6.15 Books to Formula

Giovambaptista Verini, whom we met earlier (section 6.10) as an author of handwriting manuals, books of courtesy, and games, also assembled a ricettario. His is a good example of how unoriginal the genre could be and how poorly it could be designed and printed by contrast to the early versions of the Dificio. Verini entitled his grubby little booklet grandly enough, The Triumph of Recipes and Beautiful Secrets, composed by Giovambattista Verini the Florentine for the common good of every gentle spirit. (82) The colophon to this little octavo of 24 leaves indicated that it was printed at Milan at Verini's own expense. In the preface the author confessed that he did not make up or even test the recipes he offers, merely that he had extracted them from "many books of recipes and of various clever speculations" [assai Libri di ricette e di diversi speculativi, ingegni] as an offering to his genteel friends. Verini claimed that he collected the recipes over a long period; but most of his book is copied directly from the Dificio di ricette. He even copied the claim that he had made the collection for personal friends and associates. (83)

So there was little new here. Verini thought that his secrets were more in the manner of amusements than useful instructions, perhaps just to read and not to act upon. Those that do not clearly derive from common earlier books are of the most bizarre, even absurd sort. Some are presented in coded form, implying some obscene or disreputable use: "Bufssftf ipmipsib tra la c.vtt.in [sic] Take the heart of a turtle dove and feed it to the person coded above." (84) There are many jokes, and Verini's ill humor comes through even when the joke itself is harmless. The itching powder of the Dificio is copied, but framed maliciously: "How to play a trick on a visitor so that he can't sleep in his bed for thinking that he has a thousand fleas on him. ... This trick is to be performed on annoying and boastful people." (85) Sometimes the proposed formula is downright dangerous, as when a makeshift parachute of bed sheets is recommended to one "who needs to jump from a window or other height either for love or because he is compelled." (86) So Verini has transformed a collection that once proposed to be useful into a literary construct complete with an array of character types: endangered lovers, unwelcome houseguests, and the like. We have seen this tendency to construct narratives in many textbooks, but it is particularly characteristic of vernacular books that popularized learned Latin disciplines.


  • Open Bibliography
  • (82) Verini 1535.
  • (83) Verini 1535; this book does not appear in the lists of ricettari by Ferguson or Eamon; on it, see Verini 1966a, 36.
  • (84) Verini 1535, fol. 3v: bufssftf ipmipsib tra la c.vtt.in. ¶Recipe uno cuore de una tortola e dallo a mangiare a quella persona ut supra. I have not figured out the coded description of the person to be ill-treated thus.
  • (85) Verini 1535, fol. 7v: ¶Affare gentilezza a qualche persona strana che non potra dormire in letto che parra che gli abi adosso mille pidocchi ..questa gentilezza e daffare a qualche persona fastidiosa : & rincrescievole.
  • (86) Ibid.: ¶ Secreto dignissimo per uno che avessi assaltare o per forza o per amore qualche finestra o altra sommita. This is one of "secrets" Verini did not copy directly from the Dificio.
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