chapter  6
28 Pages

Reading Scappi

This chapter explores the question of readership for Scappi’s Opera from a different perspective than that of the publication and print history discussed in previous chapters. I want to consider where the histories of cookbooks might intersect with the practices not only of cooking, but also of reading. My starting point is the idea that the history of reading is about the history of written objects as well as testimonies left behind by readers, as in marginalia.1 This entails yet another facet of the “life cycle” of the book so compellingly described by Robert Darnton. Describing a book’s history, from the writing of the text, to its preparation for print, the number of editions, as well as its physical characteristics, is essential to the biography of the book.2 Scappi’s Opera was issued in at least 11 editions, some of which were bound together with other texts pertinent to the preparation and serving of meals in an aristocratic or courtly context. From the very first edition of 1570, a series of illustrations were included which form the central focus of this study. Thus far, I have been concerned with elements of the book’s history that assume agency on the part of the makers of the Opera, including its author, editor, publisher, printer, and illustrators. A discussion of reader response comprises this final chapter and will enable me to draw further conclusions about the significance of the Opera for its audience.