JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post #89
This lovely title page is from the book Question Moral Si El Chocolate Quebranta El Ayuno Eclesiastico, (on the Moral Question of Chocolate…), printed in Madrid in 1636, and said to be the first book on American drinks. León Pinelo. a Spanish-colonial historian (1589 – c. 1675), born in Cordova de Tucuman, (Argentina), and educated in the College of the Jesuits of Lima (Peru), and then leaving for Spain by 1612, where he wrote this (and other) books. HE was a significant scholar and an accomplished bibliographer, and compiled a very extensive dissertation upon the history, uses, preparation of chocolate, as well as other drinks in general of the Americas, touching on concoctions of Indians of New Spain, Peru, Nicaragua and Guatamala.
The title page is very dimensional, with the central figure, an Indian woman holding the scroll of the title, with a miniature coca tree in one hand and a four-leaved branch from the cocoa tree in the other.
Leon Pinelo in no way “created” the chocolate drink, but he was the first (and extensive reporter of it and certainly remained it most extensive annotator of the drink for centuries. Columbus was aware of the drink by his fourth voyage in 1502 but said relatively little about it. The Aztecs had been using the cocoa been for a thousand years before that. (It has been remarked that the drink was so extraordinary and special that it was served in one-serve golden goblets that were disposed of after the chocolate was consumed).
Perhaps the great King of Chocolate though was Sir Hans Sloane, who in addition to much else he did in his life traveled to Jamaica, where he assembled a fabulous plant collection for shipment back to England. He also “discovered” chocolate there, improving the native presentation of the drink (which he evidently found to be nauseating) by perfecting a milky solution with it—and *that* it was brought great wealth to Sir Hans. With that wealth Sloane continued to add to his extraordinary collection of natural artifacts, amassing one of the greatest cabinets of curiosity in England and the continent. In addition to his own collecting and minor purchases Sloane used his chocolate money to purchase the fabulous collections of William Courten (who, for example was an extremely wealthy Brit who financed the colonization of Barbadoes among other things before finally going bust), James Petiver, Nehemiah Grew, Leonard Plukenet, the Duchess of Beaufort, the rev. Adam Buddle, Paul Hermann, Franz Kiggelaer and Herman Boerhaave. Death’s dance found Sloane in 1753, who left his entire collection to England, and it was this bequest that formed the opening, golden, sagacious nugget of the British Museum.