The Prospect Behind Us
Part 1, page 6

Another title of 1986, Honey from a Weed by Patience Grey, presented different challenges. Here we were dealing with an author who needed no persuading to provide background information and to be authentic. If we were pure, she was purer still! And this applied also to her motivation; she told us that she simply wished her accumulated knowledge to be preserved in a permanent, beautiful form for the benefit of her grandchildren. No, on this occasion there was something of a role reversal involved. We knew that Honeyfrom a Weed had been offered to just about all the publishers in London who could have been expected to be interested in it, and we knew what their reactions had been: a great book, but its complexity ... oh dear, what an editorial task! ... and how could Patience be persuaded to switch her attention even a little bit from the grandchildren and cooperate in making the book more saleable to the public?

Our reaction was different: a great book, and whatever the difficulties we just have to do it. But we too felt that certain things had to be done to make this magnificent work more accessible, and that . .. well, to cut short a long story, the correspondence in which I engaged with Patience proved to be by far the most voluminous and in many ways the most fascinating of any I have ever conducted, and the week I spent in Apulia with her, drawing final conclusions from these long and detailed discussions, was an experience of remarkable intensity. In the end, under the roof shown in Corinna Sargood's drawing above, we agreed on everything.

Many fine tributes have been paid to the book which emerged from all this. My favourite is that of Theodora Fitzgibbon, who said: 'It is not like any other book written in the past 50 years, and its memory will stay for ever.' Some years later, we were able to republish the 1960s classic, Flats du Jour by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd, with its famous Penguin cover by David Gentleman.

In 1988 we made our contribution to medieval food studies by publishing An Ordinance of Pottage. This early text, which Professor Constance Hieatt edited for us, is in size and importance fully comparable to A Forme of Cury, but had never previously been published.

In the following year we published Majorcan Food and Cookery by Elizabeth Carter. Here, as with Noshe Djan, my wife played an important role in persuading the author to talk aloud about her experience and then to put down on paper what she'd just been saying. Jane found that what authors 'hadn't really thought suitable' for inclusion in a book might well constitute the best bits after this process had been gone through.

The output of new titles was already diminishing (other preoccupations, less energy and money available) by the beginning of 1991, when I had a heart attack and - despite a good recovery - came fairly soon to the conclusion that, of my various activities, book publishing should not last much longer. However, we still had two commitments. The first was to publish Barbara Yeomans' translation of Rumohr's Geist der Kochkunst. Barbara had nobly volunteered to do this major translation (see the essay by Michael Symons in this issue of PPC), and we absolutely had to bring it out. After a delay, we did, just in time to hand it over to Tom Jaine as, effectively, his first PB title.

The second commitment, to republish Robert May's The Accomplish't Cook (the finest English cookery book of the 17th century) dated back a very long way. We had, back in the 1980s, arranged for Marcus Bell to do most of the research needed for an introduction, and I had got most of the glossary ready. Presented with this 'kit', Tom Jaine willingly took on the project. To our delight, this book will at last come out in August of this year - around the time when this issue of PPC reaches you.

This takes us into the future. And there are more good things to come. Tom Jaine's current catalogue* gives details - and it shows of course which of the books mentioned in this history are still available (most of them, but for the time being Bradley, Warner, Carter, and Hannah Glasse are out of print).

* Prospect Books, Allaleigh House, Blackawton, Totnes, Devon TQ9 7DL, UK

Telephone [+44] (0)1803 712269 \ Fax [+44] (0)1803 712311

Prospect Books email: tom.jaine@prospectbooks.co.uk



Prospect Books website:


http://www.kal69.dial.pipex.com/
Click here to go to Prospect Books' homepage.

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The Prospect Behind Us - Part 2
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