Speaker: Sarah Peters Kernan (Independent Culinary Historian)

In this seminar, I propose a new model in which to consider the development of cookbooks in  medieval and early modern England. I propose a framework shaped not only by the food and  structure of recipes, but also the networks of readers who copied, purchased, and used these  texts. I will particularly focus on the shift from manuscript to print in the fifteenth and sixteenth  centuries. Reader networks ranged from professionals like medical practitioners, elite  households, and middling class women. These groups and the overlaps between them reveal  much about the changes in cookbooks throughout this period, such as the types of recipes  contained within and the presentation of the recipes on the page.  My conclusions were formed by an examination of over one hundred manuscript and printed  cookeries in libraries across the United States and Europe and tens of digitized books and  manuscripts. In carefully documenting diverse textual, codicological, and bibliographical  features including dedications, ingredients, mise en page, marginalia, watermarks, and stains, I  was able to identify several distinct groups of readers. Unraveling the web of cookbook readers in conjunction with concurrent changes in food trends  and book production is important in demonstrating the growth of the cookery genre and the rapid  expansion of readership in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This expansion of readership  furthermore supports a broader claim in my research that a widespread audience existed for  manuscript cookeries prior to the introduction of print and subsequent explosion in cookbook production. These early reader networks shaped the prodigious circulation of recipes among  families and individuals in seventeenth and eighteenth-century recipe books and the parallel  circulation and readership of cookbooks as printed texts.

IHR Seminar Series: Food History