I'm at work today, and I found an uncatalogued book in the closed stacks:
Coryat's crudities; reprinted from the edition of 1611. To which are now added, his letters from India, &c. and extracts relating to him, from various authors, being a more particular account of his travels (mostly on foot) in different parts of the globe, than any hitherto published. Together with his orations, character, death &c. With copper-plates ...
This little gem hit the London bookstalls in 1776, and probably provided a welcome distraction from the hooliganism of American colonists. And lest the second word of the title make you think the book started off with dirty jokes (which is perfectly plausible: those Jacobeans could be a raunchy bunch), that's simply how Thomas Coryat, Esq., spelled crudités: the book is a gastronomical travelogue, and was originally entitled:
Coryat's Crudities Hastily gobbled up in five Moneth's travells in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia comonly Called the Grisons country, Hel- Vetia alias Switzerland, some Parts of both high Germany, and the Netherlands; Newly digested in the hungry aire Of Odcombe in the County of Somerset, and now dispersed to the Nourishment of the travelling Members of this Kingdome.A friend informed me that the British comic writer Tim Moore retraced Coryat's journey in the 'nineties and wrote it up as Continental Drifter.
When I learned that, I immediately understood why book sales have tanked in recent years. As a title, Continental Drifter is concise and mildly evocative, but it's pretty lackluster compared to Coryat's crudities; reprinted... I'm sure Drifter is a perfectly readable book, but where are the promises of "orations, character, death"--and the added enticement of copper plates?
And don't get me started on comparisons to the original title: Moore's book just makes me picture some down-and-out wandering God knows where (he doesn't even specify which continent). The good Mr. Coryat, on the other hand, dangles France, Savoy, Italy and Hel-Vetia before my eyes, and refreshes me with bracing thoughts of the hungry aire of Odcombe.
Screw the big displays at Borders: titles like Coryat's crudities? Now that's marketing.
By the way--Coryat is credited with introducing the fork to the Anglophone world. What's Tim Moore done for us lately?