This section is from "The Domestic Encyclopaedia Vol1", by A. F. M. Willich. Amazon: The Domestic Encyclopaedia.
Bed, a convenience for ease, or sleep. It was the general practice in the first ages, for mankind to sleep upon the skins of beasts ; and the Ancient Britons, before the first Roman invasion, slept on skins spread on the floors of their apartments. Rushes and heath were afterwards substituted by the Britons, instead of skins; but they reposed upon straw, on the introduction of agriculture by the Romans.
Straw was used as a couch, even in the royal chambers of England, at the close of the thirteenth century ; and in the present age, the day-labourers in some parts of England, and the peasantry of Scotland, sleep on chafi-beds.
The most elastic straw is that of barley, which may be easily shaken and spread, when inclosed in ticking.
Various unsuccessful attempts have been made to substitute the dry leaves of trees, moss, and other soft materials, instead of barley straw, which, however, is more eligible; or the leaves of Turkey corn, or maize, are still better.
A mattress filled with horse-hair is preferable to a feather-bed, which heats and relaxes the body, and disposes it to pulmonary and hectic complaints. The bolster should be stuffed with horse-hair, and covered with a small pillow filled with feathers. The bedding might consist either of sheets, with blankets and a counterpane, or a single cover, thinly quilted with cotton wool: the latter might be easily washed, and will last for several years. In very cold seasons, a counterpane quilted with a few pounds of soft fathers, might be substituted for the former; but it should not be used in summer.
Bed, in masonry, a course of stones or bricks: the joint of the bed, is the mortar or cement placed between each range.
Bed, in gardening, a division of the mould raised above the level of adjacent ground, for the cultivation of plants or roots.—See Hotbed.