Archidipno, overo dell'insalata, e dell'uso di essa. Trattato nuovo, curioso, e non mai più dato in luce

Autore: MASSONIO, Salvatore (1559-1629)

Tipografo: Marco Antonio Brogiollo

Dati tipografici: Venezia, 1627


4to (213x149 mm). [16], 426 [recte 436], [4] pp. Collation: a-b4 A-Z4 Aa-Zz4 Aaa-Iii4. The final leaf is a blank. Engraved coat-of-arms of the Colantoni family on title page. Later cardboards, lettering piece on spine. Paper loss in the outer lower corner of l. T1 not touching text, partly uniformly browned, but a good, uncut copy with deckle edges (the last two leaves are still unopened).


First edition of the first monograph on salad. In sixty-eight chapters it deals with all kinds of salads and many vegetables, discussing a great number of recipes and dressings. The book is also a mine of medical, botanical and historical information, as well as anecdotes and detailed news on the eating habits of the nobles of the time.

The work is accompanied by an index of ancient and modern sources: A. Petronio, A. Mizauld, Avicenna, Aristotle, G. Cardano, Galen, G. Mercurial, Homer, Plutarch, Hippocrates, M.A. Brasavola, Pliny, Apicius, etc. The sixty-eight chapters are grouped into sections that follow a precise ‘Aristotelian' logic order: definition, composition and purpose of the main subject of the book (chaps. 1-4); condiments (chaps. 5-14); salad ingredients (chaps. 15-62), divided into roots and bulbs (chaps. 16-25), sprouts (chaps. 26-29), leaves (chaps. 30-53 ), beans (chaps. 54-55), flowers (chaps. 56-57), fruits (chaps. 58-60), and mixed salads (chaps. 61-62); dietary suggestions of various kinds related to salad and vegetables (chaps. 63-68).

Each entry repeats the logical structure of the treaty and includes for each ingredient definition, organoleptic characteristics, geographical distribution, different local names, methods of cultivation, varieties, different uses in the salad, medical and dietary benefits. In particular, it specifies whether an ingredient can be defined ‘hot' or ‘cold' according to the Hippocratic criteria, whether it is digestible or not, increase or moderate the effects of wine, stimulate the appetite, diuresis and sexual libido. The selection of the ingredients discussed is mainly made on the basis of their notoriety and accessibility: Massonio deliberately avoids treating rare, little known or indigestible vegetables.

The author remarks that salad is different from other foods as it is a composite and not a simple aliment, and its aim is not that of satiating rather that of stimulating the appetite; by this virtue salad can be considered as a specific food to human beings only (chap. 1).

The condiments treated by the author include traditional ones, such as vinegar (chap. 6), oil (chap. 7), and salt (chap. 8): essential elements from which salad (in Latin, ‘acetarium') derives its original name (chap. 9). But Massonio also quotes lesser-known and less used condiments, like ‘garum', the famous sauce in use among the ancient Romans made of macerated fish guts, compared by the author to caviar (chap. 10); ‘sapa' or cooked must (chap. 11); pepper, the “most noble”, but involving several side effects (chap. 12); lemon and orange juice (chap. 13); and finally garlic with its remarkable healthy effects, except for the breath (chap. 14).

Among the roots, Massonio lists carrot and parsnip, which he recommends cooked (chap. 16), red beet (chap. 17), buttercup (chap. 18), turnip (chap. 21), and onion (chap. 22), just to mention a few. After this series, Massonio discusses the bulbs and roots (chap. 23), like the truffle (chap. 24) and the horseradish (chap. 25). As for the shoots (chap. 26), he examines the hops (chap. 27), the asparagus (chap. 28), and the fennel (chap. 29).

The largest section of the treaty is obviously the one dedicated to the “leaves” (chap. 30), the main ingredient of salads. Priority is quite understandably given to lettuce (Chap. 31), both raw and boiled; then Massonio deals with endive and chicory (chap. 32), arugula (chap. 33), valerian (chap. 34), nasturtium (chap. 35), borage (chap. 36), sorrel (chap. 37), lemon balm (chap. 38), watercress (chap. 39), chervil (chap. 42), burnet (chap. 43), tarragon (chap. 44), star grass (chap. 45), calendula (chap. 46), basil (chap. 49), beans (chap. 50), cabbage (chap. 53), to mention a few. After that are discussed beans and peas (chaps. 54-55), saffron (chap. 56), rosemary (chap. 57), pumpkins (chap. 58), capers (chap. 59), and cucumbers (chap. 60). A separate section is devoted to mixed salads, the so-called ‘misticanze'.

The last part of the book gives dietary suggestions. Massonio recommends “not having salad at the end of the dinner” (chap. 63); it should rather be eaten as an appetizer and the food should be taken immediately afterwards, without waiting (chap. 66). Nor is it appropriate to drink wine or water after eating salad, as it undermines its positive effects. The author then strongly advises against drinking wine after eating: a habit that prevents a good digestion. Massonio concludes that even salad is not always salutary and its use should be evaluated according to temperament, health and age (chap. 65). The final chapter contains “useful warnings” on salad (chap. 68) (cf. S. Ferrero, Introduzione, in: “Archidipno, ovvero dell'insalata e dell'uso di essa di Salvatore Massonio”, M. Paleari Henssler & C.S. Ferrero, eds., Milan, 1990, pp. I-XXX).

Massonio was a poet, historian and physician. He published dramas and poems as well as a history of L'Aquila, his hometown (Dialogo dell'origine della città dell'Aquila, Ivi, 1594). He was a member of the Accademia dei Velati of L'Aquila with the name of ‘Avviluppato'.


C. Benporat, Cucina e convivialità italiana del Cinquecento, Florence, 2007, p. 240; K. Bitting, Gastronomic bibliography, San Francisco, 1939, p. 315; B.IN.G., no. 1266; W.R. Cagle, A matter of taste, New York, 1990, 1160; P. Krivatsy, A Catalogue of Seventeenth Century Printed Books in the National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, 1989, no. 7547; A.L. Simon, Bibliotheca gastronomica, London, 1953, no. 1023; G. Vicaire, Bibliographie gastronomique, Paris, 1890, col. 577; Wellcome Library, no. 4118; Lord Westbury, Handlist of Italian Cookery Books, Florence, 1963, p. 146.