Monday, June 22, 2015

Collecting Cookbooks


     I own 94 cookbooks.  I don't use all of them; in fact, I tend to use only a handful of them regularly.  I just like to have them on the bookshelf in my kitchen.  They tempt me into making new dishes, they are colorful, and some of my favorites are notated with handwriting of people I've never met.  Cookbooks hint of family gatherings and comforting scents wafting from the kitchen.  They tantalize with foreign cuisines and faraway places.  They comfort with tradition passed on through the decades.  It's no wonder that people have been collecting cookbooks for hundreds of years.

     The earliest known cookbook is attributed to a wealthy Roman named Marcus Gavius Apicius.  A Noble Book of Royal Feasts is the first cookbook written in the English language.  A publishing company called Hudson & Goodwin of Hartford published one of the first American cookbooks by Amelia Simmons in 1796.  It was titled American Cookery and contained what is thought to be the first written recipe for pumpkin pie.  Later cookbooks, like The Joy of Cooking, shaped the way our society prepares meals.

     While some people collect cookbooks because of their rarity, many collect for other reasons.  Some follow particular cooks such as Julia Child or Fannie Farmer.  Some enjoy brand name cookbooks such as Jell-O or Duncan Hines  Sometimes a particular subject is sought after, such as chocolate.  Regardless of the reason for collecting the book, rarity and condition determine value

Book dealers will grade cookbooks determined by the bends in the pages, the sturdiness of the spine, bumps on the corners, if the pages are yellowing, and damage to the cover.  Sometimes handwriting in the book will detract from the value.  An excellent resource is Collector's Guide to Cookbooks by Frank Daniels if you are interested in pricing your older cookbooks.

     The artwork, the history, the personal touches, and of course, delicious results, all make cookbook collecting a rewarding hobby for anyone who loves to spend time in the kitchen.

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