Over the course of 40 years, world-renowned culinary expert Anne Willan and her husband, Mark Cherniavsky, collected hundreds of historical materials documenting various cooking practices: books of recipes and instructions on food preparation and presentation, books on dining etiquette, a manual on monastic fasting and feasting, records of famed celebrations, even drawings and paintings incorporating food as a theme. Their library continued to grow in its breadth and scope until Cherniavsky’s death last year. Now, Willan has donated their gastronomy collection to the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Center’s expansive library of historical materials related to art. The donation opens up exciting opportunities for learning about people’s relationships to food throughout history.
The Willan & Cherniavsky Gastronomy Collection consists of hundreds of books, nearly 200 of which were published before 1830. Once the materials are processed and cataloged by the Institute, the public will be able to access and peruse them online, as well as arrange to research them in person.
The collection is not merely composed of cookbooks and history texts. Here are woodcut instructions (artist anonymous) for carving a suckling pig from L’École parfaite des officiers de bouche (1729):
Engravings of sugar flowers from a 1768 edition of confectionery chef Joseph Gillier’s Le cannameliste français; ou, Nouvelle instruction pour ceux qui desirent d’apprendre l’office:
A woodcut (artist anonymous) of a dessert table laden with candied fruit, sweetmeats, and confections from François Massialot’s 1692 cookbook Nouvelle instruction pour les confitures, les liqueurs, et les fruit:
A guide for table settings for the Windsor feasting table from a 1716 edition of Patrick Lamb’s Royal Cookery; or the Compleat Court-Cook:
An etching of a surtout (an ornamental centerpiece for a dining table) with fruit from the 1730s cookbook The Modern Cook by Vincent la Chapelle, a master cook who served, among others, King John V of Portugal and Louis XV’s mistress Jeanne Antoinette Poisson:
A set of illustrations from Il Trinciante di Messer Mattia Giegher, Mattia Giegher’s treatise on the proper ways to carve all sorts of meat:
“Circe’s Palace,” an etching from 1750’s La science du maître d’hôtel confiseur, one of many cookbooks written by the mysterious “Menon,” whose identity remains unknown:
Willan’s gift also includes a donation to fund grants for further research into culinary history and art. Food practices and dining culture are an underrated, fascinating facet of every society, and it’s heartening to see a major institution get such a boost to its archive of such materials.
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