CAVIAR, COLD CUTS, CHEESE … XIX CENTURY ROMAN GROCERY STORES

Tariffa dei generi di pizzicheria.

[Viterbo province, 1853 – 1861].

Four broadsheets, various sizes (from 195 x 265 mm to 268 x 390mm); one printed on blue paper, two within woodblock frame, one with large woodblock town crest; prices and dates added by hand, undersigned and stamped by the local Gonfalonier; some contemporary manuscript additions and corrections; some signs of folding but overall in excellent condition.

£550

Approximately:
US $756€649

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A collection of four broadsheets listing prices for various foodstuffs sold in small provincial towns’ groceries stores, providing a fascinating insight into eating habits and everyday life in mid-nineteenth century central Italy, as well as representing a primary source of information for calculating the consumer price index in the same region between 1853 and 1861.

These price lists come from Vetralla (1853 and 1861), Civita Castellana (1859) and Sutri (1859), small towns in the province of Viterbo, just north of Rome, which at the time the broadsheets were printed were still part of the Papal state (they were annexed to the newly founded Kingdom of Italy only in 1870), as proven by the presence of a ‘Gonfaloniere’ as the town main officer and, in two cases, the stamp with the coat of arms of the Holy See.

Amongst the grocery goods listed are lard, bacon, ham, salami, mortadella, sausages (pork or liver) and various other cold cuts; fresh, aged and parmesan cheese; salt cod, tuna (in oil or vinegar), salmon, eels (soused or marinated), anchovies, Atlantic bonitos and herrings; oil for dressing and for burning; and, most interestingly, caviar (present in two lists). The latter was almost certainly coming from the river Po which, together with the Adriatic and the Gulf of Palermo, was home to a large number of sturgeons until the end of the nineteenth century.

Prices are expressed in ‘baiocchi’ per ‘libra’ (around 330g) and caviar, at the price of 72 baiocchi, is already the most expensive good on the 1859 list for the town of Civita Castellana, followed by oil for dressing at 48 baiocchi per ‘boccale’ (2,053l), parmesan at 24 baiocchi and prosciutto at 16.

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