The early seventeenth-century traveler Thomas Coryate’s five-month tour of Western Europe culminated in Coryats Crudities, one of the strangest travelogues published in early modern England. A charismatic raconteur, Coryate blends his detailed “observations” of churches, palaces, and local customs (including the first account of forks in English) with lengthy historical digressions and lively accounts of personal misadventure. Coryate, who had strong connections to the political, legal, and literary circles of early modern England, became a figure well known for his eccentricity and odd style, though he was also respected for his antiquarian scholarship and facility with foreign languages. Now, he is remembered as one of the most unique travel-writing voices ever known in English letters.
This edition abridges Crudities’ more than 900 pages to a manageable size, focusing on episodes most likely to be of interest to students —such as Coryat’s descriptions of Venetian mountebanks, courtesans, and Jews; his crossing of the Alps; and his attendance at a Corpus Christi celebration in Paris. An engaging introduction situates the book in the context of Coryat’s fascinating life, and the text is helpfully annotated throughout. The selection of contextual materials includes illustrations from the first edition, along with a sampling from another eccentric feature of the Crudities: a collection of mock commendatory poems making fun of Coryate and his journey, contributed by dozens of noblemen and literati (including the poets Ben Jonson and John Donne). Coryate, who was in on the joke, carefully curated the comic persona emerging from these verses, making creative use of media culture to gain personal celebrity.