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About This Translation

This is still VERY MUCH a work in progress, though much has been accomplished. I am working with facsimiles of the original MS, transcribing the original Middle English receipts then translating each into 2 different modern English versions and 1 modern recipe, sans measurements and cooking times. I'm also cross-referencing both notes & receipts with other period collections, most notably the Harleian Manuscripts & those in Curye on Inglisch.

This is the online version of this work. I'll be seeking eventual publication after it is completed, and will include modern "redactions," i.e. fully workable recipes, more detailed notes & commentaries, and a complete glossary with the off-line, finished version. Publishers take note: any publisher interested in this new translation of MS Pepys 1047 should please feel free to contact me!

The Pepys Manuscript was translated in its entirety in Gerald Hodgett's Stere Htt Well (1972). Why this new translation, then? My work on the Pepys MS has shown me that Hodgett's work is not only incomplete & misleading, but often inaccurate. He mistranslates several important and common words, such as myad (he translates this as a loaf of bread, & not crumbled bread or bread crumbs), and shows a tendency to misread the scribe's handwriting. This is most obvious in his title, Stere Htt Well. At first glance, the scribe does appear to be spelling the second word with two t's when it is used in the MS; however, once one becomes familiar with this person's rather unique style of writing, it is extremely apparent that nowhere is this word spelled with two t's. It is consistently and always spelled "hit." The phrase Hodgett uses for his book title, when it appears in the MS, is actually written "stere hit well." (See recipe #5: To make Creme of Almoundes.)

Although this may seem a minor fault to anyone not a purist in this field, Hodgett also misreads the title of one recipe, seeing "dorre" as either "sorce" or "sowce." (The scribe's handwriting makes these words look nearly identical). Hodgett, obviously unfamiliar with other period culinary receipts, doesn't notice that this is a "dorre" recipe nearly identical to ones in the Harleian Manuscripts.

Hodgett also seems to have little knowledge of actual medieval cooking. His foreword, by Delia Smith, perpetuates many of the old misconceptions about medieval food:

There is the same wanton infusion of herbs and spices, the same obsession with almonds, the same mistrust of fresh fruit.... Instead we find repeated instructions for making the unpalatable at least edible.... the totally indiscriminate use of spices and herbs.... It is commonly thought that such heavy seasoning was essential to disguise the smell and flavour of decaying flesh.... It would be a brave housewife today who decided on the spur of the moment to rustle up a few typically medieval dishes for a special occasion.
This new translation of MS Pepys 1047 includes only the culinary recipes and none of the medical advice, remedies, & instructions in hawking that make up much of the original manuscript.

The MS was written during the reign of Edward IV and was probably compiled by the time of Henry VII. It entered the collection of the English writer, Samuel Pepys, in 1700, three years before his death and is found today in the Pepys Library in Cambridge.

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