Famous though it is, Savon de Marseille does not have an official French AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôllée). In 1688, an edict by Louis XIV codified its production. It stipulated that no butter or other animal fats could be used in the soap mixture, but “only pure olive oil – “anything else and the merchandise will be confiscated”. Among many other things, the edict also ordered production stopped during the summer, because heat affected the quality of the oil, and forbade the sue of the fresh oil before the first of May, giving the oil time to mature after the annual midwinter pressing. Anyone caught breaking the rule four times, the edict declared, would be banished from Provence.
A translation of the Edit de Colbert :
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.
And (lower down), COLBERT
This is the reason why, we love this French soap !