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The Cornish Pasty

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Geoffrey Chaucer

The Cook's Tale
Written 1380-1390 AD

With images of the printed word "pasty" by William Caxton
- the first time it was printed in the English language

The Cornish Pasty is proud to present the first occurrences of the word "pasty" printed in the English language - they are dated 1476 and 1483 AD.

Aside: The Oxford English Dictionary entry for "pasty", reproduced with permission on the The Cornish Pasty (here), lists five earlier occurrences in 1296 (Simon le Pastymaker), c.1300 (Pastees), c.1325 (pasteiis), 1393 (Pastes) and 1475 (pastey), the latter being almost contemporary with Caxton's 1st edition of Chaucer's Tales (printed in 1476). If you can help to locate these original sources, please email me.

The occurrences come from Geoffrey Chaucer, circa  1343 25 October 1400, who was the first English scholar to write in English rather than French or Latin. This implies that the earlier OED references above may not be written in English.

The manuscripts below were printed after Chaucer's death by William Caxton who lived c. 1415~1422 c. March 1492.

Chaucer is best known for "The Canterbury Tales" ..... tales told by pilgrims on the road to Canterbury.

"The Cook's Tale" - which was unfinished - was written between 1380 & 1390 and contains the wording below. The images, from the Prologue of the tale, are from texts held by the British Library and can be seen online at Treasures in Full - Caxton's Chaucer.

The British Library Board (G.11586)

This is from the 1476 edition of the text.
Parts of two pages where reference to a pasty is split across the pages.
The word "pafty" appears in the the third line.
The "f" character is used here to denote the long "s" of Middle English.


The British Library Board (G.11586)

From the 1483 edition of the text
The word "pasty" appears in the third line in the image.

This transcription below is culled from several others on the internet, with our own finishing touches .....

Our host answerd and said I grant it thee
Now tell on Roger look that it be good
For many a pasty hast thou let blood
And many a Jacke of Dover hast thou sold
That had be twice hot and twice cold


The text is written in a vernacular style where the narrator is encouraging Roger, the cook, to tell a good tale while admonishing him for poor practice: it refers to pasties "let blood" (left bloody or under cooked?) and to Jack of Dovers (or Jacks of Dover) - believed to be a pie, fish or fish pie, that had been cooked twice and allowed to cool. Perhaps food safety is not so new!

On a technical point, there are several changes in the text between the two editions, both printed by William Caxton, even in this short extract, which shows how variable written (or printed) English was at that time .....

1476 1483 Modern
ost hoste host
graunte graunt grant
Rogger roger Roger
twis twys twice


There are many other Chaucerian sources and transcriptions on the internet, such as:

: Many thanks to the Permissions Dept. of The British Library for their efforts in facilitating the use of the images on this page and for permission to use them on The Cornish Pasty.


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