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The Cookbook Library: Four Centuries of the Cooks, Writers, and Recipes That Made the Modern Cookbook Hardcover – Apr 2 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (April 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520244001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520244009
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 3.2 x 27.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #377,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“A wonderfully researched and beautifully illustrated work, "The Cookbook Library" is at once an engaging read and an invaluable resource for anyone passionate about food and food history.”
(Los Angeles Times Book Review 2012-05-06)

“A wonderfully researched and beautifully illustrated work . . . an invaluable resource for anyone passionate about food and food history.”
(Noelle Carter Los Angeles Times 2012-05-06)

“A treat for food lovers, with rich illustrations to add a visual dimension to the description of Willan’s colossal library.”
(Times Literary Supplement (TLS) 2012-03-30)

“For years or decades to come, this beautiful volume is going to be an indispensable resource for readers and researchers in love with the history of cookbooks. . . . Belongs in any real cookbook lover's library.”
(Anne Mendelson Zester Daily 2012-04-25)

“The Cookbook Library is a treat for food lovers, with rich illustrations to add a visual dimension to the description of Willan’s colossal library.”
(William Sitwell Times Literary Supplement 2012-03-30)

“Whether it was the medieval spice trade (when a pound of nutmeg was worth seven fat oxen) or the 16th-century sugar rush (coinciding with colonial expansion), Western history lies in these ancient recipes.”
(Craig Laban, Inquirer Restaurant Critic Philadelphia Inquirer 2012-03-18)

“If you really love cookbooks (or books in general) and you love history, this is a book you have to read.”
(Los Angeles Times 2012-04-25)

“Absorbing ragout of serious history, beautiful coffee-table book and practical kitchen guide.”
(Scotsman 2012-05-26)

“A wonderfully researched and beautifully illustrated work, "The Cookbook Library" is at once an engaging read and an invaluable resource for anyone passionate about food and food history.”
(St Paul Pioneer-Press 2012-05-23)

"An inspiring and informative read."
(Santé 2012-06-01)

From the Inside Flap

“Collecting cookbooks is an exciting, provoking, challenging, and rewarding passion. In The Cookbook Library, Anne Willan gives us a fascinating collection of stories and recipes from European and early American historical cookbooks. It is a must for anyone interested in culinary history.” —Jacques Pepin, author of Essential Pepin

“Anyone who cares about cooking will care deeply about what Anne Willan has to tell us about its history as it was set down centuries ago and passed on to us through the rare cookbooks she and her husband have collected and cherished for almost fifty years. With great intelligence and tremendous charm, Willan helps us to understand where recipes came from, who created them, who cooked them, who recorded them, who ate what was recorded and in what fashion. It is a delicious history that, like all good histories—and good stories—illuminates the present.” —Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table

“It is evident even from the first page that this is a book every serious foodie will need to own, consult, and use with pleasure and profit, and remarkable that the authors have written a volume that is both scholarly and so much fun to read.” —Paul Levy, author of The Official Foodie Handbook

“Forty-five years in the making, this volume was worth the wait. In The Cookbook Library Anne Willan and Mark Cherniavsky draw on their fine personal collection to illuminate the art, science, and importance of early cookbooks. It is a pleasurable read, filled with history, lore, recipes, and illustrations in a superb presentation. It will be an unequaled reference work for historians, bibliophiles, culinarians, and collectors.” —Jan Longone, Curator of American Culinary History, Clements Library, University of Michigan

“Anne Willan and Mark Cherniavsky love cookbooks and live among thousands of them. It’s a great gift to us that they’ve now shared their world-class collection and all of its delights. In The Cookbook Library, they take you on a fascinating journey from medieval kitchens through the nineteenth century. It’s the perfect book for anyone interested in food history.” —Amanda Hesser, cofounder of

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Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa3c0f048) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3c42be8) out of 5 stars Excellent book. Highly recommended! May 21 2012
By Cookpastry - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book jacket calls The Cookbook Library "a deeply personal labor of love." That this book is indeed a labor of love will quickly become apparent to all who open its pages. It is a beautiful tribute to cookbooks and is hugely informative. The authors own thousands of cookbooks, and I gather this book started out as a pet project to catalog their vast collection. As it turned out, they were generous enough to spend what I'm sure took many years fine-tuning their knowledge and putting it into this volume so that they could share their collection with others.

You can feel the author's love of these books as you read The Cookbook Library, and you can quickly see why they love their cookbooks as much as they do: these old books are charming, funny, and revelatory in equal parts. Reading this book is like walking through a great museum - there are tons of pictures, great captions, and the whole experience provides you with an excellent overview of the history of eating and cookbooks that has led to the oh-so-obsessed foodie culture of today.

You can dig in as deep as you wish by reading the book cover to cover (it is divided into chapters by century, from medieval times through the 19th Century), or you can casually read through the book by enjoying the photos, or skimming the many text boxes on subjects like women's role in the kitchen, mealtimes, foods for fast days, medicine in the home kitchen, etc; or by cooking through the several dozen early recipes.

The recipes are one of the best parts of this book. Original recipes are reproduced, along with adaptations for the modern kitchen, and it is fascinating to see how James Beard Award winner Anne Willan has transformed them for us to use today. Early recipes with baffling instructions such as "use some sugar" (how much?) and "cook it the right way" (which way?) become, under Willan's masterful command, not only clear but also inviting. Making the jump from the original recipes to Willan's adaptations not only assures the reader that he is in the hands of a master, but also teaches us more about how to think intuitively in the kitchen. What a great challenge it would be to try to make the recipes ourselves without reading Willan's modern versions, and to see how well we do!

Aside from being a history of cookbooks, The Cookbook Library feels like an ode to the whole industry of printing that has brought our society so far. In an age of e-this and digital that, I'm glad that I can pick up this beautiful book, feel the weight of its binding, smell the pages... Let's hope that printing is here to stay for many years to come.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3c4500c) out of 5 stars Interesting but not mainstream Feb. 15 2013
By Autamme_dot_com - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The cookbook has an illustrious past, yet for many centuries such cookbooks were not ordinarily in the reach of the common person. Today cookbooks can act as a historical guide, showing changing culinary tastes and even the migration of different cultures. It is a lot more than just a collection of recipes.

This book is truly a work of love, reflecting the authors love and passion for cookbooks, looking at four centuries of European and early American cuisine through the eyes of the printed word. In more recent times the cookbook has become more democratised, more personalised, more stylised, a transformation from a book of learning and education to often a more coffee-table, lifestyle affair, accessible by the masses rather than just by the master classes.

Technological advances today mean that cookbooks can be something that nobody could have imagined even 100 years ago. Full colour photographs, adventurous layouts and even online resources. Yet the dependence on seasonal produce and the need to preserve ingredients has fallen away thanks to the same technological improvements. The world has became a lot smaller, tastes have changed and on the whole we have a more harmonised, international diet than perhaps people could have ever imagined. Old cookbooks help show the same changes in society, in attitudes, in ingredients and of course in the preparation of food.

This is a heavy-going book due to the sheer mass of information being presented. Yet the authors have done well to make it relatively accessible to the reader. It is a fascinating walk through history and you can really immerse yourself in the book and soon wonder where the time has gone! Many images and reproductions are taken from these old works to help set the scene and provide further illumination. There are even some old recipes, in their original form, should you wish to try and recreate an old recipe or two.

As befitting an academic work, there is a mass of notes and an extensive bibliography at the end of the book. That said, a great balancing act has been reached in making this a comprehensive academic work and a book that the interested amateur can read without any compromise being a necessary evil. Sadly the price of this book will make it unaffordable for many potential interested readers, yet the book does not feel expensive when you consider its unique, quality, informative nature. A lover of history, food and cookery books will find this a treasured, different, valuable addition to their collection. If you are just looking for old recipes or a guide to recreating older dishes then this book is not for you, yet for those interested in food, cooking, history and even sociological change this would be worthy of consideration.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3c45084) out of 5 stars Great read Nov. 16 2013
By Pamela Fawcett - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brilliant. a great study of by gone era and bringing cooking to the front! The old recipes were fantastic and I just had to try them out in the modern day kitchen.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3c42e10) out of 5 stars Fascinating History of cooks and cooking Jan. 4 2013
By Marie C. Majumdar - Published on
Format: Hardcover
How our tastes evolved over time as seen through the writings of cooks. very interesting - a fun read and fun to dip in and out of different sections of the book.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3c4554c) out of 5 stars Historically Delicious Oct. 10 2012
By Bookworm - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a fun read and very interesting. The recipes are pretty good, but could use a little more explanation. It took another historic cookbook to find a description of verjuice (it is juice made from unripened fruit--less acidic than vinegar). I am using some of the recipes for a themed medieval dinner and am looking forward to hosting damsels and knights!

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