THE ART OF FOOD CARVING

Il trinciante. (with) Aggiunta fatta al trinciante. (with) Il mastro di casa.

Rome, ad istanza di Giulio Burchioni, 1593.

£5250

4to. Three works in one, pp. (viii) 162, two double-page fold-outs, separate t-p to each. Roman letter, occasional Italic. Architectural printer’s device to titlepages and last; 4 full- page woodcuts of venison, carving tools, angling scene and a laid table; two double-page fold-out woodcuts of carving tools; decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. Light age browning, first t-p a bit dusty, with marginal repairs, slight foxing, heavier to first and last gatherings, faint water stains in places, a few spots to third and fourth woodcuts, the odd ink mark, tiny tear to pp. 87-88, a few margins a bit soiled. A good, well-margined copy in old vellum, recased, floral stamp to covers.

Good, well-margined copy of the second edition of this very successful Renaissance manual on food carving for banquets and ceremonies, which continued to be reprinted throughout the C16 and C17. Vincenzo Cervio (c.1510-c.1580) spent most of his life in the household of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, in charge of sundry offices including that of carver. First published in 1581 in Venice, ‘Il trinciante’ is a compendium of his expert knowledge of the art of carving all kinds of food—peacock, heron, pigeon, boar, ham, sundry fish, crab, fruit and vegetables. An important figure ‘honoured by all princes and gentlemen’, the true carver operates solely according to the Italian method, holding the food high on a fork and cutting it ‘in the air’. The handsome woodcuts illustrate the sundry shapes and sizes of the instruments required for the task and outline the anatomical subdivision of venison to be scientifically followed by the carver. ‘Il trinciante’ provides delightful descriptions of convivial occasions, like wedding banquets and luncheons attended by princes, prelates and gentlemen, designed to elicit in their participants the ‘maraviglia’ so dear to the Renaissance. In addition to long and complex menus including ‘limoncelli’ e ‘pizze di Genova’, Cervio describes and sometimes visualises with illustrations exceptional culinary choreographies like the temporary creation and swift disappearance of a pond in the garden, where high-class guests can enjoy catching fish and frogs for their lunch, as well as statues made of marzipan and the display of meals set on tables drawn by leopards. This engaging and vivid manual, much more thorough than its predecessors, provides a lively reconstruction of the real-life circumstances which inspired common convivial painting topics of the time, like the Marriage at Canaan.

Brunet I, 1755; BM STC It., p. 166; Vicaire, p. 159. Not in Bitting (only mentions 1604 edition), Simon or Oberlé.

L2830