The Reading Room

The Science of Dining: From the Liberty Fund Rare Book Room

“The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society.”~ Judith Martin (aka "Miss Manners")
This little 13th century book on the science of dining might seem something of an outlier among the many books we have seen already from Goodrich's collection. But upon closer examination, the modest volume, published by Macmillan in 1936, fits with much of what we know about Goodrich.He has not marked this text much, but he does seem to have dog eared the page that begins the chapter title "Concerning Merchants" which begins:
Verius (Bk, vii, ch.4) records hat Claudius Centumalus, after being commanded to lower the height of his house on the Coelian Hill, because it interfered with their augural observations from the Capitol, sold that same house to Calpurnius Lanarius without apprising him of the injunction issued to him by the College of Augurs. Cato, with unimpeachable equity, condemned Claudius to make full restitution of his breach of good faith, because the seller is bound to conceal from the buyer neither any prospect of advantages nor knowledge of disadvantages.
This brief chapter's many examples of market exchanges must have appealed to Goodrich's economic interests enormously.Equally, Mr. Goodrich was known for appreciating a good dinner and a good bottle of wine, so the book's main subject surely intrigued him. And Book IV, which is about dinner table conversation, could easily be thought of as a pattern for the kind of collegial interchanges we try to foster at Liberty Fund. Chapter titles like "On Adapting your Conversation to your Company"  and "Concerning Suitable Jests" could have come from modern manuals about civilized living. The book's collection of suitable 13th century dinner table jokes no longer strike us as particularly suitable or funny in many cases, but the description of dinner conversation is one that we can all appreciate.
Now the amusements of the table consist in mutual raillery, in which men employ themselves, not acrimoniously, but with genial pleasantry, whether it be in questions and mutual discussion, whereby they challenge each other's expression of views, or in some humorous stories by which to provoke the hearer's merriment and allay any irritation.