A two-penny loaf?

On 25 April 1750, Lowth reported to his friend Sir Francis Dashwood that he had visited the newly excavated site of Herculaneum. He had been most struck by the following:

"Among other things of the like perishable nature there have been found vessels full of wheat, & beans, a bottle of Oil, another of some Spiritous Liquor, pieces of bread, & one entire Loaf: it is about the size of a common two penny brown Loaf, has the same form & appearance, & does not look so very stale neither: it is kept in a Glass case to secure it. I did not ex::amine it very nicely, but a Gentleman that saw it since observ’d some Letters upon it, wch. he was told no body could make out; he viewd it very narrowly, and with supplying a few Letters at the beginning, wch. I shall mark, is confident that he has hitt it off completely & truly as follows: siligo c ranii e cicere."

Could it be that what he witnessed was the loaf of bread that is currently on display at the exhibition called "The last hours of Herculaneum" at the Museum ‘t Falkhof in Nijmegen?

As the picture on this website shows, there is a stamp on it, but I can’t read it. What does a two-penny loaf looks like?

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  1. ingrid tieken

    Thank you Wim and Karlijn for your very interesting information. I rechecked the letter, and Lowth added the following information:

    “a Gentleman that saw it since observ’d some Letters upon it, wch. he was told no body could make out; he viewd it very narrowly, and with supplying a few Letters at the beginning, wch. I shall mark, is confident that he has hitt it off
    completely & truly as follows: SILIGO C RANII E CICERE.”

  2. Karlijn

    I went to the exhibition in Nijmegen yesterday and was thus able to see the two penny loaf with my own eyes! According to the website of the museum http://www.museumhetvalkhof.nl/herculaneum/a_objecten4.htm the stamp on the bread should be read as follows:
    Celer, slave of Q. Granius Verus. Celer is the name of the baker who baked the bread and Q.[uintus] Granius Verus, was a well-known politician and the owner of the house in which the bread was found.

  3. Wim

    I’m not sure whether there was a specific form to this bread – the twopenny referred to the price, given that there also was a threepenny, sixpenny and ninepenny loaf.

    Google gives you some pointers that may be worth double-checking in the literature (maybe something for ECCO?). A search for ‘pennyloaf’ even gives you a ‘googlewack’ with a nice picture of a bread:

    http://members.aye.net/~bspen/pennyloaf.jpg

    -In the records of the Old Bailey, this text can be found:
    347. (M.) Gabriel Lacked was indicted for stealing six threepenny loaves, value 18 d. and one two penny loaf , the property of Charles Hore , June 7. ++ (The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Ref: t17660702-15)
    -On a mailing list about food I found the following ( http://www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD/puddings-msg.html ):
    “A two penny loaf is a loaf that can be purchased for two pence.  Under the Assize of Bread, the weight of the loaf varied by the market p at  of the grain and the quality of the flour.  For example, in 1329 a two penny loaf of white bread would have been 7 pounds 10 ounces a voirdupois.  It would have been somewhat less in the latter half of the 17th Century when Evelyn was cooking.”

    -Ships’ records give the following details about a 2p and 3p loaf ( http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/Arrivals/ships1775.html ):
    The Two Penny Loaf – Wheaten 1 lb. 1 oz. 6 dr.; Houshold 1 lb. 7 oz. 3 dr.
    The Three Penny Loaf – Wheaten 1 lb. 10 oz. 1 dr.; Houshold 2 lb. 2 oz. 12 dr.

    -The following website also gives you some information on bread history:
    http://www.kal69.dial.pipex.com/shop/pages/glossb.htm

    W.

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