[Colmar Butchers Corporation Archive]. GASTRONOMY, ECONOMICS.
[Colmar Butchers Corporation Archive]
[Colmar Butchers Corporation Archive]
[Colmar Butchers Corporation Archive]
The Butchers of Alsace
Archive of Early Letterpress Forms Regulating Prices and Practices
[Colmar], s.n., 1618-1783.

[Colmar Butchers Corporation Archive].

Folio. (38) letterpress and (2) manuscript documents of various sizes, most of the letterpress items with manuscript annotations. In a 19th-century portfolio of half cloth and marbled boards, title label on upper cover. Minor rubbing and edge wear to portfolio spine and boards. The documents well preserved, with only occasional minor toning and edge wear, some items folded.

Archive of 40 very rare letterpress and manuscript documents – many of them bilingual – from the city of Colmar concerning the regulation of prices and other professional practices among butchers, fishmongers and bakers between the years 1618 and 1783. The archive offers a vivid glimpse into the market stalls of the town, providing information about the ingredients of the famed Alsatian cuisine and their changing costs, which makes the collection of considerable interest for the gastronomic, administrative, and economic history of the region. Indeed, the archive can even be seen as a textual counterpart to the visual records of such spaces as recorded so memorably in still lifes of meat stalls and in paintings of slaughterhouses from such artists as Pieter Aertsen, to Rembrandt, Chardin, etc.

Apart from the two earliest items in the archive (manuscript letters dated 1618 and 1619 and carrying the blind-stamped seal of the city), the documents are all letterpress forms printed with extensive lists of permitted (and required) goods for sale from Colmar’s butcher stalls, with blank spaces left for filling in the current price for each cut (one form, however, pertains to fishmongers and two to bakers and grain-sellers). These forms were apparently printed by the Colmar Corporation of Butchers for internal use and/or distribution to members and were intended both to fix minimum prices for various cuts of meat and to remind members of their professional obligations. Many of the forms are printed in both French and German, reflecting the bilingual nature of the region, and all but a few are filled out, dated, and signed by the relevant syndic.

Listed are various grades of common cuts of beef, mutton, veal, goat, and pork, as well as quantities of lard, tallow, and offal for sale at stalls in Colmar’s “Grande Boucherie” and “Petite Boucherie.” Finished products, such as dipped and molded tallow candles, smoked lard, and ‘saucisse/Bratwürst’ are also recorded, with occasional additional items penned in where they are lacking in the printed form. Fishmongers sold carp, pike, grouper, and ‘assorted fish by the pound,’ while bakers dealt in wheat, rye, barley, oats, and various grades of white and brown bread. The butcher forms often contain rules about stall maintenance, allowances for taking unsold meat home for personal use, areas where butchering is licit and illicit, as well as admonitions against displaying different cuts on the same counter, selling salted meats, breaking up offal into its parts, and especially against trafficking in suspect pork products (porcs ladres).

While the use of letterpress printing to produce blank forms dates to the earliest years of the invention (e.g., for indulgences), it is nevertheless interesting to observe how central the technology was to the bureaucracy of a town like Colmar by the 17th and 18th centuries. Given that these forms were obsolete when prices rose or fell, they were highly ephemeral documents and accordingly are very rare today, making their survival as a group here rather remarkable.

* P. Hubert-Valleroux, Les corporations d’arts et métiers et les syndicats professionnels en France. M. Doerflinger, The Gastronomy of Alsace.

Price: $3,500.00

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