400-year-old book with writings about how cheese was used as a medicine is finally published
The 112-page book was handwritten in the 1580s but it is believed to have never been published.
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The oldest known book about British cheese which includes writings about how it was used as a medicine has finally been published. Nibble on that for a minute!
The book - titled 'a pamflyt compiled of cheese' can be read by the public for the first time around 443 years after it was written. The 112-page book was handwritten in the 1580s but it is believed to have never been published.
The author's identity is unknown but the publication contains information from Greek philosopher Galen and Persian philosopher-physician Abu Bakr al-Raz.
The book opens with Galen's definition of cheese as ‘milke coagulated' and it then goes on to discuss curds and the different types of cheeses.
It also includes thoughts on how cheese was used as a medicine and theories outlining the effects of cheese on people of different temperaments.
Food historian Peter Brears said he's 'really never seen anything' like the book and said there is 'little evidence' on how cheese was produced in medieval Britain.
He said: "The manuscript is probably the first comprehensive academic study of a single foodstuff to be written in the English language. I’ve really never seen anything like it.
Although cheese has formed part of the human diet since the introduction of farming in the prehistoric periods, there is little evidence of its character and places of production in medieval Britain."
Caroline Bell, co-founder of Thirsk-based artisan cheesemakers Shepherds Purse, said the book is 'a wonderful find.'
She added: "As cheesemakers ourselves, it gives us a chance to appreciate the evolution of the practice from ancient times to now. Documentary evidence of this chapter in British food history, with our traditional regional cheeses mentioned and evaluated, and so many interesting observations on early practices, is invaluable."
The book went to auction earlier this year but was acquired by the University of Leeds with the support of a grant from Friends of the National Libraries (FNL).
The university has published the book online - which means it can be read for the first time. Masud Khokhar, a librarian at the university, said he is 'delighted to have secured this wonderful book.'
He said: "With an unbroken history of cheesemaking in our region dating back to the medieval Cistercian monks and beyond, it feels apt that we have been able to make a home for this unique and fascinating work in the University of Leeds.
"The Cookery Collection is one of five of our Special Collections to be awarded Arts Council England’s Designated status as ‘a lasting source of inspiration and enjoyment for generations’.
"The ‘Pamflyt compiled of Cheese’ exemplifies those values: a historically important discovery that can resonate with us all. With the generous support of the Friends of the National Libraries, we are delighted to have secured this wonderful book for the nation."