Translating Recipes 12: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 6 – BETWEEN

By Carla Nappi

(This is part of an ongoing series of posts exploring prepositional attitudes and their translation in recipe literature. For the previous posts, check out this link.)

In the most recent posts of the “Translating Recipes” series, we have been exploring various ways that recipe literature creates relationships among bodies in space and time. (The premise undergirding this experiment is that material experience emerges from these relationships.) We have been looking specifically at the ways that prepositions and related kinds of terms function as grammatical and linguistic technologies that create proximities among bodies in time and space: with-ness, if-ness, afterness, etc. Today we’ll consider another of these tools: between-ness. Returning to the spirit from which the “Translating Recipes” project initially emerged – considering the literary form of the recipe as a vehicle for storytelling – this entry and the next will explore the way between works by looking at a storytelling genre that embodies the spirit of interaction, conversation, and between: the dialogue.

The dialogue format integrates a number of key elements. Typically, a dialogue is understood to be a conversation, an oral or written rendering of speech among characters. The dialogue might center on a problem and take the shape of an argument or debate: we can see this in some classic examples of the form that are familiar to many historians of science and medicine, including Plato’s dialogues and Galileo’s Dialogue upon the Two Main Systems of the World. This exceptionally brief description of dialogue makes reference to some important basic components of the form: character, speech, and problem. Let’s consider what these might look like in the context of a medicinal recipe.

Character. There are several ways to think about the centrality of character in the context of a recipe. We might imagine the drugs, patients, and other material actors in a recipe as they are embroiled in a drama, for example, or consider them more allegorically as characters in a fairy tale. In the context of a dialogue, the interaction of the characters is of paramount importance, and so they should explicitly be involved in some sort of a relationship. There are clear relationships in an anti-poison recipe: between poison and the drug used to treat it, poison and the patient’s body, the body and the drug. And so a translation of the recipe in this spirit would need to reflect at least one of these character relationships. (Ideally, in order to maximally explore the importance of relationships, more than one would be reflected in the translation: in that way. the relationships themselves become characters and we would be able to explore a dialogue among the relationships themselves.)

Speech. Fundamental to the nature of a written dialogue is its ability to embody and convey speech in some form: the text itself becomes a kind of vocalization, and – importantly – we as readers can imagine that the characters are not just interacting with one another, but are also performing their speech for the benefit of the audience of readers. As a result, in our translated recipe it would be important to convey this aspect of textual oratory. The form of the text would be crucial to this: each of our characters, as they explore their relationships and the problems emergent therein, would be given an opportunity to take the page and have the floor.

Problem. In many textualized dialogues, the speakers are not merely speaking, but are speaking with each other in an effort to debate or resolve something: a problem, an argument, a disagreement. There should be a sense, by the conclusion of the text, that some issue has been resolved. Our translation would need to convey this sense of dramatic conflict and ultimate resolution. In the case of the Manchu recipe that we’ve been focusing on for the “Recipes in Time and Space” series, this is a natural fit with the conditions from the which the recipe emerges: a crisis wherein a body has been poisoned and demands an immediate remedy (or as close to it as can be managed). At the successive stages of the recipe there are multiple points of possible resolution or the marked absence thereof, and these points of resolution (or not) motivate further action on the part of the readers/users of the text.

In the next post, we’ll continue these reflections and look closely at a new translation of our Manchu medical recipe that embodies a spirit of between in its form and mode of storytelling, in light of the reflections above. Tune in next time!

Translating Recipes 11: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 5 – …A Flowing Oil…

By Carla Nappi

(This is part of an ongoing series of posts exploring prepositional attitudes and their translation in recipe literature. For the previous posts, check out this link.)

In my previous post, we talked about the importance of the sense of after in the experience of reading and using medicinal recipes, and wondered what it might look like to translate our (now multiply-translated) Manchu recipe for eradicating poison in a sense that honored and celebrated the importance of after. What might that translation look like?

The translation would have several qualities. In a very important sense, after creates the possibility of defining events in terms of cause and effect. In the space of after, in fact, there are only causes and effects: nothing exists outside of its being a cause or effect of something else. If we translated our recipe in light of that aspect of after, we might be interested in preserving a sense of constant movement from word to word and action to action, where everything flows into the next thing (and every action into the next action) without giving us a chance to pause and consider it on its own terms.

Our translation would also emphasize and embody the importance of a particular way of thinking about ordering and sequence. When there is an after, there’s also a before. In a sense, then, after creates a before, and in doing so it helps create the past. A text in the spirit of after erases the present: in a text inspired by after, there is no now, there is only procession and movement forward and back.

So how does one give a reader the experience of flow of one thing into another, and the experience of the absence of now? The text has constantly to move. There can be no punctuation, no pausing. There should be some disorientation and discomfort, while simultaneously having a clear order. How might one create a feeling of sequential, orderly disorientation, where everything is just what it is insofar as it is a cause and/or an effect of another thing? Well, in the spirit of starting somewhere, let’s give it a shot!

This translation will begin with the same Manchu recipe used in Translating Recipes 2, 6, 8, and 9, but proceed instead in the spirit of after. Here goes…

…a flowing oil eliminating poison one kind can be used immediately after a poisoning has happened then take a floury drug described earlier in the text and after that drug causes the patient to vomit up the poison then the oil should be spread on their stomach but after that if there’s so much poison that the condition is getting more and more serious then about 15-20 drops of the poison should be mixed with fatty broth made after meat is boiled or buttery milk and after that is mixed then drink it and after that then smear the oil on the stomach again after two hours and then after that on the next day smear it again two times and after that if there’s no improvement and the poison hasn’t been eliminated then another drop or two of the oil should again be taken according to the prescription and smeared on the stomach again and if you do that everything will improve because this is a flowing oil eliminating poison one kind can be used immediately after a poisoning has happened then take a floury drug described earlier in the text and after that drug causes the patient to vomit up the poison then the oil should be spread on their stomach but after that if there’s so much poison that the condition is getting more and more serious then about 15-20 drops of the poison should be mixed with fatty broth made after meat is boiled or buttery milk and after that is mixed then drink it and after that then smear the oil on the stomach again after two hours and then after that on the next day smear it again two times and after that if there’s no improvement and the poison hasn’t been eliminated then another drop or two of the oil should again be taken according to the prescription and smeared on the stomach again and if you do that everything will improve because this is a flowing oil eliminating poison one kind can be used immediately after a poisoning has happened then take a floury drug described earlier in the text and after that drug causes the patient to vomit up the poison then the oil should be spread on their stomach but after that if there’s so much poison that the condition is getting more and more serious then about 15-20 drops of the poison should be mixed with fatty broth made after meat is boiled or buttery milk and after that is mixed then drink it and after that then smear the oil on the stomach again after two hours and then after that on the next day smear it again two times and after that if there’s no improvement and the poison hasn’t been eliminated then another drop or two of the oil should again be taken according to the prescription and smeared on the stomach again and if you do that everything will improve because this is…

Translating Recipes 10: Recipes in Time and Space, Part 4 – AFTER

By Carla Nappi

(This is part of an ongoing series of posts exploring prepositional attitudes and their translation in recipe literature. For the previous posts, see here, here, and here!)

Last time we met, we talked about the importance of recipes for situating bodies and their possibilities in time, and we looked at the ways in which if did this kind of work. Today, we’re going to maintain that temporal focus but turn our attention to another time-making technology: after.

After is the friend (or enemy) of all storytellers and crafters of narrative. When we read, we read in time. Even the most self-consciously non-linear and a-chronological of narratives is ultimately constrained by the experience of the reader who reads one word (or line, or page, or chapter) and then reads another, and then another, and so on. This comes after that. Unless you’re Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen, it’s probably going to be the case that you feel time (and thus narratives in time) as a succession of experiences or events. Here is where after comes in: it describes and enacts this aspect of temporal experience.

In the context of a recipe, after is crucial: it orders our practices and physical actions in time. Thanks to after, a recipe becomes an architecture of activity, a way to choreograph time and sequentially relate bodies together. The use of a recipe becomes a kind of dance or ritual practice: directions dictate the movements of a body, the creation and consumption of substances, the intermingling of materials in time and space.

After takes us out of the simultaneous, creates the possibility of cause and effect. And the realm of cause and effect is precisely the realm of a recipe. Here, the flavor of after takes on a very particular cast: it’s not this comes after that and that’s that, but instead this comes after that and you need to pay attention to the ordering here because there are consequences, there are reasons for and outcomes that result from this particular ordering. By doing this, you lay the groundwork for that: part of the nature of this depends on that happening first. In this way, after becomes a technology for making this and that.

In a very fundamental way, after is vital to the existence of the recipe we’ve been translating and the larger group that it’s part of: here we have a recipe for a drug that is indicated in cases of poisoning. The act of poisoning (or rather, of being poisoned) is the kind of critical event that generates a before and an after: in other words, it creates after. Once that happens, the recipe moves into action. Though the prescribed practices that follow the recipe aren’t critical events in the same way, they still mark paths in time, and thus mark possible ways of being after.

With that in mind, since we’re in the business – here in this “Translating Recipes” series – of considering the creative possibilities of translation by creating multiple translations of our handful of Manchu medical recipes: what would a translation that emerged from and in the spirit of after look like? You’ll find it in the next post in this series. Stay tuned, and I’ll see you soon!

 

The Colour ConText Database

By Sylvie Neven

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Fig. 1: screenshot of the starting page of Colour ConText database

Artisanal recipes are considered to be primary sources in the historical study of artistic practices and materials. Prominent examples of such documents include the De diversis artibus attributed to Theophilus and the Libro dell’arte by Cennino Cennini. However, hundreds of other such examples exist and were still largely unknown. In his 2001 publication The Art of All Colours, Mark Clarke compiled an inventory of 400 source documents, dating from the production of the first artists’ recipe collections up to 1500. Since then, dozens of other surviving writings containing artisanal recipes have been discovered. Many more recipes were written down in manuscript and print in the period after 1500.

The initial goal of the Colour ConText database is to facilitate the consultation and exploitation of a large corpus of recipes. The core data consists of medieval and early modern manuscripts and printed books.

The ‘Sources’ page

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Fig. 2: screenshot of the ‘Sources’ page in the database

To date, more than 500 sources (including manuscripts and printed texts) have been entered into the database, specifically located on the ‘Sources‘ page (fig. 2). In the ‘List view’, the entries are tabulated optionally by place of conservation or edition, or by title, author or date. Detailed information such as the source’s title, language, location, provenance and circulation of these manuscripts and books (place and date of origin/publication), scribes or authors, previous owners, and a description of their technical and/or general content can all be viewed on this first interface, on the ‘detailed view’.

From now, these sources can be searched by title, or by place of conservation or edition.The database also allows access to digital images of these sources via European Cultural Heritage Online (ECHO), or via digital collections made available by external institutes.

The ‘Recipes’ page

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Fig. 3: screenshot of the ‘Recipes’ page in the database

The database also makes the content of the recipe collections accessible at the level of the individual recipes. To date, more than 6,500 recipes—some consisting of only a few lines, others covering several folios—have been transcribed and recorded on another specific page within the database. The ‘Recipes‘ page allows users to consult the transcription of a particular recipe, and sometimes also provides an English translation. This translation may either have been done in the framework of this project or be reproduced directly from existing edition. In such a case references to secondary sources, together with the related bibliographical data, are specified. Finally, this layout also gives access to the specific image of the original recipe text (fig. 3).

Users can search for a specific request by library, source, title or ID number—a consecutive and unique number assigned to each individual source. It is also possible to search for specific words that appear either in the transcription or the translation of the recipe.

Thanks to subject classification, keywords can be used when researching specific recipes, methods or materials. The general search button – situated on top of each page – allow users to combine an ingredient with a specific technique, mentioned in a limited geographical/chronological framework, when making their search.

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Fig. 4: screenshot of the results for combinated search

For example, the combined search for ‘alum’ (an potassium aluminium sulphate notably used in the art of dyeing and for the producing of lake pigment) and the colour ‘red’ shows a number of entries, which can be further filtered by glossary, artistic technique or content type. We can read that 305 recipes are concerned with the substance alum and with the production of the colour red. These recipes are more specifically related to painting, illuminating, writing, dyeing, gilding and metalwork (fig. 4).

The Colour Context database can also help to identify specific, datable practices and materials. For example, we have observed that a significant number of procedures involving anthocyanin colourants (obtained from the juice of flowers and berries, such as poppies, cornflowers or blueberries) are specifically described within a certain group of manuscripts. More precisely these texts were written in the south of Germany and the north of France between 1400 and 1560.

The ‘Glossary’ page

The database also includes a complete list of the ingredients and substances mentioned in the recipes, indexed both by their current scientific name (‘Current names’) and by the ‘historical’ terms precisely as they are written in the source texts (‘Historical names’). Objects and materials are linked by relational tables that allow the retrieval of all the different historical names used for one particular material—detailing the historical written context—as well as enabling the user to see the various materials that may be related to a specific name.

These lists notably shed light on the diversity of colour names and the complexity of the varied colour terminology used in artisanal recipes. For example, the puzzling denomination ‘red of Paris’ relates to several different substances. In the Illuminier Buch von Valentin Boltz von Ruffach (first edition dated of 1549), it is used to designate a red pigment obtained from brazil wood (Caesalpinia sappan Linn. or Caesalpinia echinata Lamarck). However, other sources make a distinction between Paris red and the red pigment obtained from brazil wood by recommending the use of either the former substance or the latter (‘Ein guot röselin oder pfirsÿg bluot Nu nim presilgen oder paris rot’, Colmarer Kunstbuch, pp. 124-125, recipe 35). In Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. Germ. 489 [252], ‘Paris rot’ is a colour made from brazil wood and an unspecified lake called ‘Lacta’. Within this same manuscript, recipe [391] describes the preparation of ‘Rotenn Paris’ from a lake. It has therefore been hypothesized that this appellation was used as a way to distinguish a specific hue.

For more information on the Colour ConText database, see my recent MPIWG feature story, Colours and Their Context.