Feasting at the Bodleian

12 September 2008

Web_ImageThis month, the Bodleian Library celebrates the British culinary tradition. A small display featuring food-related manuscripts from the library’s collections goes on show to coincide with the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery (12 – 13 September).

Curated by the Kate Colquhoun, author of Taste: the Story of Britain through its Cooking, the Food and Feasting display showcases a selection of gastronomic documents and recipes ranging from the 11th century up to the 18th century.

It shows how common ‘culinary’ techniques such as the grinding pastes, concentrating liquids and frying were used as early as the 11th century. Boars’ head, birds, bread, a salt cellar and drinking vessels, but no vegetables were on the king’s table in the 14th century. However, during the 18th century, they appeared on the British table, cooked to preserve their greenness and bite.

Highlights of the display include:

  • Cookery book in Middle English, early 15th century, with menu for Henry IV's Coronation Banquet (1399).
  • Folding calendar, English, late 14th century: 'Occupations of the Months for November (slaughtering cattle) and December (feasting).
  • Ralph Ayres' cookery book. New College, Oxford, 1721.

The Bodleian Library published Ralph Ayres' Cookery Book, based on the original manuscript. The book gives a fascinating picture of the eighteenth century kitchen, a period of great interest to social and culinary historians and can be purchased at www.bodleianbookshop.co.uk

Opening hours


Monday to Friday:
9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

9.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.




Exhibition Room
Old Schools Quadrangle
Catte Street

Admission free.

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