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Vintage Cookbooks Are Tasty Treat for Collectors

I was pleased to find a pristine copy of my favorite cookbook, Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, at Sibs recently. I received a copy of it as a wedding gift in 1982 and have used it so much that it’s falling apart at the seams.

I got a real bargain too since I’ve seen it online for three times the price I paid ($5).

Lots of antique enthusiasts collect cookbooks. With everything from simple hometown pamphlets to the big books authored by television personality chefs, cookbooks are a delicious collectible. A line-up of great titles makes an impressive display in the kitchen too and inspires confidence in diners.

Vintage cookbooks are sentimental to many because so many of us remember our mother or grandmother’s cookbook or recall a favorite recipe from an earlier time. Cookbooks in general offer a nostalgic look at previous generations since they include bits of information about social history, appliances and eating habits.

Cookbooks continue to be a strong collectible, with the most valuable ones being specialty cookbooks and those dating to long ago like Early American 18th century editions.

One of my beloved cookbooks is Betty Crocker’s. I have lots of fond memories of searching through my mom’s old red and white, spiral bound 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook as I learned to mix up recipes.

One of the most popular cookbooks around, this tried-and-true volume was revered in many families during the 1950s and 60s. (I now have a reprint since my mother’s copy fell apart.)

Because it was a “picture” cookbook it was groundbreaking and easy to follow. Plus, it includes tips and tricks, kitchen decorating information and party planning facts.

Most second hand bookstores have a cookbook section. So, if you’re looking for vintage books, browse through second hand shops or thrift stores. But remember to check the inside pages carefully, since many vintage books have been reprinted like the Betty Crocker version I mentioned above.

Vintage cookbooks are amusing too because of the quaint references to food or measurements, like a handful of flour or pinch of salt. Lots of other social facts can be picked up from cookbooks since they often include references to food shortages, home remedies and social customs.

One of my antique cookbooks from 1925 was created for girls in Wheeling public schools, it’s called “Lessons in Domestic Science” and is described as the latest scientific information on proper housekeeping.

This is typical of really old cookbooks, which blend housekeeping tips with recipes and cooking. One of mine, a 1918 volume, includes a recipe for Suffrage Salad Dressing, honoring women’s fight for the right to vote!

According to Collectors Weekly, it wasn’t till Fannie Farmer self-published her cookbook that uniform measurements and recipe style began. She was the author of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1896), a book I don’t have in my small collection. The original is quite rare but reprints and retitled editions are available.

Collectible cookbooks offer a wide range of prices from under $10 to several hundreds of dollars so there’s something out there in every price range. Some of my favorites are the simple pamphlet style books that offer fun social commentary and cover images.


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