Culinary History

Cookbooks are not just valuable for telling us about food. Beyond recording what people ate, they tell us how, and in some cases why, people consumed what they did. They track shifting fashions in the culinary arts, etiquette practices, and popular health. Many early cookbooks were printed for the use of domestic servants charged with preparing outstanding dishes for the master’s family and his guests. Other early works, more broadly agricultural in scope, were aimed at farmers and contained instructions for making cider and other fermented beverages from their local crops. Cookbooks track the transmission of foodways among cultures and indicate how the commerce of foodstuffs changed over time, as regional cookery and food products found new markets, reaching new dining tables and mouths. From personal annotations and additions we can see how women actively used cookbooks as important tools, changing the printed word to suit their own needs. These books comprised an important part of their domestic economy, containing not only directions for preparing a wide range of dishes, but also giving instructions for growing kitchen gardens, butchering poultry, carving meat, repairing china, and sometimes caring for the sick. Our cookbook collection is extensive, representing Anglo-American foodways spanning the sixteenth through the early twentieth century.


Katherine Golden Bitting. Gastronomic Bibliography (San Francisco: Trade Pressroom, 1939).

William R. Cagle and Lisa Killion Stafford. American Books on Food and Drink: A Bibliographical Catalog of the Cookbook Collection Housed in The Lilly Library at the Indiana University (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1998).

Eleanor Lowenstein. Bibliography of American Cookery Books 1742-1860 (Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1972).

Virginia Maclean. A Short-title Catalogue of Household and Cookery Books published in the English Tongue 1701-1800 (London: Prospect Books, 1981).