I'd like to share some info about a type or category of cookbook that sometimes get overlooked but is an absolute favorite of mine. Sometimes refered to as books for the young housekeeper, cookery, or domestic receipt books, they are a true goldmine of information. They are for the most part classified as usually being published before 1901 (tail-end of the Victorian age) and almost always having 1 or more sections included other than recipes. The sections can include home remedies, housekeeping tips and schedules, home laundering instructions, marketing and menu planning, childbirth and nursing information, and the very common etiquette or social rules chapter. There's a reason I refer to these babies as the "one stop shops" or "all in one" antique cookbooks.
There's definitely cookbooks with subjects like these being published after 1901 and they are fabulous in their own right, there's also with later printings of the old hard to find originals that do have a place in a collectors world, but for now lets focus on the . Word of caution though, everybody has their own definition of the word "antique" and "vintage" and even though "generally" vintage is known for being 20 years or older. "Antique" is a little harder to nail down, being divided into 50% of collectors thinking 50 years or older and 50% thinking it's 100 years and older, but to the general public, the ones that have the bulk of the market, it seems to be anything older than yesterday. Please be forewarned that there are some (non-collector) sellers throwing the word "antique" on their 70's BH&G's and Taste of Home cookbooks, and really it IS inevitable that you will have to just hunker down and weed out all the Atkins and Jenny Craig's if your looking to purchase old cookbooks online to save money.
Speaking of weeding out, also be on guard for all the *expletive* Pdf files of download able cookbooks some nasty and unethical sellers are trying to get you to buy, trying to make it seem like your buying an actual printed book but after purchasing finding out it's only a cesspool of typos and bad grammar that would make Mrs. Beeton herself want to strangle someone. A general rule of mine though is "if it doesn't have a picture of the actual book itself, I'm not buying". That weeds out generally about 75% of them as the majority usually have (the same) stock cover photo attached to the listings along with INSANE prices leading you to think it's the real deal. This goes for current reprints as well, available at big box book stores.
So let's say you found one, YAY! and it's one that you've been looking for or maybe it just looks cool, the next step is to determine the condition, and yes it matters, as finding it is just half the battle. Condition is what really puts a value to the cookbook and tells you what you should spend. The rarer the cookbook, the more forgiveness is allotted to the condition. Same generally goes for age, the older it is, obviously the more wear it will have. BUT and this is a big but, and I understand it will be different for every collector but I will almost never buy a cookbook with loose pages or detached covers. Unless we're talking a 1700's Hannah Glasse or another one of a kind equivalent, where I shall not even think twice, generally these specific issues are too big to forgive. Remember these are investments! I recommend having an idea in your head and also price limits beforehand, as it's EXTREMELY easy to get excited and get caught up in that "omg, I have to buy it now before someone else does" feeling. Next thing you know you have it in your hands and are trying to hold back tears because it smells like mold, missing 12 pages and the cover came off while trying to open it. In my opinion, if I'm going to spend the kind of money that comes with some of these precious books, I'm going to get exactly what I want and then some, and if that means I might have to wait another 6 months until all the stars align and the right copy is available to me at the right time then so be it, it's what makes it exciting and I love that "treasure -hunting" feeling!
I'll be going into the 2nd half of this post and what's exactly found in these historic cookbooks, along with recipes, some household tips and remedies and more pics later tonight:)
Vintage Cookbooks are for everyone who has ever wanted to bake something special and turned to a modern cookbook and realized they never seem to have all the ingredients at the same time, there're for history lovers that want to feel connected to the past in a way that's missing in history books, there're for the people that love that musty old book smell and laugh at kindle's, they're for people that feel like we as a society have gone a little too far, a tad off course with life and want to get back to the simple and the real, and they're for the people that want to pay homage to all the grandma's and great aunts that did it best!