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The History of the Label | Part 1

The History of the Label is part French – ah oui!

The term label has its origin in the old French word estiquette, which comes from estequier/estequer and means to attach, append or little note. This also birthed “etiquet” (label, note), certainly the term label also well known. It also comes from the French and at the French court it was a sort of cheat sheet with rules of etiquette.

The Egyptians and Sumerians

However, the foundation stone for the label as we know it today was laid by the Egyptians and Sumerians (3200 – 3100 BC).

They used so-called roller seals: these were cylindrical seals on whose outer surface characters or drawings were engraved. If the rolled seals were rolled over clay, for example, the engraving became visible.

Roll seals were mainly used to immortalize and pass on the names of high officials or kings.

The Romans History of the Label

The Romans came one step closer to today’s label and replaced the original roll seal by pendants which were hung on amphorae and other containers. This way everyone could see at first glance whether there was wine, medicine or any other liquid in the container.

As you can see, even the forerunners of today’s labels were always concerned with marking things and communicating information.

How the label then developed over time into an indispensable advertising medium for products is explained further in Part 2.

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