Guide to the Research Collections

- Cookbooks


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.