Carta del Café

Carta del Café – Circulo Cientifico – Sign. VE 218-53 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)

Probably Spain — 1617

A drink conquers the world: the oldest surviving written source on the origin, preparation and enjoyment of coffee, printed for the distribution of the novel caffeinated drink in Spain

  1. Originating from Asia and America, caffeinated drinks were introduced to Europe in the 16th century

  2. Caffeine had a transformative effect on European society and also fueled the Age of Exploration

  3. Nonetheless, the text at hand curiously lacks any specific indication of its author, printer, or place and year of its publication

Carta del Café

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €
(under 1,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Carta del Café

Caffeine was unknown to Europeans prior to the 16th century. Since coffee and tea originate from Asia and the Americas, caffeine was first discovered by Europeans at the beginning of the Age of Exploration and it went on to fuel their successive voyages around the world. These invigorating beverages also had a transformative effect on society back in Europe, most notably in the rise of the café as an important hub for the exchange of ideas. Despite its huge impact on world history, much of the story of how caffeine was gradually introduced to Europe is obscure, as there are few surviving sources. One of them is preserved in the Spanish National Library: the Spanish translation of what must have been an Italian or Latin letter describing the processing and preparation of coffee and its beneficial effects on the human body.

Carta del Café

Coffee and tea have become the most popular non-alcoholic drinks in Europe and the rest of the modern World, and hot chocolate has become a much-loved treat as well. Originating from Asia and America, their introduction to Europeans in the 16th century not only transformed their eating habits but their society as cafes became important places to gather and exchange ideas. The presence in the three plants of mild stimulants called xanthines, such as caffeine, was entirely new to Europeans but became a staple of diets across Europe by the 18th century. Discovered at the dawn of the Age of Exploration, these stimulating products helped to fuel their subsequent discovery of other parts of the world. Another product new to Europeans, sugar, tempered their naturally bitter flavor. Oddly, there are not many legends about the discovery of its stimulating properties, as well as about the first individuals who introduced and spread their use throughout Europe.

A Mysterious Coffee Book

The text at hand curiously lacks any indication of its author, nor any mention of the printer, place and year of its publication. Everything indicates that it is the Spanish version of a letter written initially in Italian or Latin and that someone took care of translating for its dissemination among Spanish readers. The translator neglected the transcription of the native names and even the titles of the books mentioned, so one of the first difficulties for the reader is to identify some of the places and names mentioned. The text gives news of a new drink, coffee, and concludes with detailed information concerning its preparation.


Alternative Titles
Carta que escribió un medico cristiano, que estaba curando en Antiberi, a un Cardenal de Roma, sobre la bebida del Cahué ó Café
Size / Format
4 pages / 30.0 x 21.5 cm
2 initials and 1 printed cross pattée
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Carta del Café – Circulo Cientifico – Sign. VE 218-53 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
Circulo Cientifico – Madrid, 2012
Facsimile Editions

#1 Carta del Café

Circulo Cientifico – Madrid, 2012

Publisher: Circulo Cientifico – Madrid, 2012
Binding: The facsimile is presented together with the accompanying booklet in a decorative red folder with gold tooling.
Commentary: 1 volume by Antonio Carreras Panchón
Language: Spanish

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €
(under 1,000€)
You might also be interested in:
Sketchbook of Francesco di Giorgio Martini – Belser Verlag – Urb. lat. 1757 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Sketchbook of Francesco di Giorgio Martini
Urbino (Italy) – 1464–1478

Direct testimony to the work of one of the most gifted architects of the Renaissance: over 1,200 architectural drawings and designs for machinery in a sketchbook that is as fascinating as it is historically significant

Experience More
Ladhdhat al-nisâ - Pleasure of Women – M. Moleiro Editor – Suppl. persan 1804 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Ladhdhat al-nisâ - Pleasure of Women
Near East – 18th century

Inspired by ancient Indian texts and beautifully illuminated with 51 miniatures: a Persian treatise on the (sensual) nature of women, the art of love, and advice on how to enhance pleasure

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection