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Serion de Burci
posted 02-28-2001 09:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Serion de Burci   Click Here to Email Serion de Burci     Edit/Delete Message
I would like information on the soaps that would have been used from 10th century through 16th century. Recipes, containers, scenting, etc.

Thanks !

Senior Member
posted 02-28-2001 04:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for duncan   Click Here to Email duncan     Edit/Delete Message
The story goes that in 1000 bc Rome, that a woman washing cloths in a river at the base of a hill noticed that the cloths came cleaner when they came into contact with the soapy clay oozing down from the area on the top of the hill where animals were butchered.
Later on in the ages soap makeing became a guarded secret as people were made to depend on the companys for their every day needs.
There are various plants that produce a soap like substance, soap worth and yucca, to name only two. Urine was often used for its cleaning ability. In times past soap was made from left over lard and oils combined with a mixture of wood ash lye {salts would be needed to make the soap harder}. Herbs were as now added to give color and scents. But that would of course depend on the maker as most soap was a necessity and not a luxury. As you have people today and as in the past, that did not make very good soap, you have those that can make better than whats being sold in the market today.

Megan Duncan
Castle Duncan

Senior Member
posted 02-28-2001 11:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Merlin   Click Here to Email Merlin     Edit/Delete Message
Duncan, where do have that story from?
I can't give a source, but as far as I remember, I was told at school that soap was one of the few inventions that the german tribes of the north had long before the romans, which came in contact with soap nor before they extended their empire as far as the Rhine under Augustus. But I may be wrong there...


Senior Member
posted 03-01-2001 06:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for duncan   Click Here to Email duncan     Edit/Delete Message
I will ask Megan when she returns home today. I beleave that story has been handed down to her for many generations and in one of her books i think there is a reference to it.
The legend may refer to how the Romans first found the chemicals necessary to produce a better soap then what they were already useing.
I'm sure they were not the first civilization to make it.

Senior Member
posted 03-01-2001 05:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for duncan   Click Here to Email duncan     Edit/Delete Message
I would be interested to hear how soap was discovered in other parts of the world.
How did they tell the story to you in school Merlin?
My above post was from books by
Susan Miller Cavitch
"The Natural Soap Book"
ISBN 0-88266-965-6
"The Soapmaker's Companion"
ISBN 0-88266-888-9
Also from "The Standard Reference Work 1923" and
"The World Book Encyclopedia" 1960,
where I found this quote:

"HISTORY--No one knows exactly when man first learned to make soap. Like most mysteries, the origin of soap has many legends. One story says that a Gaul used a hairdressing made of goat oil and beech-tree ashes. A lather formed in his hair when he got caught in a rainstorm. A more logical story says
that soapmaking began accidentally about 3,000 years ago on Sapo Hill in Rome. Grease from sacrificial animals mixed with the ashes of altar fires, and the mixture ran downhill and formed a slippery clay on the banks of the Tiber River. When washer-women pounded their clothes with this clay, they found that the clothes became cleaner much more easily.

EARLY SOAPMAKING--Before people knew about soap, they cleaned themselves with olive oil, earth, or plant ashes. They also rubbed them- selves with bran, sand, and pumice stone.
In the earliest known day of soapmaking,the alkali used in soap come from potash made from beechwood ashes. By the early 600's, the Italians were manufacturing large amounts of crude soap made from fats or oils and potash. About 700, Spain became known for its fine castile soap, which used olive oil instead of animal fats. From 800 to 1200, France led all European countries in soap- making. It produced a hard bar soap by using the soda obtained from seaweed. About 1200,
England started to manufacture soap on a small scale. Its use of whale oil to make a coarse soap helped to expand the whaling industry. The English also made a sweet soap from olive oil, and a specled or gray soap from tallow.
After 1800's, the increased demand for more soap oils increased the use of many new agricultural products from other countries. Soapmakers began to use coconut oil form the Philipines, palm oil form Africa, babassu oil from South America, sesame oil from Japan, and soybean oil from China. Much of the early soapmaking took place in the home. In
Colonial America, the housewife saved all household fats and greases. She boiled them together with a lye made from wood ashes. The result was a strong yellow soap. But it kept the household and its people clean."

Hope this helps
Megan Duncan

[This message has been edited by duncan (edited 03-01-2001).]

Senior Member
posted 03-03-2001 12:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Merlin   Click Here to Email Merlin     Edit/Delete Message
Thank you, Megan! I'm not sure if I can find any references to my version. Have to go through some of my older notes sometimes this weekend...


Senior Member
posted 03-03-2001 05:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for duncan   Click Here to Email duncan     Edit/Delete Message
Merlin, I'm passing this on from Megan as she steps out the door, "i'd just like to know how the story was told to you and you needn't bother with the references"
I sort of caught something else about 'storys or legands can't and don't always need to be backed by a reference', "any thing you can remember?"

Senior Member
posted 03-05-2001 02:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Merlin   Click Here to Email Merlin     Edit/Delete Message
I had a look in my papers but came up with nothing. As far as I remember, one of my university-profs mentioned that in a lesson about trade in Europe from 1st to 5th cent. AD. But that's six years ago... So I'll better trust Megan in this.


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