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
* Prospect Books, Allaleigh House, Blackawton, Totnes, Devon TQ9 7DL, UK
Telephone [+44] (0)1803 712269 \ Fax [+44] (0)1803 712311
Prospect Books email: email@example.com
Prospect Books website: