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De honesta voluptate. Cividale, Gerardus de Lisa de Flandria, 1480.
1480. 4to. (93) ff., wanting terminal blank. Bound in contemporary ornate blind-tooled calf over wooden boards, spine with two raised bands; remains of two metallic clasps with engraved devices. Initials calligraphed in red and blue throughout. Housed in a custom clamshell box. Scarce early edition of this landmark work of Western civilization: the first printed book on food and drink. "De Honesta Voluptate" is also an invaluable source for cultural historians tracing early trade routes with the East: Platina's use and discussion of ginger, rice, cinnamon, saffron, cloves, oranges, and so on indicates the already substantial commercial relationship between East and West by the mid-15th century, primarily via Arab traders. A classic text of the Renaissance, no other complete copy in an early binding has been seen in auction records of the last 50 years. - Platina, the future librarian of the Vatican, composed the present work in the early 1460s while on a summer retreat in the hills of Tuscany. The ten books of "De Honesta Voluptate" discuss the origin, properties, and uses of culinary ingredients ranging from herbs and spices to fruits, vegetables, and birds, beasts, and fish. Platina records some 240 recipes employing these ingredients; yet his guide is more than a mere cook-book, and contains much advice on 'the art of good living': of eating and drinking in moderation, of the value of sexual intercourse, and so on. - As the only such printed record of its time, the text of "De Honesta Voluptate" is a fascinating source on the use of exotics in European cooking at an early date. Trade routes reaching as far as China ensured that wealthy Europeans had access to a sometimes surprising variety of spices, grains, and fruits. The most important influence came from the Arab world, particularly via Sicily and Spain. "Arabic influence was clearly welcomed by Italian taste. Numerous recipes call for relatively exotic imported ingredients: aniseed, dates, pomegranates, rice, and oranges... the recipes show an obvious Arabic influence where they use sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over an otherwise savory dish, or sauces flavored with raisins as well as prunes" (Adamson, Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe, p. 92). Perhaps the most important Eastern contribution to Platina's culinary repertoire was in fact sugar - without which, he laments, the ancient Romans suffered. "Sugar is brought not only from Arabia," he writes (fol. 16), "but also from Crete and Sicily". Discussions of saffron, rose-water, cinnamon, pistachios, coriander, cloves, pomegranates (named after the Muslim kingdom of Granada), rice, almonds, and pepper are also found in Platina's text. Peterson ("The Arabian Influence on Western European Cooking") indeed suggests that "there is reason to believe that Europe made use of Arab cooking manuscripts... in the compilation of their own cooking texts". - "De Honesta Voluptate" was first printed in 1475 at Rome; a subsequent, but undated edition is assumed to predate the present, third edition - the last printed before Platina's death in 1481. All early editions are rare in trade, and the present copy is the only complete example we have seen in a contemporary or indeed near-contemporary binding. - One or two faint marginal annotations in a contemporary hand. Some finger-soiling and toning to title and scattered leaves - commensurate with use - but generally a fresh and very charming example, in what may be its original binding. Front board a little scuffed; some chipping to head and foot of spine; lower clasp with remains of early leather substitute; front endpaper renewed. Small burn hole, affecting a few letters on f 44; small wormhole also affecting a few letters through four leaves of index. Engraved bookplate on pastedown, ca. 1750, with Latin motto: "I am the possession of the Cloister of Wessenbrunn. Ho! Restore me to my master: so right demands". HC (Add) 13052. Goff P-763. GW M33895. Proctor 7266. BMC VII, 1094. BSB-Ink P-561. Opere di Gastronomia 1515. Vicaire 689. Cf. Peterson, "The Arabian Influence on Western European Cooking", in: Journal of Medieval History 6, pp. 317-340 (1980); and Freedman, Food: The History of Taste, p. 181.
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Last Found On: 2016-10-20           Check availability:    


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