All Soap Manufactories, whatever their statutes, shall cease production during June, July and August every year, or their Soap will be confiscated.
Fresh oils may not be used in the Manufactories before the First of May each year,
or the Soap will also be confiscated.
No fat, butter or other matters are to be used in the Soap Manufactories in the mixture, soda or ashes; but only pure olive oil with no added fat or the Soap will be confiscated.
The Soap shall be perfectly produced, and with all the necessary constituents,
or the above penalties will be enforced.
When the Soap is removed from the cauldron, it shall be poured into ordinary moulds
then piled up, it will remain for sufficient time at each stage for purging
and removing unnecessary coloration.
The Manufacturers must dry their Soap as specified, or the Soap will be confiscated
and a fine of five hundred Livres will be imposed.
Except in the case of bad weather, the windows of the Leffugon (drying shed)
shall not be shut by night or day, while Soap is drying out.
Purchasers may not deduct from their bill more than the equivalent of two pounds in weight,
for each small case of soap, and four pounds for large cases.
No Manufacturer, or other persons whatever their rank, may possess or rent Soap Manufactories, without actually working them and this as specified. Any person keeping them closed, or not working sufficiently, shall be prosecuted and punished according to the law, for reasons of Monopoly.
Manufacturers shall not make group purchases of oil or other raw materials for their use, nor may they group together to sell their Soap, against public freedom, or they shall be punished as above.
Those who have been found disobeying the said Rules, shall be sentenced as required,
if they offend again and are discovered in deception more than four times,
they shall be banished from Provence.
His Majesty desires that the fines and confiscations decreed by the Judges, whom He entrusts with the collection of the proceeds, shall be for the benefit of the Hospitals of the town where the offences took place, without the penalties figuring in this Document being considered as threats, or with the possibility of delay or modification for any reason whatsoever.
The Administrators of the Provincial Towns where Soap Manufactories exist, shall nominate every year two principal and informed Merchants to supervise in the above Towns and their Territories, the carrying out of the above Articles : when they find Manufacturers and Merchants who have infringed the above, the said supervisors shall denounce them to the Judges, to be punished as necessary.
ISSUED in Fontainebleau
on October 5th sixteen eighty eight.
Signed LOUIS XIV
(translated from Old French )
Images and information courtesy of Marius Fabre.©Copyright Marius Fabre /Moosie 2011
Thanks to an abundance of raw materials, olive oil, soda and salt, Provence became the premier soap producing region from the Middle Ages onwards. Marseilles, a hub of commerce, became the major production site in France in the 17th century.
In 1688, Louis XIV laid down by means of the Edict of Colbert, (see left) the rules which institutionalised the making of Marseilles soap. Besides the heating in great cauldrons, it was compulsory to use only pure olive oil, all animal fat was forbidden. Those who did not obey risked banishment from Provence! This Edict allowed Marseilles soap to win the fame which it was never to lose…
It takes fourteen days to produce real Marseilles soap by the Marseilles process or “full fire” heating:
Stage 1 • Saponification - or paste producing.
The oils and soda wash are mixed together in a large vat which can contain 20 tons of raw materials. Under the action of soda and heat, the oils gradually become soap paste. The chemical reaction known as saponification.
Stage 2 • Rinsing or cleansing -The soap paste is rinsed several times with salt water to remove the remaining soda.
Stage 3 • Heating process - The paste is heated at 100 °C for ten days. Heating starts up every morning and is turned off every night.
Stage 4 • Liquefying - The paste is then rinsed several times with fresh water, to remove all impurities, thus earning the name “extra pure”. Being more liquid, the paste is then allowed to settle for 2 days. These different stages are known as “cooking up”. This delicate stage requires all the attention and know-how of the soap masters.
Stage 5 • Pouring off - the heated soap paste,
while still hot (between 50 and 70 °C), is poured into the huge cooling tanks, by means of an articulated wooden feed pipe, called “goulotte”.
Stage 6 • Drying out - The soap is left to dry for 48 hours. When the Mistral wind blows, the windows facing North are opened and the wind shortens the drying-out process.
Stage 7 • Cutting up - Once dry, the soap is cut, in the moulds, into 35 kilo blocks by a wheel-operated blade. These blocks are then cut up in a machine producing 2.5 kilos, 1kilo, 600g, 500g and 400g blocks.
Stage 8 • Drying out - The blocks of soap are laid out on wooden shelves to dry. After 48 hours in a drying oven, a crust forms on the surface, they can then be stamped.
Stage 9 • Moulding & stamping - There are two ways of stamping: hand-stamping on bars or in a machine mould for cubes. Cubes are stamped on all six sides, the traditional sign of “Marseilles soap”.
To see our range of Savon de Marseille cubes click on the image above.
Edict of the King
Brick soap vats
'Pouring off' area
Uncut soap blocks drying