Antique Chocolate and Cacao Illustrations

Project Gutenberg has been digitizing old public domain books and making them freely available on the Internet for years. They have tens of thousands of books on their site, and they are a resource for books that would have just lapsed into total obscurity. (Thanks to the Federal Government, content companies have lengthened copyright to ridiculous lengths now, so work like this will never cover a whole corpus of texts that are just going to die unnoticed. This is an enormous tragedy, but off topic for this blog.)

The Gutenberg site has at least two chocolate texts available on their site: Arthur Knapp’s “Cocoa and Chocolate”, from 1920, and Branden Head’s “Food of the Gods” from 1903! (I had posted a while back about the Knapp book.)

Cacao Pods

Both books have great photos and illustrations. “Food of the Gods” (despite sharing a title with a cheesy horror flick) has hand colored photos and paintings of cacoa trees, in addition to the usual woodcuts. I especially liked this colorful rendering of pods.

Cacao bean anatomy
This illustration from the Knapp book shows the structure of a cacao bean. That little germ piece shown in the drawing is surprisingly hard! Some manufacturers, in an effort to save steel grinders, have tried to find ways to willow out the germ along with the hull.

The Knapp book has a fantastic bibliography of very antique chocolate books going back to the 1600s, including such enticing sounding gems as: “A CURIOUS TREATISE OF THE NATURE AND QUALITY OF CHOCOLATE by Antonio de Ledesma Colmenero. London 1640”

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