The Prospect Behind Us
Part 1, page 4

So far we were working on the basis that each book or batch of books generated revenues to finance the next publications. So the offbeat Laos book, born in the mountains and jungle of one of the remotest parts of SE Asia, found itself fathering a facsimile reprint of an 18th century work by an English ecclesiastical antiquarian, the Reverend Richard Warner. His Antiquitates Culinariae, containing the text of the 'Forme of Cury', the most famous of early English cookery manuscripts, was an extremely elegant book in a handsome large format and was embellished by two colour plates, one (a two-page spread) showing 'A Peacock Feast'. As with Bradley, it was Mike McKirdy who offered us a fine copy of the original, thinking that we would fancy reproducing it. Once we had seen it and admired the amazing typography of the title page, we were full of enthusiasm.

Again, it was the OUP who attended to the printing. We had formed an agreeable relationship with them and valued the advice which they provided at no extra charge; on this occasion to bind Warner in 1/4 leather, but using 'comminuted' (i e finely shredded and reconstituted) leather from Germany.

The next task entrusted to the OUP had been brewing for some time. We had learned that Virginia Maclean had composed as a thesis for a degree at Edinburgh, a 'short-title catalogue' of books in English on cookery and household matters, 1701-1800, and that this had been 'stuck' at another publishing house, which declined to say either yea or nay, for a very long time. Knowing how useful such a catalogue would be to ourselves, and to others with similar interests, we urged Virginia to wrest the book out of the indecisive hands in which it lay, and bring it to us.

To help equip ourselves for the task of editing and producing the book, we bought some works on the art of bibliography (about which we had hitherto known nothing); and we did realise that there is a considerable difference between a short-title catalogue and a bibliography proper, although both things can be classed in the category of bibliographies if the term is used in its widest sense. Virginia's work, following precise guidelines laid down by the University of Edinburgh about what ground to cover, omitted much information which people would like to have. Ideally, there would be a new edition of the book, embodying various corrections and much additional information; but the task of going over all the ground again, this time with a different brief, and turning the short-title catalogue into a full bibliography would be a considerable one. How considerable, we learned from our further experiences in this field.

Virginia's book, almost ready for publication, was announced at the Oxford Symposium in 1981, and the pioneering nature of her work aroused great interest and admiration. Indeed four symposiasts were so inspired that they resolved to form a team to carry on Virginia's work into the period 1800-1914, and to cover their chosen ground in full depth. Lynette Hunter undertook the task of project coordinator and subsequently had the satisfaction of seeing two of the proposed three new volumes come into existence. These are the two which are habitually listed under the names Dena Attar and Elizabeth Driver on page 6 of PPC. As anyone who has acquired them will be well aware, they represent an enormous amount of work, which might fairly be described as a labour of love, since the royalties, on even the most optimistic assumptions, could never bring to the authors and their coordinator more than a token recompense for their pains. I should add that little Prospect Books could never have managed to finance the production of these volumes but for the fact that Lynette Hunter was able to organise their composition 'on disc' in such a way that the eventual typesetting charges were far far less than they would normally have been. What this manoeuvre involved was that she and the two authors had to absorb, in terms of their own time and effort, a large body of work whose cost would otherwise have been almost prohibitive. Also, the University of Leeds, famed for the rich culinary collections in its Brotherton Library, made available a substantial sum to aid publication of each of the two volumes; a generous gesture which put food historicans and bibliophiles in their debt.


The Prospect Behind Us - Part 1, page 5
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