In the mid-13th century, during the reign of Henry III, Assize of Bread and Ale statute was enacted and was in effect until the 19th century. The statute defined the various units of measure, declaring that:
By the consent of the whole realm of England, the measure of the king was made; that is to say: that an English penny, called a sterling round, and without any clipping, shall weigh thirty-two wheat corns in the midst of the ear, and twenty-pence do make an ounce, and twelve ounces one pound, and eight pounds do make a gallon of wine, and eight gallons of wine do make a London bushel, which is the eighth part of a quarter.
The Assize of Bread and Ale statute states that there is a set association between the quantity of wheat that goes into making a loaf of bread and the price of the bread. English bakers who are found to be cheating their customers are subject to extremely severe fines and punishments up to having their hands chopped off!
Since it is nearly impossible to make bread by hands, bakers can accidentally “cheat” a customer; and so, they began giving more to make sure they never went under what was outlined in the statute. Bakers would give customers 13 breads for every dozen they ordered.
Back then, bakers also depended on middlemen vendors to sell their bread; the thirteenth loaf provided a profit to the middlemen vendor, wherein allowing them to sell all 13 at full price while they were only charged by bakers for 12.
Adding one loaf or sometimes two was called the ‘in-bread’ or ‘vantage loaf’. Thus, baking bread in batches of 13 also protected bakers in case of burnt or ruined pieces, still leaving them with a legal dozen.
While The Assize of Bread and Ale statute was repealed in the 19th century by the Statute Law Revision Act of 1863; it is only from 1599 that the expression “a baker’s dozen”got its popularity, and continues to be used until this day.
And so, just because you don’t live near a bakery doesn’t mean you have to go without bread.
Well, that is quite simple really!
What should you do now?
- Go to your favorite bakery, order a baker’s dozen and share it with friends.
- And then celebrate Life! A baker’s dozen of times!
- Want some help or ideas? Just contact us at Killarney Vale Bakery now.
As that which we call the in-bread is given into the dozen, there is nothing properly paid or given for it, but only for the dozen.
~ John Goodwin’s A Being Filled with the Spirit,a quotation from 1665
Remember – A Baker’s Dozen Tale