Italian Paleography


Washington DC, Library of Congress TX723 .M3 1460
Maestro Martino
The Art of Cooking
Italy, between 1460 and 1480

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Maestro Martino’s Libro de Arte Coquinaria is the first cookbook written in vernacular Italian bearing the name of its author.  It is considered the link between the anonymous culinary recipe collections of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the culinary works of Messisbugo (1549), Romoli (1560), and Scappi (1570), the highest points of the culinary tradition of the Italian Renaissance.  Martino organizes his Libro into six chapters, with subchapters dedicated to Lent preparations: meat preparations, victuals of different kinds, sauces and relishes, tarts and savory pies, fritters (including egg preparations), and fish preparations.     
This is the second of four manuscripts of Martino’s work.  From the title of the first manuscript, today in an unknown private collection, we learn that he is working as chef of the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ludovico Trevisan, known for his love of food.  The production of the first manuscript was interrupted by the death of Trevisan in 1465.  The title of this second manuscript, held at the Library of Congress, states that Martino was working as chef (coquo olim / once chef) of the Patriarch of Aquileia.  A third copy, very similar in content to the second one, is at the Vatican Library.  The fourth manuscript, an expanded version of the initial work and produced in the first years of the sixteenth century, is at Riva del Garda’s (Italy) Municipal Archives.

The text of the Libro de Arte Coquinaria was widely disseminated in printed editions.  Bartolomeo Sacchi translated into Latin the Libro de Arte Coquinaria and used it in the chapters devoted to food preparations of his De Honesta Voluptade et Valetudine (1474), a book that defined health and wellbeing in the sixteenth century.  The text of the Libro de Arte Coquinaria was reproduced, without acknowledgement, in two other sixteenth-century cookbooks printed in vernacular Italian: the Opera Noua Chiamata Epulario, printed in Venice, which had 50 editions between 1516 and 1700, and the Opera Dignissima, printed in Milan in the 1530s.