Guide to the Research Collections



The subject of food and cookery is collected comprehensively; some 27,000 volumes, along with manuscripts and other materials, make up an outstanding collection. The subject is administered by the General Research and Humanities Division, and there are significant related collections in other divisions of the library. The Science and Technology Research Center holds materials related to the technologies of food and cookery, and the Economic and Public Affairs Division collects reports on the financial structure and history of various food corporations, distilleries, and the like.

The subject of food and cookery is varied, and there is a multiplicity of subject headings in the Public Catalog relevant to it. There are approximately 6,500 entries under the subject heading "Food," and in addition a great number of related subjects such as sugar, coffee, and tea receive separate entries. Related fields such as gastronomy, the history of food, nutrition, and wine culture hold much of interest. The General Research and Humanities Division maintains an inactive Food History File; entries in two card drawers refer to information published prior to 1935. (It should be noted that the library does not collect materials related to the medical aspects of food and cookery.)

Periodical holdings are substantial. The library receives major abstracting reviews such as Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (1950- ) and Nutrition Abstracts and Reviews (1931- ), as well as the numerous United Nations publications related to food. Periodicals received originate not only in Europe and the United States, but also in Asia; examples of these are the Journal of Nutrition and Dietics (1964- ) from India and the Philippine Journal of Nutrition (1962- ).


The library's outstanding collection of approximately 8,000 cookbooks includes cookbooks issued by individuals and private organizations which are not generally commercially available, and national and regional cookbooks from all countries. These range from "Cookery, African" to "Cookery--Yugoslavian," and include such specialties as "Cookery--Cake," "Cookery (Camp)," and "Cookery at Sea." America is best represented with about 1,600 titles divided roughly as follows: 80 titles published before 1860; more than 500 titles published between 1901 and 1925; and more than 800 since 1926. In addition are more than 200 books on American regional cookery of all periods. The library's copy of Mary Randolph's The Virginia Housewife (1824) appears to be the only recorded copy of that edition. The collection of cookbooks in the Jewish Division, while not large, is significant. Cookery is analyzed by subject; there is also a chronological arrangement under subject.

In 1941 the library received, under the terms of the will of the late Mrs. Helen Hay Whitney, a collection of 17 manuscripts and more than 200 printed books, the majority of them English, ranging in date from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. The majority of the printed volumes are of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The earliest book is Girolamo Ruscelli's The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemount (1558); other notable books in the Whitney collection are The Good Hous-wives Treasurie (1588) and Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747).

There is a fifteenth-century manuscript compilation of recipes, copied on vellum with the names of dishes rubricated. Among later manuscripts are the recipe collections associated with Joane Yate, Lady Anne Morton, Hester Denbigh, and Mary Ellen Meredith.1

Associated with the books and manuscripts in the Whitney collection are cookbooks in the Arents Tobacco Collection, notably The Ladies Cabinet Opened (1639). In the Manuscripts and Archives Division are recipes of the Pennypacker family of the late nineteenth century, along with various eighteenth-and nineteenth-century recipes from Mexico.


The library's collection of menus, maintained at the Annex Section, includes printed and manuscript menus dating from 1849. The nucleus of the collection came from the 19,500 menus presented to the library in 1909 by Miss Frank E. Buttolph; the collection has been augmented by subsequent gifts. It is arranged by date.

The present collection has a notable representation of menus from fraternities and fraternal organizations; wine and food societies; commercial, professional, and political groups; educational and religious institutions; hotels, steamships, and restaurants.

Of special interest is a bound file of bills of fare of the Fifth Avenue Hotel from August 1859 to August 1882. Present also is a collection of old Waldorf-Astoria menus. Some menus for this and other hotels in New York City are mounted in scrapbooks with other related materials, and maintained by the Local History and Genealogy Division.

Some menus, because of the fame of the people attending, the occasion, or the fine printing, have been retained by the Rare Book Division. Some of these are for banquets in New York City for the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, for Queen Elizabeth II, and for a luncheon honoring Colonel John Glenn, Jr., and his fellow astronauts.

Alcoholic Drinks

The ethical aspects of the subject of alcoholic drinks are covered under "Temperance," in chapter 18 of this Guide. Of some 57 periodicals related

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to the subject of alcoholic drinks, 18 from 5 nations are currently received by the library. The subject of wines is best represented, with more than 1,500 entries in the Public Catalog for topics such as winemaking, trade statistics, wines of various nations, and the like. Some rarities are present, such as Alfonso Ferri's De ligni sancti multiplici medicina, & vini exhibitione (1538). Periodical titles on wine and winemaking number more than 30, with 19 currently published and received from nine countries. There is additional information on individual wines.

Works on the eighteenth-century Whiskey Insurrection in Pennsylvania in the Rare Book Division include Hugh Henry Brackenridge's Incidents of the Insurrection (1795), along with James Elliot's account and printed documents and speeches of Albert Gallatin and Edmund Randolph.

The Liebmann collection of American historical documents presented to the library by Alfred J. Liebmann in 1954 contains 226 manuscript items and a dozen printed pieces relative to the production and use of whiskey, rum, and brandy in the United States during the period 1665-1910. Included are orders for liquors, tavern licenses, U.S. Army commissary requisitions, and letters and documents signed by presidents, military commanders and others. The majority of items reflect American history prior to 1865. A small but significant group of manuscripts documents the Whiskey Insurrection.2


Aside from government publications and general reference works on drugs and drug addiction, the library does not collect extensively in this field. There is an attempt to maintain a representative collection on the social aspects of drug taking and related subjects. Medical texts on narcotics are not generally collected.

Of the narcotics, opium receives the largest number of entries in the Public Catalog; included are social and historical aspects of that topic such as the Opium War (1840-42). Related subject headings in the Public Catalog include "Hallucinations and Illusions," "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide," "Hallucinogens," and the like. The American History Division has material on the ceremonial use of peyote by the American Indians.

Domestic Economy

Many of the subjects related to domestic economy have been described in other sections of this Guide. As an example, spinning and weaving have been considered as technological aspects of manufacture in chapter 57, and costume design has been considered as part of the general subject of art resources in chapter 28.

The collection relating to domestic economy, administered by the General Research and Humanities Division, is, on the whole, adequate. It consists of some 5,600 volumes. The history and bibliography of the subject are collected comprehensively.

There is a particularly interesting, although by no means complete, representation of nineteenth-century journals, including titles as diverse as Economist and General Adviser (1824-25) and Sanktpeterburgskoye yezhenedel'noye sochineniye, kasayushcheyesya do razmnozheniya domostroitel'stva ("St. Petersburg Weekly Publication Re the Increase of Housebuilding"; May-October 1778). Some 7 periodical titles are currently received.

Books published before 1850 number just over 100, beginning with the early sixteenth-century translation by Raffaele Maffie of Xenephon's Oeconomicus. Books printed since 1851 include a first edition of Isabella Mary Beeton's The Book of Household Management (1861). There are, in addition, numerous later editions of this household classic known popularly as "Mrs. Beeton's Cookery Book." There is a good collection of the works of the American Mary Virginia Terhune, among them works on household management such as Common Sense in the Household (1871).

There is an unusual collection of international fashion periodicals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The subjects of homemaking and beauty culture include historical materials. Hair-dressing as a subject includes a good collection of journals, among them The American Hair-dresser (1904- ) and other titles, most of these French or American. The Economic and Public Affairs Division has the constitution and membership books of the Journeymen Barbers', Hair-dressers' and Cosmetologists' International Union of America (1892- ). Dressmaking and millinery are represented by works in the general collections. The subject of perfumery, essences, and essential oils forms another strong collection. Materials include the bibliographical check-list, the Fritzsche Library Bulletin (1957- ), and 13 other journal titles published primarily since 1945, but with long runs of American Perfumer and Essential Oil Review (1907-55) and Perfumery and Essential Oil Record (1916-54).