The Early Modern Book: Cookbook as Case Study


Spring 2013


4th Floor Classroom


Deborah L. Krohn

This course is an introduction to two related emergent fields: history of the book, and culinary history. Though historians in many fields have been looking seriously at the history of books for a couple of generations, there has been comparatively little research on cookbooks and the social and economic implications of their diffusion during the Renaissance. In conjunction with the “coming of the book” and the diffusion of print culture at the end of the fifteenth century, the knowledge of food, its preparation, and service moved from the realm of tacit, artisanal understanding to a more scientific and rational set of precepts and codes. Paralleling transformations in areas such as agriculture, botany, metallurgy and other scientific fields, cooking became subject to empirical standards that underlie both texts and images in various books published between the end of the fifteenth and the end of the seventeenth century. These are the temporal parameters of the material we will look at. The first half of the course will be devoted to readings from classic studies in book history such as Elizabeth Eisenstein’s 1979 The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Febvre and Martin’s The Coming of the Book, and the works of Adrian Johns among others. We will then proceed to survey the most important cookbooks and recipe collections as they entered print at the end of the 15th century. Finally, we will look at the impact of illustration, which was to become an essential component of recipe collections and manuals in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There will be visits to local print and book collections, short reports, and a final research paper. Knowledge of one European language is strongly encouraged. 3 credits. satisfies pre-1800 requirement