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Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK


Medieval cookbook for sale

Vegetarians "a rarity in the 15th century"

One of the world's oldest printed cookery books, which includes recipes for leftover hog and bear on the bone, is up for auction.

The book, De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine (On Right Pleasure and Good Health), was written in Latin by Italian physician Batholomaeus Platina in 1480. It is expected to fetch up to 6,000.

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Containing 93 pages, bound in calf leather on wooden boards with the remains of two brass clasps, it was a best-seller among the upper clases and scholars in the late 15th century.

However, only 20 copies are thought to have survived.

Swindon-based specialist book auctioneer Dominic Winter, who is handling the auction, said the book is "of enormous historical significance" for its insight into medieval cookery and diet.

The book offers guidance on maintaining a healthy diet as well as listing recipes - suggesting that readers should "eat well, perhaps frugally".

The first half of the book discusses the nature and cultivation of food, while the second half offers 300 recipes for dishes based on their medicinal properties.

Cannabis bread

Medieval cannabis bread is suggested to ward off the plague, while cooked bear is proffered as a particular delicacy.

The recipe for bear tells readers "it is not like any other quadrapede" - but the head is "incredibly good to eat".

Other dishes include left-over-hog, hare with asparagus, beef, veal and mutton, plus notes on the coriander, mint and cumin sauces which should accompany the dishes.

Mr Winter said: "You could cook these recipes today.

"Meat features heavily. These people didn't understand the importance of fibre. Vegetarians were obviously a rarity in the 15th century.

"Sauces were also very important and there are instructions in painstaking detail on how to concoct the perfect coriander and carrot sauce.

"I recommend the meat sausage."

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