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Roller by John Conger
Collection of Kathy Gaffney
The mark of American carver John Conger is clearly visible on the end of the roller, right. This same mark is found on many of Conger's cake boards.

According to Culinary Historian William Woys Weaver, this roller would have been used for pastry, such as fancy pie crusts, and cookies. Mr. Weaver also said roses, like the ones carved into this roller, were a popular motif for Conger.

Picture courtesy of Elisabeth c. g. Den Teuling
Speculaas cookies line the bottom shelf of a cabinet inside a bakery in Brugge, Belgium.

Byzantine Bread Stamps
Techinically speaking, early bread stamps are indeed a type of mold. They differ very little from 19th century butter, pastry or cookie prints. The main difference is that bread stamps imprinted the signature of the baker onto a loaf of bread, instead of imprinting a design simply for decorative purposes.

"During the Roman era, bakeries were required to stamp their bread with an individual seal in order to trace the source of the loaves and to prevent fraud or theft of imperial supplies. Upon the birth of the Byzantine Empire, bread stamps were still used, although their purpose had significantly changed. Although varying greatly in size and shape, the common characteristic of Byzantine bread stamps was the emphasis in drawing fracture lines that indicated to the priest where to cut the loaf. These lines become even more important on Eucharistic stamps that marked the consecrated bread for communion."¹

Below are three different examples of bronze Byzantine bread stamps, along with information on each individual stamp.

Origin: Mediterranian

Date: 5th-6th century AD

Size: 2 3/4" diameter

"The engraved name reads, "EUTROPIOU", translated properly as, "belonging to Eutropios." Surely the presence of an individual's name makes it highly unlikely that this stamp would have marked the ritual bread utilized in the reenactment of the Eucharist. In fact, the legend seems to indicate this stamp might have more in common with its Roman predecessor than its Byzantine contemporaries."¹

Origin: Bethlehem, Israel

Date: 500-900 AD

Size: 2 1/4" diameter

"During the early flowering of the Christian era, this bronze stamp was used to mark the communion Eucharist. The message it bears, Charita, is one of cheerful greeting, the equivalent of "Hello." This stamp was almost certainly the property of one of the numerous churches that early Christianity built in the town of Jesus' birth. A simple object of daily ritual, it evokes an age of heartfelt faith, a spirit that has endured across the centuries."¹

Origin: Mediterranian

Date: 6th century AD

Size: 2.85" x 2.75"

"The engraved inscription reads, "K(YPI)E B(OETHEI) EYSTPA T(IO) (KAI) THEOPHAN(EI)," and can be translated as, "God help Eustratios and Theophanes." Square-shaped bread stamps are more rare than their circular counterparts because the loaves themselves were round. A square shape pressed into a round loaf tends to distort the roundness of the loaf. Square loaves were not feasible, since the corners would brown and harden before the rest of the loaf, not to mention the difficulty in keeping the loaf square once the yeast begins taking effect. Thus, this stamp would have once been pressed into a round loaf. As the loaf baked in the oven, the stamped image would grow larger as the loaf expanded. After the bread was finished baking and cooled, the loaf would be cut into pieces, leaving the stamped piece intact. If used during the Eucharist, this piece would have then served as the body of Christ. If used on another religious occasion, this piece would have been offered as a warm prayer in the names of two men, Eustratios and Theophanes."¹

Pottery Bread Stamp
Origin: unknown

Date: 11th - 12th century AD

Size: 2.36"-diameter, 2.36"-height

Double-sided bread stamp. One end with a patonce-type cross, the other end with a Moline-cross.

Information and photographs courtesy of Traces from the Past - Ancient Art Gallery, Spijkenisse, The Netherlands.

¹ Information and photographs furnished by The Barakat Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA.