The criers of wine were a uniquely French form of Medieval advertising.
Troops of them walked the streets of Paris, each armed a large measure of wine, from which they invited passersby to taste.
It seems to have been a good gig. At least in 1141, the wine criers of the Berry region were entitled to a penny every time they blew their horn.
Juan de Garlando, a Norman writer, mentions these criers : “Wine-criers cry with open mouth the wine which is for sale in the taverns at four farthings”
An old woman named Adelaide, wanting to advertise the word of god rather than Bacchus, paid a wine-crier to go about town, and proclaim : “God is righteous! God is merciful! God is good and excellent!”
She followed him saying “He speaks well! He speaks truly!”
The public criers in France were very organised, which may have been why poor Adelaide came to such a bad end.
She was arrested and tried, and since she was accused of hiring the crier out of vanity, she was burned alive.
In 1258, the French criers received various statutes from Philip Augustus. Some were peculiar; this one was downright intrusive:
A crier may ask people in a tavern what they paid for their wine, and he may go out and cry the wine at the prices they pay, whether the tavern keeper wishes it or not, provided that there be no other crier employed for that tavern.
English Medieval Advertising
Early in the Middle Ages, the town crier was still called Proeco, as in Roman times.
An edict of the town of Tournay, dated 1368, describes him as:
“the sergeant of the rod who makes publications (crie les bans) and cries whatever else there is to be made known to the town”
In England, criers swore to tell truly and well to the best of their power and ability. They announced the condemnation of criminals and all kinds of goods.
The only proclamations they avoided was ecclesiastical, which was the purview of the archbishop.
The town crier was the chief advertiser for the Medieval shopkeeper. In addition, they often had touters at their doors, who acted as living advertisements.
The 15th century ballad “London Lyckpenny” (Lack-penny), shows a glimpse of a very noisy street life. Shopmen stand at their doors, trying to outbawl each other.
Tempted into a tavern, our hero enjoys a pint of wine for a penny and “for bread nothing he he pay, for that was allowed free”.
Free luncheons were commonly granted to regular drinkers in the 17th and 18th centuries !
A custom to bring back, perhaps?
Medieval Advertising in Print
Once printing was available, publishers praised how cheap the books were inside the books themselves.
Ulric Gering, in his “Corpus Juris Canonici” 1500 allays the fears of his public: “Don’t run away on account of the price..Come rick and poor; this excellent work is sold for a very small sum.”
Some writers used the last page of a book to sell their own skills.
On the last page of a book by a writer called Herneis, he writes the following Medieval spam:
‘If someone else would like such a handsome book, come and look me up in Paris, across the Notre Dame cathedral’.
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.