Digitizing Our Manuscript Cookbooks

By Andrea Byrne, Digital Technical Specialist

In December 2020, we launched a new digital collection: Recipes and Remedies: Manuscript Cookbooks. This is how we did it.

Our new digital collection showcases 11 of the 40 manuscript cookbooks the Library holds. The digitization is based on our earlier work with these materials. In 2012, the Pine Tree Foundation provided funding for conservation and cataloging of 31 of these manuscripts. In 2019, the foundation awarded the Library funding to digitize a selection of the English-language manuscript cookbooks and make them available to the public through the Library’s Digital Collections & Exhibits website. The digitized manuscripts will also be linked through corresponding listings in the Manuscript Cookbook Survey, providing a full-text option for each of our manuscripts on the site.

Four of the 11 manuscripts were previously digitized as part of an Adam Matthew Digital project, Food and Drink in History. After the earlier conservation work, only a quick conservation review was required before we sent the rest of the manuscripts out for scanning. The 2012 funding had also provided us with robust catalog records, so the work of our current project focused on providing a digital experience that was as similar as possible to paging through these manuscripts in our reading room. This work started with creating high-quality digital scans to display each item as a book object.

The manuscripts are viewable through the Internet Archive Book Reader, which allows a reader to browse a digital book page by page. Additional photo editing work was required to ensure that each page aligned with the next. This digital collection contains 2,021 pages and additional eyes were needed to review each page of every manuscript, to check the alignment, the consistency of page sizes, and the integrity of the images. Quality control is integral and took place multiple times on this project: to confirm the images were scanned correctly, to verify the content on the site was correct, and to check the functionality of the site.

Example of noting blank pages, from Recipe book : manuscript, 1804.

A couple of challenges emerged when attempting to preserve the integrity of each manuscript as a digital object. One of the concerns was blank pages: a few of these manuscripts have many blank pages. In the physical manuscript, a reader can turn several blank pages at a time. In the digital display, a reader may have a frustrating experience clicking blank page after blank page. Our approach to this concern was to include a scan of the first blank page in a section of blank pages and to note that not all the blank pages were scanned.

Example of displaying the front of an insert, from A collection of choise receipts : manuscript, circa 1680–1700.
Example of displaying the back of an insert, from A collection of choise receipts : manuscript, circa 1680–1700.

Another challenge was the display of inserts. A couple of the books included plant clippings and flowers pressed between the pages. To emulate the experience of viewing the inserts in the physical manuscript, we opted to overlay the front of the insert on the recto, and then have the same pages repeated in the next view, but with the reverse of the insert overlaid on the verso.

Elizabeth Duncumb’s recipe for waffles, from Duncumb recipe book : autograph manuscript signed, 1791–1800s.

Of course, no interventions can exactly replicate the experience of viewing and handling a physical object in person. How can one duplicate the heft of taking the 500-page “A collection of choise receipts” out of its clamshell box, or handling the slender “Hoffman home remedies” volume? But one advantage these digital surrogates provide is being able to make waffles from a handwritten recipe from 1791 without splattering batter on a unique and priceless cookbook!

Recipes and Remedies: Manuscript Cookbooks

By the NYAM Library Team

A recipe in verse for “Mother Eve’s Pudding,” from “Recipe book : manuscript, 1700s.”

The NYAM Library is happy to announce the launch of “Recipes and Remedies: Manuscript Cookbooks” on our Digital Collections & Exhibits website. We’ve digitized 11 of our English-language manuscript cookbooks, offering a fascinating look at seventeenth- to nineteenth-century culinary (and non-culinary) history in England and America. The books include recipes for making a range of dishes such as roast turkey, lemon cream, and almond biscuits. Receipts (an older word for recipes) for non-food items are also found in these cookbooks: you can learn about remedies for coughs, bruises, and other ailments, or read about preparing cosmetics or perfumes at home. These manuscripts are part of a remarkable collection of food and drink materials that are a strength of the Library, starting with its ninth-century culinary manuscript, the Apicius.

We hope that you enjoy exploring these unique materials, finding recipes and making discoveries, and reading about their historical context in the accompanying essay written by culinary historian Stephen Schmidt.

Index “C” to “A collection of choise receipts.

The digitization of these manuscript cookbooks was accomplished with a grant from the Pine Tree Foundation. We are grateful for the foundation’s continued support in helping us to provide access to our rich collections.

A drink for the holiday, adapted by Pietro Collina and Matt Jozwiak from “A collection of choise receipts.”

In the past, we’ve highlighted recipes from these cookbooks in blog posts. We invite you to read these earlier posts, even as you delve deeper into the digitized Manuscript Cookbooks Collection.

Enjoy!

Food Fight Club Round 2: Vegetable Curry v. Ragout of Squirrel

It’s time for match two of our March Madness Food Fight Club.

First, the reveal of last week’s smackdown: Snail Water triumphed over Pear and Tomato Chutney. Whichever recipe wins this week has a tough competitor for next Wednesday’s final match.

March Madness Food Fight Club_Round1winner

Background image: Kirkland, The modern baker, confectioner, and caterer, c1907.

This week, we pit Vegetable Curry against Ragout of Squirrel.

Vegetable Curry recipe in Blatch, 101 Practical Non-Flesh Recipes, 1917.

Vegetable Curry recipe in Blatch, 101 Practical Non-Flesh Recipes, 1917. Click to enlarge.

The innocuous-sounding vegetable curry comes from Margaret Blatch’s 101 Practical Non-flesh Recipes, a nice little vegetarian cookbook from 1917. The title might sound a bit odd to modern readers and is an interesting choice, considering the term vegetarian was well-established by the 1840s.1 A 1908 physical education article sheds some light on the terminology of the time, saying the word vegetarian “usually suggests a person who abstains not on hygienic but on religious, ethical, or theological grounds,” preferring instead “flesh-abstainer.”2 It appears “non-flesh” was less provocative than “vegetarian.”

Ragout of Squirrel recipe in Recipes for the Jewett Chafing Dish, 1896. Click to enlarge.

Ragout of Squirrel recipe in Recipes for the Jewett Chafing Dish, 1896. Click to enlarge.

Our next contestant features two items not commonly seen on today’s dinner tables: Chafing dishes and squirrels. In the 1890s, chafing dishes experienced a surge in popularity in America, and Recipes for the Jewett Chafing Dish was just one of many cookbooks published featuring recipes specifically for the dish. The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel offered “chafing dish suppers” to top socialites, and stores sold table linens to match the cookware.3 Squirrel, too, was a common sight at the American dinner table due to its availability. One can track its rise and fall by looking at editions of The Joy of Cooking over time, where the numerous squirrel recipes of the 1930s gave way to recipes for chicken.4

Which recipe should face Snail Water in the final round? Vote for your favorite—be it the most appealing, least appealing, or one that just tickles your fancy more—before 5 pm EST on Monday, March 21.

References
1. Spencer C. The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism. UPNE; 1996. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=rIjZo-cvifAC&pgis=1. Accessed March 15, 2016.

2. Fisher I. The Influence of Flesh-eating on Endurance. Modern Medicine Publishing; 1908. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=gW8yAQAAMAAJ&pgis=1. Accessed March 15, 2016.

3. Lovegren S, Smith AF. Chafing Dish. Oxford Companion to Am Food Drink. 2007:103. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=AoWlCmNDA3QC&pgis=1. Accessed March 10, 2016.

4. Smith H. Al rodente: Could squirrel meat come back into vogue? Grist. 2012. Available at: http://grist.org/animals/al-rodente-could-squirrel-meat-come-back-into-vogue/. Accessed March 10, 2016.

Food Fight Club Round 1: Snail Water v. Pear and Tomato Chutney

Today we begin our March Madness competition, Food Fight Club.

This week and next, two recipes will go head to head, vying for your votes. The following week, the winners of the first two rounds will duke it out for the honor of being named the champion of our first Food Fight Club.

Background image: Kirkland, The modern baker, confectioner, and caterer, c1907.

The smackdown begins with Snail Water versus Pear and Tomato Chutney.

This lovely snail water recipe comes from A Collection of Choise Receipts, a late 17th-century English manuscript written in exquisite penmanship, perhaps written by a professional scribe. Snail water was thought to treat ailments including “sharpness in [the] blood” and appetite loss. Learn more about snail water in our blog archives.

From A Collection of Choise Receipts. Click to enlarge.

From A Collection of Choise Receipts. Click to enlarge.

It takes a bold competitor to go up against this beauty. But we have one: Pear and Tomato Chutney from the American Can Company’s undated Relishes from Canned Food pamphlet. As early as the 1850s, commercially canned goods—especially sardines, tomatoes, condensed milk, and fruits and vegetables—found an eager consumer audience in the Western United States. Their popularity only increased over time; by the 1930s, foods from supermarkets were increasingly prepackaged (learn more in our 2015 April Fool’s blog—the food history facts are true!).

Pear and Tomato Chutney from American Can Company, Relishes from Canned Foods, no date. Click to enlarge.

Pear and Tomato Chutney from American Can Company, Relishes from Canned Foods, no date. Click to enlarge.

Which recipe should move on to the next round? Vote for your favoritebe it the most appealing, least appealing, or one that just tickles your fancy morebefore 5 pm EST on Monday, March 14.

Cook like a Roman: The New York Academy of Medicine’s Apicius Manuscript

By Anne Garner, Curator, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

This is one of several posts leading up to our day-long Eating Through Time Festival on October 17, 2015, a celebration of food, cookery, and health. View the full program and register for the Festival.

Ancient sources document the culinary excellence of one Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet who flourished during Tiberius’ reign (1st century CE). It isn’t clear from textual evidence that this Apicius ever wrote a book of cookery.1 And yet, the gem of our Library’s cookery collection—a 9th-century manuscript collection of Greek and Roman recipes—bears his name.

9th-century manuscript De re culininaria (sometimes De re coquinaria), attributed to Apicius.

9th-century manuscript De re culininaria (sometimes De re coquinaria), attributed to Apicius. Click to enlarge.

Our manuscript, transmitting a 4th– or 5th-century compendium of culinary and medical recipes compiled from a number of 2nd-century Roman sources, packs a powerful wow factor. It contains 500 Greek and Roman recipes from the Mediterranean basin. A handful may date as early as the 4th century BCE. As such, our manuscript is sometimes referred to as the oldest extant cookbook in the West.

This collection of recipes was likely compiled from multiple sources. The 2nd-century satirical writer Juvenal indicated that the name “Apicius” was frequently used to describe a foodie, not a specific person. Other sources suggest that the name conjured luxury and excessive eating.2

These recipes appear to be written by and for cooks. While some recipes called for cuts of meat that might have been beyond the means of the average Roman citizen, many others, including a number of meat, vegetable, and legume dishes, were well within the reach of Rome’s tradespeople, builders, artists, and modest farmers. Some of the recipes may have reflected popular dishes served in local popinae (street bars).

A closer look at book one reveals a wide range of useful directives applicable for the Mediterranean home cook. Called Epimeles (careful, or attentive), book one includes recipes for a spiced wine surprise, honeyed wine, and Roman absinthe. Here too are tips for preserving pork and beef rind, fried fish, blackberries, and truffles.

The dishes reflect the polyglot culture of the Mediterranean basin. The dominance of Greek culinary tradition in the early empire makes it likely that the Apicius began as a Greek collection of recipes, though mainly written in Latin, and adapted for a Roman palate.3 The cookbook incorporates a number of Greek terms, like melizomum (honey sauce) and hypotrimma (here a mixture of cheese and herbs), despite the existence of Latin glosses. Other words are hybrids of Greek and Latin, like tractogalatae, combining the Latin tractum (thin sheet of pastry) and gala, Greek for milk.

The Apicius manuscript is the gem of the Academy’s Margaret Barclay Wilson Collection of Cookery, acquired in 1929. Conservators restored and rebound it in 2006.

Our manuscript was penned in several hands in a mix of Anglo-Saxon and Carolingian scripts at the monastery at Fulda (Germany) around 830 CE. It is one of two manuscripts (the other at the Vatican) presumed to have been copied from a now lost common source.4

The gilt and illuminated Vatican manuscript of De re culininaria, as replicated in a 2013 facsimile.

The gilt and illuminated Vatican manuscript of De re culininaria, as replicated in a 2013 facsimile. Click to enlarge.

Images from both 9th-century iterations illustrate the different approaches to the text. The image above shows the gilt and illuminated Vatican manuscript, as replicated in a 2013 facsimile. Below is the Academy’s text. The number of cross-outs and the plain, unadorned style of the manuscript suggest it may have been a teaching tool for scribes.

The Academy’s unadorned 9th-century manuscript of De re culininaria. Click to enlarge.

The Academy’s unadorned 9th-century manuscript of De re culininaria. Click to enlarge.

Apicius has been a bestseller since the beginning of the print era, published in multiple editions since the 15th century. The Academy library holds many print editions, including two of the earliest.

This title page is from the earliest dated edition of the text, published in Milan in 1498. Pictured below is the device of the printer, La Signerre, who later set up shop in Rouen. Our copy is annotated by an early reader who adds the titles of the text’s ten books, grouped by type of dish.

Title page from the earliest dated edition of the De re culininaria, published in Milan in 1498.

Title page from the earliest dated edition of the De re culininaria, published in Milan in 1498. Click to enlarge.

The second earliest dated edition, printed in Venice, offers one of the earliest examples of a title page in printing history. It too is heavily annotated by an early food-lover, fluent in Greek and Latin.

Marginalia in our 1503 printed Apicius offers Greek glosses on Latin terms.

Marginalia in our 1503 printed Apicius offers Greek glosses on Latin terms.

Enthusiasts will find many other print descendants of this extraordinary manuscript in the Academy’s library.

The Apicius manuscript and a number of print editions of the text will be on display in the Academy Library’s Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room during our October 17th festival, Eating through Time. A complete schedule of events can be found here.

References

1. Mayo, H. (2008). “New York Academy of Medicine MS1 and the textual tradition of Apicius”. In Coulson, F. T., & Grotans, A., eds., Classica et Beneventana: Essays Presented to Virginia Brown on the Occasion of her 65th Birthday. Turnhout: Brepols. pp. 111–135.

2. Christopher Grocock and Sally Grainger, eds. Apicius. A Critical Edition with an Introduction and an English Translation of the Latin Recipe Text Apicius. Devon: Prospect, 2006. p. 35.

3. Grockock and Grainger, p. 17-20.

4. Mayo, p. 112.

Recipes for Cooking by Electricity (Item of the Month)

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

In 2015, our programming will focus on food, including a day-long festival on October 17. This is part of a series of blogs featuring the theme.

It’s difficult to imagine a modern kitchen without electric appliances. But in the early 1900s, most people had to be persuaded to use them—often unsuccessfully.

As Doreen Yarwood explains in An Encyclopaedia of the History of Technology, electric cookers made their debuts in the 1890s and catalogs started selling them by 1900. Still, people found them difficult to use. They were unreliable and often burnt out, they weren’t aesthetically pleasing, they were difficult to clean, and it was easy to burn yourself while using them. As so few people had electric current in their homes at the turn of the century, it’s not surprising that it took three more decades for electric cooking to become commonplace.1

But the New York Edison Company saw an opportunity. In 1911, it published Recipes for Cooking by Electricity, a slim cookbook that not only gave recipes (ranging in cost and complexity from toast to lobster a la Newburg), but also specified the cost of the electric current used. The cookbook also included a page with tips for the care of the electric appliances, such as not immersing the heating elements in water, cleaning a warm stove top with Vaseline, and keeping a coffee percolator “sweet and clean” by rinsing it with cold water after each use and boiling water with a tablespoon of baking soda in it each week. The cookbook concludes, “It is a simple thing to cook with electricity and the cost is surprisingly small.”2

Here are some sample recipes:

Toaster_watermarkLobster_watermarkBoiledEggs_watermarkCrullers_watermarkReferences

1. Yarwood, D. (2002). The Domestic Interior: Technology and the Home. In I. McNeil (Ed.), An Encyclopaedia of the History of Technology. London: Routledge.

2. New York Edison Company. (1911). Recipes for cooking by electricity. New York: Edison Company.

Canapé Parade

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

Thanksgiving means many things: spending time with family, reflecting on what you’re thankful for, looking back at American history. But the essence of the holiday can be stated in three words: food, football, and parades.

Our collection contains a whimsical pamphlet that combines two of the three (sorry, football fans): “Canapé Parade: 100 Hors d’Oeuvre Recipes,” published in 1932. (We have the fourth printing, from November of that year.)

The cover of Canapé Parade. Click to enlarge.

The cover of Canapé Parade.

The personality-filled canapés from the cover reappear throughout the pamphlet, illustrating recipes like bloater paste, Japanese crabmeat, herring, and marrons in brandy. Unfortunately, the pamphlet does not credit the illustrator.

None of the recipes specify ingredient amounts, “as the consistency and proportion of ingredients used will vary according to the individual palate.” The recipes take a semi-homemade approach, adding minimal fresh items to packaged food before spreading on crackers. The cookbook also advises that “the majority of these hors d’oeuvres also make excellent sandwich fillings to be served between thinly sliced bread at afternoon tea or buffet suppers.”

Enjoy the recipes on parade below (click to enlarge and view the gallery):

For more traditional Thanksgiving recipes, read Thanksgiving, 1914 Style.

Thanksgiving, 1914 Style

By Rebecca Pou, Archivist, and Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

Still working on your Thanksgiving Day food planning? How about recreating a menu published 100 years ago?

In The Calendar of Dinners: A Daily Blessing to the Housekeeper, author Kate S. Teetshorn recommends a meal for every day of 1914, including Thanksgiving. Each menu is accompanied by a recipe or two. Recipes for some of the Thanksgiving menu suggestions are found on other days of the year, but unfortunately, she doesn’t include recipes to go along with all the recommendations (know how to make hot butter thins? Please tell us. They sound delicious). 

November 26, Thanksgiving Day

Below are additional recipes she provides, some that sound appropriate to the holiday or similar to the recommended dishes, and a closing poem.

 

Hungry for more? Check out this pumpkin pie recipe from 1804. We bet it would go well with ginger ice cream, as Teetshorn recommends.

Mother Eve’s Pudding Redux

Image

By Erin Albritton, Head of the Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory

Last month, we kicked off National Poetry Month by sharing a rhyming recipe for Eve’s Pudding from our manuscript collection. Although charming, the recipe lacked the level of specificity to which most modern cooks have become accustomed. To solve this problem, cooking teacher and food historian Steve Schmidt (who will be delivering NYAM’s Friends of the Rare Book Room lecture on May 23rd) was kind enough to send along the following adaptation, together with a recipe for Cold Sweet Sauce that is scrumptious when drizzled over the top:

For the pudding:
3/4 cup (3 ounces) fine dry bread crumbs, plus a handful for coating the basin or bowl
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 medium (about 1 1/4 pounds) firm, dry apples, such as Golden Delicious
2/3 cup (3 ounces) currants
3 large eggs, beaten until light and frothy
6 Tbsp (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp strained fresh lemon juice

For the Cold Sweet Sauce:
1 stick of butter
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1-2 Tbsp of brandy or lemon juice
A pinch of nutmeg

Very generously grease a 5- to 6-cup heatproof bowl or pudding basin with butter or solid vegetable shortening. Sprinkle the inside of the bowl with a handful of dry bread crumbs, tilt the bowl in all directions until coated and then tap the excess crumbs out.

Mix the 3/4 cup crumbs, sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Peel the apples and grate on the shredding plate of a box grater down to the cores. Stir the apples and currants into the crumb mixture, then the beaten eggs, then the melted butter and lemon juice. Pack the mixture into the prepared bowl, cover tightly with foil, set an upside-down plate on top of the foil, and steam the pudding for 3 hours in sufficient simmering water to reach halfway up the sides of the bow

While the pudding is steaming, make sauce by melting butter and whisking in sugar, brandy and nutmeg. Remove the pudding from the pot and let rest 15 minutes before unmolding. Drizzle (or drench!) with sauce and enjoy.

Below is a photo essay documenting one staff member’s kitchen adventure making this recipe (click to enlarge and open photo gallery). The next time you’ve got a couple of hours and find yourself craving a delicious dessert (with a bit of history), give Eve’s Pudding a try . . . you’ll be glad you did!

Mother Eve’s Pudding

By Rebecca Pou, Project Archivist

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we are sharing a poem from our collection each week during April. With the support of the Pine Tree Foundation of New York, we are currently cataloging our manuscript recipe collection, which is the source of our first poem. The rhyming recipe was in both English and American cookbooks through the end of the nineteenth century, but this particular version is most likely from the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

To try out a modern take on this recipe, see “Mother Eve’s Pudding Redux.”

A recipe in verse for Mother Eve’s Pudding, late 18th-century.

To Make Mother Eves Pudding

To make a good Pudding pray mind what your taught

Take two penny worth of Eggs when twelve for a groat

Six ounces of bread Let Moll eat the Crust

The Crumb must be grated as small as the Dust

Take of the same Fruit that Eve once Cozen

Well pared and Chop’d at Least half Dozen

Six ounces of Currans from the Grit you must sort

Least they break out your teeth and spoil all the Sport

Six ounces of Sugar wont make it to sweet

Some Salt and a nutmeg will make Compleat

Three Hours it must boil without any Flutter

Nor is it Quite Finished without melted Butter