I thought you would all like to see the cookery book that I'm working from for my Modern Medieval Cuisine project. So say hello to Manchester, Rylands Library, MS English 7, otherwise known as Forme of Cury (which is Middle English for 'method of cookery' or, more colloquially, 'a how-to of cookery').
This is the oldest, and best, complete copy of Forme of Cury (it’s complete except for two missing folios). It was written about 1390, making it at least a couple of decades earlier than its better-known counterpart, a manuscript roll, rather than book, known as London, British Library, Additional MS 5016.
I’ve been transcribing, editing, and translating the manuscript since January, but I’ve been working from the digitised facsimile rather than the book in the flesh. So you can imagine, I’m sure, how wonderful it was to take a look at the real thing about two weeks ago – those are my fingers in the picture above.
It is much smaller than I thought. As you can see from the next image, it is only slightly longer than my pencil (no pens allowed in the Rylands special collections reading room – standard practice). Officially it measures 142mm x 100mm (just over 5½ inches by nearly 4 inches).
It really was a thrill to turn the pages that were most probably written by a scribe of King Richard II, and to browse through the contents, which were produced by the ‘chief master cooks’ of the king. When you have the privilege of handling such a treasure, it does give you a little extra spark and sparkle for several days afterwards.
It was very kind of the library to permit me to take a few of my own photographs, and as I came across one of the pages, for the recipe Sambocade (baked elderflower cheesecake), I just had to take a photo of that one in particular (see below), because I knew I was going to have a go at recreating it just a few days later.