A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig

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Charles Lamb (1775-1834), A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig: an Essay (Rochester, N.Y.: Printing House of Leo Hart, 1932). Edition limited to 950 copies on Okawara paper. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX), 2009-1931N

The English author Charles Lamb wrote many essays under the pseudonym Elia and first published his collected Essays of Elia in 1823. One essay describes the discovery of pork roast in China, with a somewhat politically incorrect text. Over the years, Lamb’s essay has been reprinted and illustrated by many celebrated artists, including Frederick Stuart Church and Will Bradley. This 1932 edition is illustrated by Wilfred Jones (born 1888), with pochoir color. Note the red-haired figure at the top left with the monogram G.B.S., representing George Bernard Shaw.

The piece begins:

Mankind, says a Chinese manuscript, which my friend M. was obliging enough to read and explain to me, for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw, clawing or biting it from the living animal, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day. This period is not obscurely hinted at by their great Confucius in the second chapter of his Mundane Mutations, where he designates a kind of golden age by the term Cho-fang, literally the Cooks’ holiday.

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This was a great story, makes you wonder about the way everything began.