[Ledger of the Company of Bakers, Millers and Gingerbread Makers].
Manuscript, Czech, early 17th to early 19th century.
Half folio. ff. 113 (one blank, 2 pp. of text on pastedowns), five initial stubs. Ms, in Czech, occasional Latin, in black-brown ink, over a dozen secretary hands, typically 20 to 40 lines per page. Somewhat browned, minor water stain to lower margin, a few sections crossed out or a bit smudged, occasional thumb marks, edges dusty, teeth mark to fore-edge of first two ll. with very slight loss, small ink splash to upper fore-edge of first few gatherings, single small worm hole at head of first few gatherings. A very good, remarkably well-preserved copy, on thick paper, in Bohemian calf c.1600, four ties, triple blind ruled to a panel design, outer border of small heads within roundels and tendrils in blind, centre, upper and lower panels with interlacing fleurons, raised bands, spine in four compartments, upper joint slightly detached but firm, some worming and minor loss to extremities.
Beautifully bound Czech ms.—a rare and remarkable witness to the world of provincial guilds in early modern Europe. It is a working ledger, for quick note taking and reckoning, used by the Company of Bakers, Millers and Gingerbread Makers of Slany (or Kladno), a few miles north-west of Prague. It features over one hundred leaves of notes, in several hands, concerning payments to the guild by its members, spanning two centuries.
Half of the ms. text was written in the C17. This ms. provides a fascinating picture of the small community of bakers and millers who operated in Kladno. Whilst Prague had over 100 bakers in the early C17, it is reasonable to think a small town like Slany did not have more than 10 (Janáček, ‘Dejiny obchodu’). Bakers and millers were, historically, connected professions; in smaller cities, as here, they could share the same corporation or confraternity (Patkova, ‘Bratrstvie’, 122). Bakers could employ their own millers to grind flour which could only be used for making bread and not for sale as such (Winter, ‘Remeslnictvo’, 643-44).
The baker Adam Sobotka, and the millers Jan Oliwa, the Jirašeks, Jan and Waclaw Kozak and the Cynt family are among those mentioned in the first half of the C17. Their names appear with others at the bottom of several annotations, as they were, in turn, part of the company’s council, renewed every year (Lacina, ‘Pameti’, 60). Their businesses were interconnected. For instance, we know that Adam Sobotka and his wife Dorota bought a bakery from Jan Jirašek in 1594; Dorota later sold it after Adam’s death (Lacina, ‘Pameti’, 292).
Each entry features the year, the date, a brief summary of the occasion of specific payments or donations to the company. Many are concerned with the company’s devotional activities, some for specific feasts (e.g., St Lucas Evangelist or St John Nepomuk). In particular, in addition to cash payments, many record payments or donations in pounds of wax. Guilds typically owned chapels or chantries in churches, which they kept illuminated with expensive beeswax candles; the largest candles could weigh up to 30 pounds (Richardson, ‘Craft Guilds’, 149). Members were required to contribute to expenses regularly, usually quarterly—hence the regular but not too crowded entries in this ms. As here, wax was given for celebrations ‘for the dead’ and ‘in good memory’, to commemorate deceased members or relatives. In one case the money was donated by a furrier, outside the company, probably related to a member of the guild. Due to the high cost, payments in wax were also used as a punitive fine for the infringement of the company’s regulations, including absence from commemorations, or upon someone’s appointment to an office (Richardson, ‘Craft Guilds’, 156-57), as happens in the ms. when Mathaus Jiška was introduced as a baker. Sometimes a different hand crossed out a note or added ‘solutum’ or ‘dedit’ (paid) below, meaning that this book was of official standing, but also for quick reference. Though the hands are many, they often repeat themselves in the course of a short period; also, in some notes the author refers to himself in the first person (e.g., ‘the money was given to me’). He was probably treasurer in that year.
A fascinating insight into the life of the skilled artisan in early modern Europe.
Janáček, Dejiny obchodu v predebelohorské Praze (Prague, 1955); J. Janáček, Pivovarnictví v českych královskych mestech v 16. Století (Prague, 1959); Z. Winter, Remeslnictvo a živnosti XVI. veku v Čechách (1526-1620) (Prague, 1909); H. Patkova, Bratrstvie ke cti Božie (Prague, 2000); G. Richardson, ‘Craft Guilds and Christianity in Late-Medieval England’, Rationality and Society 17 (2005), 139-89; J. Lacina, Pameti kralovskeho mesta Slaneho (Slany, 1885).