Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review: Ye Olde Guidebook

Book Review: The Epicure’s Almanack: Eating and Drinking in Regency London

Your dream, if you’re a book out of print, is that some benevolent author discovers you and brings you back to life. Epicure’s Almanack: Eating and Drinking in Regency London is just that book. And Janet Ing Freeman is just that fairy god author. As an example of some of the earliest guidebooks from its time, The Epicure’s Almanack (yelp before it was yelp) was first published in 1815.

Ralph Rylance, the author of this guidebook, was working as a freelance reader, translator, indexer and editor, when he was contacted by a local publisher who had just produced a popular guidebook, The Picture of London, which aimed at the curiosities in and near London. Rylance was engaged to produce a companion piece to The Picturethat focused solely on food, drink and lodging.

It took Rylance almost two years to finish the book and when it finally came out, the publisher spent thirty guineas to advertise its arrival. Despite the financial support, the book was deemed a failure when, after almost two years, it had sold fewer than three hundred copies. The remaining print run was pulped and Rylance went back to freelancing. Flash forward almost two hundred years and you can now read an early example of dining reviews.

Read the rest of the review, originally published on the Inquisitive Eater.

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