The Printed Cookbook

Clearly, people had been using recipes in various fashions long before printing and indeed, early printed cookbooks often simply put into print the recipes and writings on food that had been transmitted in manuscript form. For instance, the first printed European cookbook, Platina's Platynae de honesta, was based on material he had first encountered (and written himself) in manuscript form. An earlier printed form of the work existed, ca. 1470, but the 1475 printing shown here is the first dated copy of his work, which discusses not only recipes but information about the ingredients themselves.

As seen in these early examples of cookery or household guides, recipes were only one component of cook books. Giovanni Casa's late 16th-century guide, Il Galatheo (1582), for instance, includes etiquette directions for both servants and their masters, with advice to staff on how to comport themselves while serving, and reminding those being served to use utensils when eating, rather than their hands.

Bertolomeo Scappi's Opera is considered an important early classic, and covers everything from directions for the cook himself to parsing out the differences of various spices, to specific recipes organized by food group, to menus to special diets for convalescents. Scappi was in the employ of Pope Pius V when he wrote his Opera; the Pope conveniently also provided the printing privilege in 1570. As was typical for early cookbook authors, Scappi's resumé included a number of high-profile positions, thus establishing his expertise. He worked not just as private chef to the Pope, but to others within papal inner circles. Scappi's reach was great, and he is considered an influence on François Pierre (La Varenne).

A page of old, printed Italian text.
De honesta voluptate, et valetudine

Platina (1421-1481) Venice: Labore & diligentia Laurentii Presbyteri [de] Aquila, 1475.
John Crerar Collection of Rare Books in the History of Science and Medicine

An old printed page with an engraving of two men talking, one with a basket of bread.
Tailleuant, grant cuysinier du Roy de France

Taillevent (ca.1315-1395). [Paris: Guillaume Nyverd, 15--?]
John Crerar Collection of Rare Books in the History of Science and Medicine

A printed page of Italian with various ingredients alongside the number of dishes they produce.
Opera...con le Figure che Fanno Bisogno nella Cucina

Bartolomeo Scappi. Venice: Appresso Alessandro Vecchi, 1596.
John Crerar Collection of Rare Books in the History of Science and Medicine


A book cover in Italian, with an engraving of an ornate coat of arms.
Il Galatheo

Giovanni Della Casa (ca.1503-1556). Venice: Appresso Bernardo Giunti, e Fratelli, 1582.
Rare Book Collection