Household Books Published in Britain: V2 - 1700-1800 (VM)


Original Printed Text:

Short-title Catalogue of Household and Cookery Books published in the English Tongue 1700- 1800 (London: Prospect Books, 1982)

With the ever-increasing interest, both popular and academic, in the history of food, cookery, household management, and also gastronomy, especially among undergraduate and postgraduate students compiling major or minor dissertations on these subjects by topic or period, there is a parallel need for research tools, such as short-title catalogues or bibliographies, which can provide research-workers with essential information, including the whereabouts of books or special editions of books they wish to consult. This work was suggested by the experience of the present compiler, who found, when carrying out research for a book on the eighteenth century,1 that the four main bibliographies on cookery and household management were either inadequate or defective or both. Firstly, they are spoiled by factual errors (which have been perpetuated in recent 'reprints'), and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they all omit the sort of practical information which all researchers require, such as locations of first editions and (where applicable) any or all subsequent editions. The four main bibliographies are:

  1. BITTING, Katherine Golden, Gastronomic Bibliography, San Francisco, 1939; reprinted Ann Arbor, 1971
  2. OXFORD, Arnold Whitaker, English Cookery Books to the year 1850, London, 1913; reprinted London, 1977
  3. SIMON, André Louis, Bibliotheca Gastronomica, London, 1953; reprinted London, 1978
  4. VICAIRE, Georges, Bibliographic Gastronomique, Paris, 1890, reprinted London, 1954 and 1978

It is too easy to criticize other works, especially pioneer works such as Vicaire, who made the first major attempt to give a full description of cookery books; but all of them blighted their fine efforts with careless mistakes, and not one made any real attempt to list the various editions of each book or, as a consequence, to state where all such editions were located. All four were mainly concerned to compile catalogues of their private collections, to which they added extra information, often in a haphazard fashion, and the result of this approach has been the publication of what appear to be reference works of a general character, which in fact are of a particular and narrower interest. This is also true of other bibliographers in the same field, who have published catalogues of private collections, or have extracted items from Bitting, Oxford, Simon, and Vicaire to produce what seem to be general reference works, but are no more than consolidations of selections from narrow publications with, in many cases, the errors of the originals left uncorrected. In defence of the four main bibliographers (and any others who were, or still are, concerned only with their private collections), the locations of their books were (or still are) their own homes, and there was no need to state the obvious. On the other hand, few books in the main four bibliographers' collections were first editions, and for the majority of their entries there was a need to say where uncollected first or other editions were to be found for consultation, because each of them gave his or her work a title which more than implied that the work's coverage was wide and comprehensive. The only way in which all four were comprehensive was in not limiting their interests to one century or (with the exception of Oxford) one language. Of the four, only two are frequently used by cataloguers as reference works for books that were published in the English tongue–Bitting and Oxford; and for the purpose of this work the practice is continued so that the reader has two bibliographies which are still in print and readily available in leading libraries for consultation.

Having encountered some of the ways in which existing bibliographies can mislead or fail to provide sufficient or accurate data for research workers, the present compiler decided to compile, to the best of her ability, a working 'tool' for others doing research in the field of food, cookery, household management and also gastronomy in the eighteenth century, and that the best way of attempting to achieve this main aim was to have several secondary aims. These are:

  1. Giving works or subsequent editions which have never been listed before, by using sources, such as magazines and newspapers, which previous cataloguers have ignored.
  2. Correcting or amending, wherever possible, the errors of previous cataloguers and bibliographers.
  3. Giving locations for the earliest known editions of all eighteenth century works in the field and (where appropriate) locations for all discoverable later editions published in the eighteenth century.
  4. Giving sources for the existence of works for which locations could not be found, and the same for later editions.
  5. Including under entries, whenever appropriate, 'Notes' on sources or matters of interest, such as possible or actual plagiarism, or comments on authors.
  6. Ensuring, as far as possible, that every cookery book and household work in the English tongue, wherever published, was listed in the short-title catalogue. However, one special exception has been made concerning the 'rule' about works being in the English tongue, and that is Dr Martin Lister's Latin edition of the classic book on cookery by the Roman cook Apicius. To have omitted such an influential work, which is still being reprinted, was unthinkable.

It is a cliche, but as soon as the matter of selection arose after the initial survey of other catalogues and checklists, the present compiler was faced with every bibliographer's and cataloguer's dilemma: what to put in, and what to leave out. Compilers of cookery and household works in the eighteenth century maintained the practice of their predecessors and included in their books, either as an integral part or as a supplement or as an 'addition' in a later edition, one or more sections on medical self-help, under headings which were invariably entitled 'Every man his own doctor' or 'Every woman her own doctor' or very similar words. Where these medical receipts were an integral part of a cookery or household work there was no dilemma; all such works were selected for inclusion. As the century progressed, however, and as the disgusting 'old wives' cures' were displaced by the results of improved medical training, more and more books were produced which were devoted solely to home medication, and many of these were far too technical or specialized to be understood by ordinary housewives. Many of these works had titles which suggested that they were intended as lay guides for families who were isolated or could not readily gain the services of qualified physicians and surgeons, but their inclusion in this short-title catalogue could not be justified. There were others solely devoted to home medication, such as the work of Dr William Buchan, which had been carefully prepared for the ordinary housewife, and were household works, and these have been included.

The same dilemma applied to drink, which in this century is treated as a separate subject and is not thought of in relation to cookery or household matters. Many eighteenth-century cookery books, however, did contain one or more sections on brewing ale and making all kinds of wine. In a century when potable water, even in flat rural areas let alone towns, was a rarity, due to the pollution of slow-moving rivers by cattle and human beings and bad sanitation generally, the brewing of ale in homes and making stocks of wines as various fruits and flowers came into season were necessities, not luxuries, and housewives were just as interested in the quality of drink as they were in the quality of food. So, where drink-making was an integral part of a cookery or household work, there was no difficulty; it has been included. Where books were solely devoted to brewing or wine-making, a selection of the better-known (or rather, better-advertised) works was taken for inclusion in the catalogue, and those which were deliberately written as household books, such as the works of Samuel Child, appear in their own right. Border-line cases on drink concern those books and pamphlets which were mainly inspired by xenophobia in wartime, when the authors set out to persuade their readers that English-made wines could be just as good, if not better, than French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian products, and said as much on their title-pages. These publications probably had a good sale as special household works, and so a small selection of these has been included as well. Books on spirits presented a problem, but some of them can be classed as special household works which dealt with the acceptance or rejection of certain types of food and drink as a means of becoming or remaining healthy, or as a way of prolonging life. Books on the use and abuse of tea, coffee, cocoa, and white bread fall into the same broad classification of special household works- diet and regimen—and, again, a small selection of these (and vegetarian) works has been included. Bread, as the main staple, also had obvious and particular importance at times of scarcity or high prices or both, and during such times, especially in the last decade of the century, books and pamphlets appeared suggesting cheap meat dishes and soups as alternatives to bread for the hard-hit labouring classes. Moreover, these works contain some of the rare examples of receipts for large-scale cookery and catering, and their inclusion is justified for this reason alone.

Too little is known about large-scale cookery in the eighteenth century. Not one book, for instance, has been found which deals with cooking for the Army or Navy because, perhaps, food for both services was funded out of allowances made to regimental or ship's commanders, whose paymasters or pursers were keen to show a 'profit' out of those allowances, and did not wish to publicize the sort of economies in catering which made such profits possible. The Spithead Naval Mutiny of 1797 and, obviously, the Cardwell Army Reforms of 1868 to 1871 came too late for any eighteenth-century writer to investigate the victual-ling and catering deficiencies in the forces. Mention of the army proper is a reminder of another 'army'; the army of domestic servants, which greatly exceeded the total number of peacetime soldiers and sailors. It has been estimated by reliable sources, including Lord North, the Prime Minister, and Patrick Colquhoun, the famous London magistrate, that in London alone in the second half of the century there were between 80,000 and 100,000 male servants and almost the same number of female servants, or that one in eight of the city's population was in domestic service; with one in eleven of the population for England as a whole.2 On these grounds, any work dealing with the training, control, or complaints of servants could be regarded as a household work, and a selection of them has been included in the catalogue. The best known, perhaps, is Dean Jonathan Swift's ironic Directions to Servants, which was intended to shame them out of bad habits.

Lastly, a very small number of works have been selected for inclusion which must be classed as miscellaneous, among them books devoted to one item of food (for example, herrings) and a few poems, mostly satires on food or cookery, and one on whisky.3

Notes and References

  1. Virginia E. Maclean, Much Entertainment : A Visual and Culinary Record of Johnson and Boswell 's Tour of Scotland in 1773, London and New York, 1973.
  2. J. Jean Hecht, The Domestic Servant Class in Eighteenth-Century England, London, 1965, pp. 33-4.
  3. William McVitie, Whisky: a Poem, Edinburgh, 1795. It seems odd that a Scot should publish such a scathing attack on whisky in this period, when distillers, using wartime anti-French feeling to denigrate brandy and claret as the household favourites of the upper and middling classes, were trying hard for the first time (with considerable advertising) to promote whisky as the spirit for the discerning Englishman, who had hitherto regarded it as the drink of the Scottish poor or, worse, as the beverage of the barbaric Highlanders.