat the other Masters to a gigantic banquet.
He had to pay a kind of admission fee, a small amount for the king or city, a gift for charity and the largest amount for the guild's funds and a annual contribution.
An exception was made for the sons and the widow of a Master. The widow was allowed to continue his trade, even the trade of the barber/surgeon, without paying the contribution, if she had a capable journeyman to replace him. The sons could inherit the trade of their deceased father, their years of apprenticeship was shorter (the assumption was he "learned the knack" from his father), they were excused from making the masterpiece and their admission fee was much less. These exceptions later grew to gross injustice and abuse and this was partly the cause the guilds collapsed.