Amsterdam University gets rare cookery book

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The Special Collections institute of the University of Amsterdam Library is taking possession of an extremely rare 17th century Dutch-language cookery book today.

The book, entitled Het Koock-boeck oft Familieren Keuken-boeck (the Cook Book or Family Kitchen Book) was first printed in Louvain in 1612 and was intended for upper-class young ladies.

As far as is known it is the oldest cookery book in the Dutch language. Only one other Dutch recipe book appeared in the 17th century. The copy being donated to the university was printed in Antwerp and dates from 1655. Head curator Garrelt Verhoeven is delighted with the gift: "We know that prominent Dutchmen like Jacob Cats and Constantijn Huygens owned this book, but it was missing from our extensive gastronomic collection until now."

The book was written by Antonius Magirus, about whom little is known except that he was a gourmet rather than a professional cook. The recipes are adapted from the most important cookery book of the Italian renaissance, Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera. Scappi was Pope Pius V's personal cook and regarded as "the Michelangelo of Italian cuisine".

Magirus criticises the conservative taste of Dutch housewives, and his book introduced many Italian delicacies to a Dutch audience, including Parmesan cheese, ricotta, truffles, Mediterranean vegetables and many green herbs.

The book comes from the estate of the Flemish folklorist Hervé Stalpaert (1914-1981) and has been donated by the Friends of the University of Amsterdam Library.

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