Bed And Bedstead. The articles of furniture devised by the people of different nations to secure comfort in reclining for sleep, naturally vary widely with various degrees of civilization, with differences of climates, dwellings, and national characteristics. Savages stretch themselves on the ground or on piles of leaves, or make rough preparations for sleep by spreading skins - probably the first approaches of primitive nations toward a more elaborate hed. The native of the tropics sleeps in a hammock, or on a cool, thin mat of grass. The East Indian at night unrolls his light portable charpoy, or mattress, which in the morning is again rolled together and carried away. The Japanese lie upon matting, with a singular and to the European most uncomfortable wooden neck rest in the place of a pillow. The Chinese use low bedsteads, often elaborately carved, and supporting only mats or quilted coverlets. They, too, use for a pillow a peculiar kind of wooden frame, generally of bamboo. In the north of China the bedding is laid in winter upon raised platforms of masonry, which are gently warmed by a small furnace underneath. - The nations of continental Europe generally use the French bedstead, without a canopy above it, and with mattresses of various materials, sheets, coverlets, feather pillows, etc.
A peculiarity of the German beds is their shortness; besides this, the bed clothing always consist in part of a large down pillow or upper mattress, which, spread over the person, is supposed to answer the purpose of all other ordinary bedclothing combined. Often this is the only covering furnished; in the houses of the poorer classes and in small country inns this is almost always the case; but all the ordinary hotels of the towns have learned to add to it, in beds intended for foreigners at least, sheets, blankets, and other coverings. - In England, the old "four-poster" bedstead, an immense piece of furniture, having a canopy supported over it by posts at the corners, still forms the pride of many country guest chambers, and is everywhere common, though the simpler open bed is fast taking its place. In the time of Elizabeth the canopy covered only the head of the bed. The English beds even now are the largest in the world, and the famous ancient "bed of Ware," alluded to by Shakespeare, is 12 feet square. This bedstead was probably constructed about the year 1500, and has been for three centuries or more preserved in an inn at Ware in Hertfordshire. It is of solid oak, elaborately carved.
As many as 12 persons are said to have slept in it at one time. - The beds of the ancients had, in general, few peculiarities to distinguish them from our own simpler forms. Both the Greeks and Romans had their beds supported on frames much resembling our bedsteads; feather and wool mattresses were common, and their bed-clothing was, in the luxurious periods of both nations, of great magnificence, and decorated with elaborate needle-work. The ancient Briton slept on skins; after the Roman conquest straw sacks became common as beds. The Egyptians had a couch of peculiar shape, if we may judge from their inscriptions; but the beds ordinarily mentioned in the Bible seem to have been of the customary simple kind. - In recent years many arrangements of the bed have been invented by leading surgeons for the comfort of the wounded and sick; some of a kind permitting the raising or depression of one portion of the body; others so contrived that the patient may lie at such an angle as to permit the performance of very difficult surgical operations.
The most useful of all these inventions has been that of the hydrostatic or water bed of Dr. Neil Arnott. This consists of a trough or tub partially filled with water, and covered with a rubber cloth of sufficient size to sink deeply into the tub when empty. This of course floats on the water, and a bed laid upon the cloth accommodates itself to every motion of the person lying upon it. Other valuable beds for surgical purposes are those in which the patient can be moved by turning handles which lower or raise portions of the surface.
Early English Bed.
Great Bed of Ware.
Ancient Egyptian Bed.