Add to bookbag
Title: Baker
Original Title: Boulanger
Volume and Page: Vol. 2 (1752), pp. 358–361
Author: Denis Diderot (biography)
Translator: Malcolm Eden [University of London,]
Subject terms:
Ancient police
Modern police
Original Version (ARTFL): Link

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. To use this work in a way not covered by the license, please see .

Citation (MLA): Diderot, Denis. "Baker." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Malcolm Eden. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2008. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <>. Trans. of "Boulanger," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 2. Paris, 1752.
Citation (Chicago): Diderot, Denis. "Baker." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Malcolm Eden. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2008. (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Boulanger," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 2:358–361 (Paris, 1752).

Baker, individual allowed to prepare, bake, and sell bread to the public.

This profession, which today seems so vital, was unknown in ancient times. The earliest centuries were too primitive to bring many facets to food. Wheat was eaten whole like the other fruits of the earth; after men had found the secret of reducing it to flour, they were happy for a long time afterwards simply to make gruel from it. When they did manage to knead it into bread, it was prepared just like all other food, in the home and at mealtimes. This was one of the main tasks of women in the family; at a time when a prince would kill the lamb he was to eat himself, the most highly born women did not feel above making bread. Abraham, says the Bible, hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes [bread] upon the hearth .’ Roman ladies also made bread. The practice passed to the Gauls, and from the Gauls, if we are to believe Borrichius, to the most northerly regions.

The earliest bread had almost nothing in common with our own, either in its shape or consistency. It was almost like what we call biscuits or cakes , and flour, butter, eggs, fat, saffron and other ingredients were often added to it. It was not baked in an oven, but cooked on the warm hearth, on a grill, in a sort of pie dish. But even for this sort of bread, the wheat and other grains had to be made into flour. In all countries, slaves were always given this hard task, and any small mistakes they made were punished.

Wheat was first prepared or milled using mortars and pestles, and later with windmills. See Bread; see Windmill. The practice of baking bread in ovens began in the Orient. The Hebrews, Greeks, and Asians all had ovens and people whose job it was to bake bread. The Cappadocians, Lydians, and Phoenicians excelled in it. See Bread; see Oven.

The first bakers only came to Europe from the east in the year 583 after the foundation of Rome to work for the Romans. The bakers’ ovens stood next to their windmills; the Romans called the people who worked there pinsores or pistores , i.e. grinders, a word derived from their original occupation, which was to grind wheat in mortars; the places where they worked were called pistoriae . In short, pistor went on being used to mean baker and pistoria , a bakery .

Under Augustus, there were as many as 329 public bakeries in Rome distributed in the different districts. Almost all were run by Greeks, the only ones who knew how to make good bread. The foreigners trained the small number of freemen who also took up the useful profession of baking. Nothing could be wiser than the regulations imposed on them.

It was thought that the service of the public should be helped as much as possible. Care was taken that the number of bakers should not fall and that their earnings should correspond, so to speak, to their fidelity and the exactness of their work. A corporation was formed, or, according to the expression of the time, a collegium , to which all bakers compulsorily belonged. Their children were not free to leave the corporation, and all men marrying members’ daughters had to join it. Bakers were made the owners of all places where milling already took place, along with the millstones, slaves, animals, and everything connected with the earliest bakeries. Lands and inheritances were added, and nothing was spared to help promote their work and trade. Anyone accused and found guilty of minor misdemeanours was condemned to the bakeries. Every five years, Roman judges in Africa were summoned to condemn criminals to work in the bakeries as a punishment. Judges who failed to send anyone were to meet the same fate. Later such severity was relaxed and the transgressions of judges and their officers were only punished financially, the judges being sentenced to a fine of fifty gold coins.

Each bakery had a first baker or supervisor of the millstones, animals, slaves, ovens, and the bakery itself. All the supervisors gathered once a year before the magistrates to elect a prior , who took charge of all the collegium’s affairs. No member of the bakers ’ community was free to sell, donate, or otherwise pass on the goods that belonged to all of them in common. The same was true of goods the members had acquired in trade or which they inherited from their fathers; they could only leave them to their children or nephews, who were necessarily members of the profession. Any other person who acquired them was automatically enrolled in the bakers’ collegium. If members owned property unconnected to their profession, they could keep it during their lifetimes, but afterwards it was inherited by the community. It was forbidden for magistrates, officials, and senators to buy from bakers even such property that they could freely dispose of. This law was seen as an essential element for maintaining all the other laws. In a well-governed state, all laws should be connected in this way. No law can exist in isolation. The above-mentioned law removed rich and powerful citizens from the number of potential buyers. As soon as a child was born to a baker , he was considered as a member of the collegium, but only took up the profession at the age of twenty. Before that, the community maintained a worker in his place. Magistrates were required to oppose the sale of the inalienable goods of the bakers’ companies even if the permission of rulers or the agreement of the collegium had been given. Bakers were forbidden from seeking such permission or else would pay a fine of fifty gold coins to the tax collector; judges were ordered to demand the fine or be fined two gold coins themselves. So that the community would always be numerous, bakers were forbidden even from entering into the church. If they tried to do so, they were sent back to their bakeries. No status, no rank in the army or in the decuries, nor any other kind of position or privilege could free them from their state.

Yet bakers were not deprived of all the honours of the republic. Those who served it well, especially during times of scarcity, were allowed to become senators, but they had to choose between this position and their property. Bakers agreeing to become senators ceased to be bakers and lost all their goods of the community, which were passed on to their successors.

Moreover, they could not be raised above the rank of senator. Entrance into higher office, which conferred the title of perfectissimatus , being forbidden to them, as it also was to slaves, to accountants in the tax office, to individuals belonging to the decuries, to merchants, to those who solicited their position with money, tenant farmers, public prosecutors, or anyone who managed other people’s property.

Steps were not only taken to maintain bakers’ numbers. It was also ensured that they should not make bad marriages. They could not marry their daughters to actors or gladiators without being whipped, banished and chased out of office; state officials who allowed such marriages were fined. Bakers who squandered their own property were banished from the community.

Bakeries were distributed, as we have said, through the fourteen districts of Rome. It was forbidden to quit one bakery for another without permission. The wheat in public granaries was placed in the bakers’ care; they paid nothing for the part that had to be used for the free distribution of bread, and the price of the rest was set by the state. No grain left these granaries except to go to the bakeries or to the ruler himself, but not to his house.

Bakers had private granaries where they stored the grain from public granaries. If they were convicted of misappropriating grain, they were fined 500 gold coins. Sometimes the officers of the prefect of the annona delivered poor grains to them, and falsified their weight, and would only supply them with better wheat at the correct weight if they received a bribe. When this fraud was discovered, the guilty parties were sentenced to the bakeries for perpetuity.

So that bakers could devote themselves to their work full time, they were exempted from guardianships, trusteeships, and other burdensome charges. They had no holidays whatsoever. The courts were open to them at all times.

Among the freemen were bakers employed to make bread for the emperor’s palace. Some of their number tried to become intendents of public granaries, comites horreorum , but their connection with the other bakers made them suspect, and they were forbidden to take up this position.

The bargemen of the Tiber and the sworn-measurers distributed public grains to the bakers, and could not for that reason become members of the baker’s collegium. The men who unloaded the grains from the vessels into the public granaries were called saccarii , and those who carried the grains from the public granaries to the bakeries, catabolenses . Other porters were employed to distribute free bread in public places. They were drawn from among the freemen, and many steps were also taken to keep them loyal or in a position to answer for their shortcomings.

All of these Roman practices were soon passed to the Gauls, but arrived later in more northerly countries. A well-known writer, Borrichius, says that women in Sweden and Norway still kneaded bread towards the middle of the 16th century. From the birth of the monarchy, France had bakers, windmills or water-mills, and flour-merchants who were called, as they were in Rome, pestors , and then pantlers, talmeliers , and finally boulangers ( bakers ). The word talmeliers is a corruption of tamisiers (sifters) . In France bakers were formerly called tamisiers because their mills had no flour bolts, and flour merchants had to sift the flour both in their own homes and at their customers’. The French word for baker, boulanger , comes from the older word boulents , which in turn is derived from polenta or pollis , a fine wheat flour. The baking profession is free in our country, and only subject to laws, which it was highly sensible to establish in a such an important trade.

Although these laws are very numerous, they can be reduced to seven main headings:

  1. The division of bakers into four groups; the town bakers, the bakers of the inner and outer suburbs, the privileged bakers, and the stallholders.
  2. The regulations to be observed by each of these groups.
  3. The jurisdiction of the Grand Pantler of France over the bakers of Paris.
  4. The purchase of wheat or flour used by these merchants.
  5. The fabrication, quality, weight, and price of bread.
  6. The setting up and regulation of markets where bread must be sold.
  7. The incompatibility of certain trades with the profession of baker.

The bakers of Paris . Seigneurial ovens still existed before the reign of Philip II of France. The city’s bakers supplied Paris alone, but the growth of the city brought about changes, and soon there were bakers of the town and bakers of the faubourgs [inner suburbs]. The baker’s corporation established its first regulations under Saint Louis. They are highly sensible, but too extensive to be reproduced here. The word gindre , the origin of which is quite hard to establish, and which is still in use, was employed to indicate the baker’s first boy. Philip the Fair also regulated the activity of bakers , who claimed to have no other judge than the Grand Pantler. Such claims were maintained almost until 1350, under Philip VI, when general municipal regulations were published, including a section concerning bakers , through which: 1. The election of jurors was transferred from the Grand Pantler to the provost of Paris. 2. The provost of merchants was to be subject to election. 3. Bakers who made bread of the incorrect weight had to pay a fine of sixty sous , and their bread was confiscated. One sou at the time was worth eleven sous in our money. Henry III of France also realised the importance of the trade, and revived the ordinances drawn up thanks to the wisdom of the Chancellor, Michel de l’Hôpital.

No mention is made of apprenticeship or the masterpiece in the ancient statutes of bakers . All that was needed in order to take up the profession was to live within the city walls, to buy the right to practice the profession from the king and, after four years, to carry to the master baker or the lieutenant of the Grand Pantler a new earthenware pot filled with nuts and nieulle , a fruit that is now unknown; to break this pot against the wall in the presence of this officer, the other masters and the gindres , and to drink together. It is easy to imagine the results of the inadequacy of this procedure. The bakers themselves realised it and decided to draw up their own statutes in 1637. The king approved these statutes, and they are the basis of the community’s regulations.

According to these statutes, bakers fall under the jurisdiction of the Grand Pantler. They are called upon to elect jurors on the first Sunday after Epiphany; to receive masters only after a three-year apprenticeship; to have only one apprentice at a time; to require a masterpiece, etc .

The Grand Pantler. The ancient records of the house of our kings mention two great officers, the dapifer or seneschal , and the butler or cup-bearer . The dapifer or seneschal took the name of pantler only under Philip II. See the article Grand Pantler. Since the reign of Henry II this dignity had always stayed in the house of Cossé de Brissac. His prerogatives were important. The Grand Pantler, or his jurisdiction, continually overlapped with that of the provost of Paris, giving rise to many disputes that lasted until 1674, when the king united all the smaller, individual courts at Châtelet.

Bakers of the faubourgs (inner suburbs) . The workers of the inner suburbs were divided, in terms of official regulations, into three classes. Some came under the jurisdiction of a guild and were grouped with the city bakers ; others had their own organisation and community and were free to exercise any art or trade in the faubourg St. Antoine. Because of the importance of their work, bakers in Paris and all other towns of the kingdom were allowed to set up their business in all the faubourgs without being masters. The same regulations applied to the bread sold in their shops by the bakers of the faubourgs as those applied to the city bakers ; it is not known if the bread they took to the markets was mixed with the stallholders’ bread.

The distinction between bakers of the town, of the faubourgs , and the stallholders gave rise to many disputes, yet no one dared unite them into a single community, and their respective regulations were allowed to go on for fear of inconveniencing such essential workers.

Privileged bakers; they are twelve in number and all reside in Paris. They must not be confused with bakers whose privilege derives only from the places where they live. The privileged bakers have a diploma and are bakers of Paris, whereas the others are considered like the stallholders .

Stallholder bakers or those who bring bread to Paris from Saint-Denis, Gonesse, Corbeil, Villejuif and other nearby towns. These sellers are of great use since the 250 bakers within the Paris city walls and the 660 in the faubourgs are insufficient. The city needs 900 stallholders, who come to the markets twice a week. They formerly came only on Saturdays, but since 1366 they have been allowed to sell bread every market day. They obtained or took for themselves the right, instead of going to the markets, to take bread to the homes of city-dwellers, but the drawbacks of this practice were realised and partly prevented.

The purchase of wheat and flour by the bakers . Two sorts of people buy wheat and flour: bakers and inhabitants of the town and the countryside. But a preference is given to the inhabitants, and bakers only buy when inhabitants are thought to be provided for. Bakers can only take a certain quantity of wheat and flour, and to do away with any pretext for raising bread prices without good reason, scales are set up to weigh the wheat that the miller receives and the flour he gives back. See Wheat and Flour. In the past, only non-boulted wheat or flour arrived on the markets, but since boulted flour is easy to transport, permission was given to use it.

On the way to make and sell bread. See the article Bread for the way of making and selling it, and the different sorts of bread .

For the weight and price of bread, See the article Bread.

Sale and places where it is made . All bakers who sell at markets must supply a certain amount of bread at the market each day or else pay a fine. Either the baker or his wife must be present at the market, and all the bread they bring must be sold the same day. They must sell until midday at the fixed price, and after that they cannot raise prices, but can lower them to increase sales.

The baker is forbidden to sell bread wholesale to other bakers . Bread markets have grown in size as Paris has increased. There are now fifteen of them: at the Grandes Halles ; the Halles de la Tonnelerie; Place Maubert; Saint Jean’s cemetery; the new market of the cité ; rue Saint Antoine; opposite the Grands Jésuites convent; in the Quai des Augustins; the small market in the faubourg St. Germain; the Quinze-vingts; the Palais Royal square; in front of the Bâtons Royaux building in rue St. Honoré; the Marais du Temple market; in front of the Temple and the Porte St. Michel. Every Wednesday and Saturday, there are 1534 bakers at these markets, including five to six hundred from the faubourg s or stallholders.

Professions incompatible with bakery . No one can be, at the same time, a baker , a miller, and a grain merchant in our country, just as in ancient Rome, no one was allowed to be a river pilot, bargee, and measurer. There is no need to explain why.

Everything else concerning the profession of baker will be found in the articles Miller, Bread,Flour, Leaven, Wheat, Oven, Grain, etc.

If bakers sell bread at the wrong weight, they suffer corporal punishment. As bread is the most common and necessary food, the bread market is held in Paris on Wednesdays and Saturdays, no matter when these days fall, with the exception of Epiphany, Christmas, and All Saints’ Day, and the Marian feast days; in these cases, the sale takes place on Tuesday and Friday. The shops where bread is sold are open without interruption. On Sundays and public holidays, bakers must keep the shutters of their shops closed.