Back in the early days of the blog, we profiled the oldest food-related publication in our collection, the short selection of a larger publication with the lengthy title, A pocket-companion, containing things necessary to be known by all that values their health and happiness : being a plain way of nature’s own prescribing, to cure most diseases in men, women and children, by kitchen-physick only. To which is added, an account how a man may live well and plentifully for two-pence a day / collected from The good housewife made a doctor, by Tho. Tryon (1692). You can that view that post online here: “Advice from 1692.”
However, it seemed about time we go back and show off another early publication from the History of Food and Drink Collection. This week, we’re featuring a slightly more recent publication from 1745, with, if you can believe it, an even longer title: A treatise of all sorts of foods, both animal and vegetable: also of drinkables: giving an account how to chuse the best sort of all kinds; of the good and bad effects they produce; the principles they abound with; the time, age, and constitution they are adapted to. Wherin their nature and use is explain’d according to the sentiments of the most eminent physicians and naturalists, ancient and modern. Written originally in French, by the learned M.L. Lemery. Tr. by D. Hay. To which is added, an introduction treating of foods in general. (When you look at the title page below, you may notice there is actually a great deal MORE that someone wisely thought to leave out, when cataloging the item.)
Although the text block is the original, it was rebound at some point before being acquired by Special Collections.
The title page, along with the preface and table of contents pages, were treated with Japanese tissue as a preservation technique against further damage.
Part I of the book details vegetables, plants, herbs, and fruits.
Part II of the book covers meat and game, birds, fish and other seafood.
Part III covers mostly drinks, but liquids in general, as well.
Each chapter talks about a food item, in this case, quinces. Chapters are formatted with an little about the food item, what it is good for, preparation notes, and warnings about who should or shouldn’t eat it.
The “O 2” at the bottom of this page is a “signature.” You’ll notice them on other pages, too. It was used by binders to help assemble the book in the proper order, since most books in this time would have been hand-sown.
Each entry also contains “remarks,” about the plant, animal, or other food item.
Most entries also include notes on how to select the particular food item and what to look for in a “good” one.
The last section of the book talks about drinks, and even includes vinegar…though cyder may be a bit nicer to drink on its own.
As much as we’d love to have you visit us, the good news is, if you want to read more from this treatise (and it’s well worth it!), you can see it online. A pdf is available through VTech Works, the library’s institutional repository (http://hdl.handle.net/10919/10325). If you’re not used to the style and font of mid-18th century publications, don’t worry. Like handwriting, it won’t take long for you to understand those long “f”s and strange, archaic terms.
And whether you’re wondering what people thought about gooseberries, “sea-dragons,” milk, wild boar, or brandy in the 1740s, this is a great place to start. The book’s descriptions about melancholy Humours may be out of date, but the desire to give good advice about food is timeless.