PISANELLI, Baldassarre. Trattato della natura de’ cibi et del bere [...] nel quale non solo tutte le virtù, & i vitij di quelli minutamente si palesano; ma anco i rimedij per correggere i loro difetti copiosamente s’insegnano.

Rome, B. Bonfadino & T. Diani., 1583

Folio (332 x 228 mm.), [8] pages, 25 leaves printed on one side only, bound with printed sides facing, the facing pages having the same page number. Minor spotting, an erased signature on title-page, spine chipped; a very good copy bound in contemporary limp vellum. In a modern box.



The scarce first edition of this most important, very popular and much reprinted work on the virtues and vices of food and drink, by the Bolognese physician Baldassarre Pisanelli (d.1587). Pisanelli's nutritional theories were grounded in the principle that ‘the nature of a food or drink should be equal, similar or not too dissimilar from the nature of the person who eats or drinks it', as this will facilitate their physiological assimilation. In fact, Trattato was also a ‘bridge between the attention still given to physiological theory and that paid to the class connotations of food. While according to the ancient physiologists, a “low” food could provide adequate sustenance for people doing heavy work, for Pisanelli […], those foods were crude in nature and poor in nourishment and were best eaten only by poor people who lacked the means to provide themselves with more nutritious fare' (Giannetti, p.1). Part I is structured as a continuous table which presents, for each of the foods or drinks listed on the left, how to choose them, their positive and negative effects, remedies, degrees (when they are hot or cold), and the best time of the year to have them. The facing page, entitled Historie naturali, includes further notes on their properties, nutritional nature and administration (e.g., ‘dates are never good for anyone at any time of the year, unless covered in sugar'). Among the dozens of foods listed are fruit, nuts, vegetables, mushrooms (with numerous warnings), herbs, pulses, rice, meat, fish, spices, sugar, vinegar and cheeses. Part II is devoted to drinks and drinking, with a table differentiating among several types of wine, followed by sections on water and the nature and effects of cold food and beverage, more generally. Indeed, like several others produced in the 1570s and 1580s, this work engaged in debates concerning the much-berated habit, borrowed from the ancients, of cooling down wine and other drinks with ice or snow. Only LC and NLM copies recorded in the US; only Leeds and Wellcome in the UK.

BM STC It., p.521; Simon, p.349 (1629 ed.); USTC 848973; EDIT16 CNCE 26731; Durling 3659ff. (later eds); Wellcome I, 5051ff. (later eds); Brunet IV, 675 (later eds). L. Giannetti, ‘Italian Renaissance Food-Fashioning', Calif. It. Studies, 1 (2010), pp.1-16.