Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Editions of Epulario: 2

To be uploaded

Editions of Epulario: 1

The Bonhams auction brochure stated "this edition not in Bitting or Vicaire, only one copy on WorldCat". These two, I found from consulting the British Library catalogue[1] compiled gastronomic bibliographies.

Georges Vicaire was a nineteenth century bookman who André Simon, the co-founder of the Food & Wine Society wrote in the 1954 English edition of Vicaire's magnum opus that it took him

many years of painstaking research to discover in the great public libraries and private collections some two thousand five hundred books dealing with the fascinating subject of gastronomy in all its different aspects ... they are presented with the most meticulous bibliographical details, and many of them with very interesting and valuable notes by Vicaire himself.

To be completed

Thursday, 15 December 2011

What I have now got

Here is my-newly acquired book, held open by me at the start of the text. To see the title page, click on What should I bid? on the right.

It is bound nicely in half leather,[1], in a binding which I guess was done a century ago.

It is tiny: its pages measure 14.2 cm by 9.2 cm, which is under two thirds of the page area of the earliest Penguins[2] or just over half that of my Feltrinelli paperback of “Il Gattopardo”.

It does not make up for its small size of page by having many of them, as can be judged from the picture of the spine of the book, photographed against the backdrop of Hokusai's Wave on the desktop of my iMac. It is an imperfect edition, in that it has 54 folios, making 108 pages, with (according to the Bonhams auction details) seven folios missing.

The section headings (e.g. the fifteen word after LIBRO PRIMO) are in a roman font in a size approximately equal to 11½ point today, and the body text in italic in 9 on 11½ point. Italic had been first used by Venetian printers early in the sixteenth century in small octavo[3] books because the slanted type took up less horizontal space than an upright roman one, and so such books needed less paper and could be sold more cheaply.

Let's have a closer look at what the book says.

Il quale insegna il modo di cucinare ogni carne, e pesce, & ogn altra ragione di vivande. The which teaches the way of cooking all meat, and fish, & all other reasons of provisions [this phrase needs consideration].
Per dare ad intendere qual carne si debba fare arosto, & quale alesso[4].To make understood what meat ought to be roasted and what boiled.

[1] A half leather binding has the spine and the two corners of the covers bound in leather, and the rest covered in cloth.
[2] “Penguin revolutionised publishing in the 1930s through its high quality, inexpensive paperbacks, sold through Woolworths and other high street stores for sixpence [2.5 new pence, in 1935 worth £3.92 in 2010 when adjusted for changes in average earnings (measuringworth.com)]”. (Wikipedia)
[3] "An octavo is a book or pamphlet made up of one or more full sheets of paper on which 16 pages of text were printed, which were then folded three times to produce eight leaves. Each leaf of an octavo book thus represents one eighth the size of the original sheet." (Wikipedia)
[4] This word alesso is not in my 2,277 page Collins Sansoni dictionary. Here it is in the second edition of John Florio's "World of Words", accessible through Google Books[>].

What I bid

Lot 31 comes up forty minutes after the start of the auction.

“Do I hear three hundred pounds?” My arm shoots up.

“In the room, at the back, three hundred,” then “On the phone, three twenty.”

There are three Bonhams people at a table to the left of the auctioneer’s podium, each with a phone to their ear. My arm goes up again. “In the room, three forty.” Two agents put their phones down. The third still holds his to his ear: I cannot hear what is being said, but with little delay he nods. “On the phone, three sixty.”

It seems horribly possible that I am bidding against the Man from Miami, the one who is offering on Abe Books a 1555 edition for $20,000. I continue bidding: so too does the person at the other end of the phone as the sum bid rises rapidly towards my limit of £500. “In the room, four eighty.” The agent relays this to … Miami? He shakes his head. “Sold, at four eighty.” I hold up my paddle (a laminated card with my bidder’s number, 593, on it). “Lot 31 to five nine three.”

On the way from Buckingham to Oxford the Prof told me that Bonhams followed the two big auctioneers, Christies and Sothebys, a couple of months ago by charging a Buyer's Premium. This is revenue over and above the commission that auctioneers justifiably charge the seller and is not justified by any increase in the service they offer the buyer. This premium is no less than 25%, which means that my little book is costing me £600, a hundred quid more than the maximum I'd discussed with Ayesha.

This bad news was balanced by his telling me of a late Elizabethan Italian-English dictionary which I would certainly need, if my bidding proved successful, in which to look up the words which have since fallen out of use. This explains his description of the auction and its aftermath to the Hagiographer, a mutual friend.

Well, l'Italiano secured the book for not too much more than the estimate. I think he intimidated the room with his bidding style, which involved a fierce and terrible concentration of expression - and violent, forward hand movements that caused people in the front row to duck, as if avoiding spears. He departed for Bodley happy as a pig in those old pork pie adverts, clamouring to find a first edition of Florio's Italian dictionary ...

In my next post I will say something about the physical attributes of the book, leaving matters bibliographic, linguistic and gastronomic to posts which may not get written till after Christmas. If this should be so, then let me end this one with a valediction which I am sure my new friend Giovanni de' Rosselli, the author of "Epulario", would have used, Buon natale e felice anno nuovo.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

What should I bid?

Lot 31
Il quale tratta del modo del cucinare ogni carne, uccelli, & pesce d'ogni forte [sic]. Et di piu insegna far sapori, torte, pastelli, almodo di tutte le provincie del mondo
Title with woodcut vignette of a man seated at a table, within typographical border (shaved at upper margin), lacks 4 leaves (G1/2, and G7/8 the final 2 index leaves), early inscription erased in ink, modern half morocco [this edition not in Bitting or Vicaire, only one copy recorded on WorldCat mentioning 51pp.], small 8vo.
Messina, Lorenzo Valla, 1606
£300 – 400

This is the entry in the catalogue of Books, Maps, Manuscripts & Photographs auctioned by Bonhams at Oxford on Thursday 29 November 2011.

The Prof[1] told me that he was definitely going: there were a number of lots that interested him. I asked him if I could go with him and he agreed. He advised me to set beforehand an upper limit beyond which I would not go. To do this I entered Epulario in the Title box on the Abe Books search page. Twenty books were listed.

Twelve of these were offered by booksellers in Australia (one), the UK (seven) and the USA (four) for a print-on-demand edition of the 1598 edition of a translation into English. Interesting: I must check the British Library catalogue to see the date of the edition that was translated, since it clearly could not have been the 1606 edition being auctioned. These were being offered at prices, inclusive of shipping, ranging from £10.48 by a dealer in Sussex to £31.90 by the Australian dealer.

Three were offered by Italian booksellers, but for a different title: Epulario e segreti vari. Trattati di cucina toscana nella Firenze seicentesca[2] by one Giovanni Del Turco. This appears to be an anastatic[3] reproduction, published in Bologna in 1992, of a book published in Florence in 1602: the price is about £32.

Four more were offered by Italian booksellers, slightly differently titled: Opera nova chiamata Epulario la quale tratta il modo di cucinare[4] etc. This appears to be an anastatic reproduction of a 1518 Venetian edition in two volumes, one in Latin in a gothic face and the other in Italian: the price is about £50. One bookseller adds this information about the author, Giovanni de Rosselli: cuoco di Casa Baglioni e valletto di papa Paolo III.[5]

It was the twentieth that was most interesting, however. Here is the entire description given by the bookseller in Miami.

Gioanne Padoano, Venice, 1555. Book Condition: Very Good. In small 8vo. 45 + (2) ff. Title page in red and black, with a woodcut engraving; woodcut initial letters. First and final blank. Somewhat browned, and a few insignificant stains, especially to the last leaves. Bound in full modern blue morocco gilt ruled on boards. Spine with gilt lettering. Blue slipcase. Nice and fresh copy of a very rare edition of a curious book, which was first printed in 1516. It is one of the first books of cooking and baking printed in the Italian language. It has the best recipes of several Italian provinces, very well explained. The title page shows a woodcut engraving depicting a kitchen, which is believed to be the earliest depiction of a kitchen in a printed book. All editions of this book are very rare; after the first edition, it was reprinted many times until the 17th Century. It was the translated into English and published in England before the end of the 16th Century. This book is now known to be almost a direct copy of the works of Maestro Martino. Not in Vicaire. Extremely rare copy. In Italian. Hardcover.

And the price? $20,000!

Surely Ayesha[6] will agree to me bidding over the top estimate, to, say, £500? She does.

[1] Click [GO] to read, on my earlier blog, how the Prof, an endearing neighbouring bibliophile, foments literary activity.
[2] "The banquet and various secrets: treatise on Tuscan cooking in seventeenth century Florence".
[3] "Anastatic lithography is a form of transfer lithography, or zincography, by which prints, particularly old ones, may be treated so as to yield a transfer, which may be inked up and printed from." (for more, click [GO])
[4] "New works entitled The Banquet which deals with all ways of cooking ..." etcetera.
[5] "Chef at the Casa Baglioni and page [the Sansoni translation] to Pope Paul III" (1468-1549, the first pope [from 1534] of the Counter-Reformation).
[6] Ayesha, or She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, was the puissant queen and protagonist in Rider Haggard's She. It was also the term used by Rumpole of The Bailey to refer to his wife.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Meaning of Epulario

From the Latin Wiktionary (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/epulor)

present active epulor, present infinitive epulārī, perfect active epulātus sum. (deponent)
1.            I feast, dine sumptuously.

To the infinitive add a final o to make it into an Italian noun.
Therefore Epulario = sumptuous dinner