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37. Elizabeth David's "Italian Cooking" crosses the Atlantic

Tinned or canned?

Elizabeth David

London, England; New York, NY, 1956-1958

These two images are “before and after” views of pages from the cookbook Italian Food, by the renowned British food writer Elizabeth David. The book was originally published in England in 1954. For its American edition, the editor Avis DeVoto at Alfred A. Knopf had the task of bringing the language, spelling, cultural references, and recipe measurements into alignment with American practice of the time. The Schlesinger Library recently acquired as a gift DeVoto’s working copy of the British edition, which she marked up extensively with corrections. The book was then mailed back to Elizabeth David who made further corrections and notes, mostly on slips of paper which she clipped to the pages. Image one is an opening of the marked-up British edition. Image two is the corresponding page opening of the American edition, which was published by Knopf in 1958.

The most interesting aspect of this is the extent of the changes that were deemed necessary in a cookbook that was already ostensibly in English, but was felt to be too obscure or foreign for American realities and cooking practices in the 1950s. Elizabeth David came to be revered in this country as well as in Britain for her elegant prose style, wit and sometimes biting commentary, but many American readers would not be aware of how altered the American editions of her works could be. One suspects that today an editor would not make quite as many changes to her language.

Elizabeth David. Italian Food. London: MacDonald & Company, 1956. Fourth impression (first published in 1954). With drawings by Renato Guttuso. This copy belonged to Avis DeVoto, book reviewer, cook, and an editor at Alfred A. Knopf specializing in cookbooks. It is extensively marked-up by DeVoto in pen and red and black pencil throughout, and includes manuscript and typescript additions and revisions to the text by the author. This copy was used in preparation for publication of the American edition of the book, which was issued by Knopf in 1958. A few recipes are added including a two-page typescript with manuscript corrections in both David’s and DeVoto’s hands for ‘sardemara’ (sic?), inserted at page 139; a one-page manuscript recipe for ‘chili con carne’ with an additional note in DeVoto’s hand; and a one-page typed chapter heading ‘Fish Soups and Fish Stews’ from David, with manuscript corrections in DeVoto’s hand. There are many other small slips of paper, with handwritten or typed additions, from David, laid-in or attached with paper clips. Gift of Michael and Natalie de Maar in memory of Patricia Rouffaer.

First American edition, incorporating the changes suggested by Avis DeVoto and Elizabeth David.

HOLLIS Catalog: 012170028
Elizabeth David, Avis DeVoto, editing, recipes



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