The Tavern Sign Of The Ancients

“The excavations at Pompeii brought to light many interesting details of ancient Roman life, among them were the various signs over the shops of the tradesmen.  One representing a mule turning a corn-mill is the sign of a baker, a milk shop had a goat for its signs, a school is indicated by a teacher birching a boy, and a tavern has a bush with the motto, “Vino vendibili suspensa hedera non opus est” (there is no need to suspend ivy over saleable wine).  Our well-known equivalent, “Good wine needs no bush”, is derived from this custom.  The ivy was a sacred plant to Bacchus, the wine god, and as such it became the tavern sign of the ancients.”

Extract from ‘The History of Signwriting’ by Herbert Cole (published 1954)

3 thoughts on “The Tavern Sign Of The Ancients

    • It’s in ‘The Modern Signwriter’, a collection of essays on the trade published in 1954. I think it’s one I picked up on ebay about a year ago. I can’t find an ISBN on it though.

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