Sumptuary Laws


Provisione et ordine sopra le Pompe, & vestire cosi di Donne come de gli Huomini, Apparati di Dote, & Banchetti, Di ordine dell’Ilustriss, & Reverendiss. Monsig. Gio. Battista Castagna Cardinale di San Marcello Legato di Bologna. Publicata in Bologna alli 19. & reiterata alli 23. Di Decembre. M D LXXXIIII.

Bologna: Per Alessandro Benacci, 1584


Quarto: 22 x 15.5 cm. (8) pages.


Bound in modern wrappers. A very fine, crisp copy with broad margins and numerous deckles preserved. Woodcut arms on title.

First edition of this revision of sumptuary laws regulating dress, dowry and feasts promulgated by Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti in 1568 and revised several times until the end of the century.

The dress code of women attracts particular attention, skirts are meant to be neither too long, nor too short; jewelry is to be worn in moderation. A single-strand pearl necklace is acceptable, unless it is too long - and variations apply depending on whether a woman is married or not. Special exceptions are made for weddings, but even then the social order needs to be upheld, and women have to be dressed according to rank and status. 

Contravention of the detailed rules leads to fines, which increase for repeat offenders at nuptial feasts, at banquets for public and private parties, and indeed at any meal of meat no more than one course of roast and one of boiled meat may be provided. Banned from all banquets shall be trout from any place whatsoever, sturgeon, fish from the lake, pasties, confections and all other things made of sugar. Oysters may be served only at private meals for twenty persons or less, and not at larger banquets or feasts; collations must be provided in the rooms, on the tables, and not otherwise, they must consist of modest confections, of the ordinary products of pastry cooks, and of simple fruits of any kind, according to the time of the year (cf. M.G. Muzzarelli, Guardaroba medievale: vesti e società dal XIII al XVI secolo, Bologna 1999, pp. 268-85 and 306-49; and F. Battistini, L’industria della seta in Italia nell’eta moderna, Bologna, 2003, pp. 176-184).

Universal STC, no. 865850; R. Campioni, op. cit., p.148; M.G. Muzzarelli, ed., Le legislazioni suntuarie secoli XIII-XVI. Emilia Romagna, Rom, 2002, pp. 42-43; Z. Zanardi, ed., Bononia manifesta. Bandi, editti, costituzioni e provvedimenti diversi stampati nel XVI secolo per Bologna e il suo territorio, (Firenze, 1996), p. 226, no. 1555; R. Campioni, Libri di merlette e disposizioni suntuarie nel secolo XVI: alcune indicazioni per l’Emilia Romagna, in: “Le trame della moda”, A.G. Cavagna & G. Butazzi, eds., Roma, 1995, pp. 125-149, and P. Goretti, La regolamentazione delle apparenze: vesti e orna- menti nella legislazione suntuaria Bolognese del XVI secolo, in: “Schede umanistiche”, 1996, no. 2, pp. 117-137.