Sundry Good and Needfull Ordinances

Food & Drink in the Law Library

Food is of abiding interest to almost everyone, and concern with food and drink has left its traces in the law in the form of codes and regulations regarding everything from bread and coffee to oysters and beer. Displayed here is a sampling of books, manuscripts and photographs from the Law Library's Special Collections, covering the period from the thirteenth through the early twentieth centuries. All the materials deal in some way with food and drink, though not always strictly with the law. Not intended to illustrate the history of food law, the aim of this exhibit is to provide a sense of some of the little-known resources available in the Law School Library. It was scheduled to coincide with several other exhibits of food-related materials in Harvard libraries and museums.

The items shown in this exhibit reflect the biases of the Law Library's collection, whose strength lies in western European law, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, especially in English, French, and German law. The exhibit has been divided into nine categories of materials encompassing several frequently-regulated food groups (bread, beer, meat & fish, etc.) and food in certain social or religious contexts such as the public consumption of alcohol, institutional food and religious food prohibitions and regulations. It is hoped that this exhibit will be of interest not only to culinary and legal historians, but anyone concerned with social history, the history of commerce and mercantilism, guilds, trade unions and urban history.

See also: Law & ...