The way people prepare, serve and eat food varies immensely over time and distance. Being able to see how certain foods were discussed , advertised and used gives an insight to eras and cultures like nothing else. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy perusing historical cookbook and culinary collections so much.
Happily, more and more of these collections are being digitized and made available online. As a result many I would never have been able to visit – or even in some cases know about – are at hand with just a few strokes of the keyboard. As I find them, I shall add them here – for reasons both selfish (so I can find them again) and selfless (so you can enjoy them too).
Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? The Project Gutenberg Cookery Shelf.
Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project (MSU) — an online collection of American cookbooks from late 18th – early 20th century. Digital images of the pages of each cookbook, full-text transcriptions and the ability to search within the books. Also in their collections Early Michigan Community/Charity Cookbooks — over 30 Michigan community/charity cookbooks published between 1883 and 1923
Little Cookbooks: The Alan and Shirley Brocker Sliker Culinary Collection – contains publications produced primarily by companies in the United States from the late 19th century to present.
Service through Sponge Cake (University Library and the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library) — focus on Indiana cookbooks dating from turn-of-the-century, with a special emphasis on fundraising cookbooks published by churches, synagogues and other community organizations. ” (88 digitized items)
archive.org Cookbook and Home Economics Collection — Includes books from the Young Research Library,UCLA, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley and the Prelinger Library. Covers America in the early decades of the 20th century covering topics on cookery, textiles, family and domestic sciences. (3,073 digitized items)
HEARTH Collection: Food and Nutrition (Cornell) — works on food preparation and nutrition.
Digitized Rare Books from the library’s Culinary History Collection (Virginia Tech) — covers five centuries of culinary arts. Also History of Food & Drink Collection Virginia Tech
Cookbook Collection at Steenbock Library University of Wisconsin Madison — can’t browse whole collection but there are several curated subsets digitally available for browsing.