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Indiana University Bloomington

The Collections: Guide to the Collections: Food & Drink

Giovanni Rosselli. Opera Nova chiamato Epulario [Venice, 1517]. The earliest illustrated kitchen in a printed book.

The core of the Lilly Library's gastronomic holdings comes from the collection of American cookbooks assembled by Mrs. John Talbot Gernon and acquired by the Library in 1979, and the much larger collection of cookbooks published outside the United States, which was brought together jointly by Dr. and Mrs. Gernon.

Historically, the most important American piece in the collection is American Cookery; or, The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Amelia Simmons, an American Orphan (Hartford, 1796), the first cookbook by an American author to be published in America. Other cookbooks published in America during the 18th century were of British authorship, such as Susannah Carter's The Frugal Housewife (Philadelphia, 1796).

The more than 1,200 British and European works on food and drink include Platina's De honesta voluptate et valitudine [Of Honest Indulgence and Good Health] (Venice, 1475), the earliest in the collection and considered to be the first printed cookery book, Giovanni Rosselli's Opera nova chiamata Epulario (Venice, 1517), which contains a woodcut believed to be the earliest depiction of a kitchen in a printed book (shown on this page), and the first and only edition of Ain sehr Künstlichs unnd Fürtrefflichs Kockbuch (Augsberg, 1559).

Other prominent works in the collection are Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (London, 1758), the great Brillat-Savarin's Physiologie du Goût; [Physiology of Taste] (Paris, 1826), and Mrs. Isabella M. Beeton's Book of Household Management (London, 1859-61, 24 monthly parts).

Two works in Mrs. Gernon's collection were written by women otherwise prominent in 19th-century American history. Catherine Beecher wrote prolifically advocating for the education of women. In 1869 Beecher collaborated with her sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, on The American Woman's Home; or Principles of Domestic Science, a guide to both the practical and spiritual aspects of keeping a home. Sarah Josepha Hale, author of the The Good Housekeeper (Boston, 1839), was the first American woman to edit a magazine and author of the children's verse, "Mary Had a Little Lamb".

One twentieth-century publication of special interest is Irma S. Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with an Occasional Culinary Chat (St. Louis, 1931). A local author is represented by James L. Butler's Indiana Wine: A History (Bloomington, Indiana, 2001).

Many of the Lilly Library's holdings in cookery came to the library for other than culinary reasons. Our copy of Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book (Boston, 1884) was acquired by Mr. Lilly because it was included in the Grolier Club's list of One Hundred Influential American Books Printed Before 1900. Lafcadio Hearn's La Cuisine Créole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes from Leading Chefs and Noted Créole Housewives . . . (New York, 1885) is considered a necessary adjunct to any collection of his literary works.

One result of the Gernon collections having come to the Lilly Library has been an increased interest in acquiring works on wine, grapes, and vineyards. Some highlights of this collection include:

A majority of the books in the cookery collection can be found by searching IUCAT, the online catalog of the IU Libraries. You may limit your search to the Lilly Library at the "Library" option. Subject searches on the terms "Cooking", "Cooking, American", "Cooking, British" are useful for browsing. Related exhibition catalogues and bibliographies include:

Top: Giovanni Rosselli. Opera Nova chiamato Epulario [Venice, 1517]. The earliest illustrated kitchen in a printed book.