‘A pamflyt compiled of Cheese, contayninge the differences, nature, qualities, and goodnes, of the same’ was sold at a Dominic Winter auction on May 17 for a hammer price of £45,000 (or £54,000), as reported in ATG no 2595.
Including fees, the price was close to £54,000 and the university acquired it with the support of a grant from Friends of the National Libraries (FNL).
It will now form part of the University of Leeds Libraries’ Cookery Collection.
The 112-page vellum-bound manuscript was handwritten in the 1580s but the identity of the book’s author remains unclear. Apart from occasional short passages in Latin, the manuscript is written in English in a 16th century ‘secretary hand’, and much of it can be read with a little effort.
Masud Khokhar, university librarian and keeper of the Brotherton Collection at the University of Leeds, said: “With an unbroken history of cheesemaking in our region dating back to the medieval Cistercian monks and beyond, it feels apt that we have been able to make a home for this unique and fascinating work in the University of Leeds.
“The Cookery Collection is one of five of our Special Collections to be awarded Arts Council England’s Designated status as ‘a lasting source of inspiration and enjoyment for generations’.
"The ‘Pamflyt compiled of Cheese’ exemplifies those values: a historically important discovery that can resonate with us all.
Khokhar added: “It was always clear to us that the ‘Pamflyt’ was a unique and hugely important discovery. With this in mind, in advance of the sale we approached the Friends of the National Libraries to supplement and bolster the university’s bid. They immediately recognised the importance of the Pamflyt, and offered a significant contribution, without which we would not have been able to proceed.
“The strength of the competition at auction in May attests to this manuscript’s importance, as do the responses of the historians and experts – as well as cheesemakers and turophiles [cheese connoisseurs] – who have reviewed it since our acquisition.
“We are delighted to have secured it for the nation, and we look forward to discovering and sharing its riches in full as research and transcription gets underway.”
Food historian Peter Brears said: “The ‘Pamflyt’ follows typical Elizabethan practice of collecting all available information from Classical authors such as Galen and Virgil, as well as the Persian philosopher-physician Abu Bakr al-Razi, and the most reputable contemporary physicians at the University of Salerno.
“To gain practical information, the author went on to ‘diligently inquire of country folke, who gave their experience in theis matters’.”
In a note on the flyleaf, Clement Fisher, MP for Tamworth, asks for the book to be returned to him when it has been ‘perused’.
The signature Walter Bailei on the final page is thought to be the Warwickshire physician Walter Bayley (1529-93), a regius professor of medicine at Oxford who worked in the service of the court favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1523-88). Bayley was either an early owner or possibly the author of the manuscript.