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The oldest cookbook in Special Collections

Currently on display in Special Collections is a small exhibit featuring 20th century Mormon cookbooks. In that same vein, this post highlights the oldest cookbook in the library, which was printed in Zurich, Switzerland in 1542.

The first printed version of this cookbook appeared in Italy in 1498, but the text itself is much older, dating from the late Roman period. Scholars believe it was collected in the late 4th or early 5th century AD though the earliest surviving manuscripts date to the 8th and 9th centuries AD.  Known as De re coquinaria or Apicius, the text includes such familiar topics as hints on preserving fresh food and recipes for various meat and vegetable dishes.

apiciusThe Zurich edition of De re coquinaria includes commentary by Gabriel Humelberg, a German physician and botanist. BYU’s copy has been annotated by an early reader, but exhibits no telltale signs of actually being used in a kitchen!

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