A short survey of the history of gingerbread production and its gradual rise to popularity
Source document: . Středověké a novověké zdroje tradiční kultury : sborník příspěvků ze semináře konaného 30. listopadu 2005 v Ústavu evropské etnologie. Editor: Křížová, Alena. Vyd. 1. Brno: Ústav evropské etnologie Masarykovy univerzity, 2006, pp. -83
Conditions for the successful development of gingerbread production as a guild trade had their basis in the blossoming of town economies. Specialized crafts were subject to the demands of local markets, while production for more distant markets also gained in importance. The first mention in archive sources of a gingerbread producers' guild is from Svidnice (Schweidenitz) in 1293. The trade developed thanks to an abundance of basic raw materials of the required quality, such as honey from the Liineburg steppes or the area of Nuremberg. It was not until the late eighteenth century that the price of spices used for flavouring the gingerbread placed a limitation on sales. Craftsmen looked to the guild system to support their livelihoods. Less numerous than bakers and cakemakers, it was with these trades that producers of gingerbread joined forces in the guilds. (Alternatively they united with producers of gingerbread in larger towns.) The protection afforded by the guild system reached its culmination after the Thirty Years' War. In the first half of the nineteenth century, gingerbread became available to the majority of the population. In the second half of that century, however, the independent trades of the gingerbread producer went into decline; ultimately they were incorporated into the trade of confectioner. Among the most important material proofs of the history of gingerbread production are wooden, negative-cut templates. Their figures are vividly depicted, reflecting the taste of the maker and the requirements of the customer. In terms of how motifs evolved, we may assume the predominance in the Middle Ages of religious themes, from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century of seignorial motifs, until eventually the preferences of urban and provincial populations made themselves felt. Before the advent of simplified workshop production in the late nineteenth century, the trade of gingerbread-making used a range of pictorial motifs, thus contributing to initiatives and ideas for the material and spiritual development of folk culture.
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