Blanche Legat Leigh, Lady Mayoress of Leeds in 1936, presented her collection of more than 1,500 historic cookery books to the University Library in 1939. Her gift inspired John F. Preston to donate his own collection of 600 books on food and cookery in the 1960s.
With further bequests and acquisitions, the Cookery Collection has grown in scope and content and is now one of the most significant held in Special Collections at the University of Leeds. In 2005 it was recognised as being of national importance and awarded Designation status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
Cooks, compilers and collectors have all contributed to this outstanding bibliographic resource for food enthusiasts. However, the Victorian culinary entrepreneur Mrs A.B. Marshall was of the opinion that, “cookery being a practical art, no perfect cook was ever yet made from mere book study.”
Galleries Assistant Manager Laura Beare talks about these and her other favourite books in the collection at Museum Crush
A Taste of Leeds
Lecture and lunch
Tuesday 23 January 2018
Food historian Peter Brears reveals the contrasting diets of Leeds’ social and occupational groups in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, from the starvation diets of the poor to the great banquets of the wealthy. Peter has advised organisations such as English Heritage and the National Trust about historic food and kitchens and has published widely on the subject of food history. Following the talk you will have the opportunity to view the exhibition, ‘Cooks and their Books: Collecting Cookery Books in Leeds’ before a two-course Yorkshire-themed lunch at University House.
Tickets cost £20 per person. To book your place visit alumni.leeds.ac.uk/tasteofleeds or call 0113 343 6723
1. Bartolomeo Scappi –
Opera dell’arte del cucinare
Bartolomeo Scappi served as chef to several cardinals, and subsequently for Popes Pius IV and V in the Vatican in Rome. His monumental treatise on the art of cookery was intended to inform his apprentice, Giovanni, and was the first to present cooking instructions and techniques in print and with illustrations. It reflects medieval tastes and cooking habits but incorporates ingredients, like sugar (which even features as a pizza topping with pine nuts and rosewater), newly-arrived from the New World. While Scappi was busy cooking in the Vatican kitchen, Michelangelo Buonarroti would have been working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel nearby.
2. A.W. –
A Book of Cookrye
The development of printing and growing literacy saw a proliferation in printed cookery books in the sixteenth century. The recipes in this book by an unknown author are short, with little detail on cooking times, temperatures or amounts. The only surviving copy of the 1584 first edition – containing the first recorded use of the term ‘fines herbes’ – is also in Leeds’ Special Collections. The second edition pictured above added sweet dishes, and contains the handwritten inscription “Picked up in Sandwich and rebound by Father for Emily.” Who Emily was, and whether she used the book for practical purposes, is unknown.
3. Charles Carter –
The Compleat Practical Cook
The son of a cook, Charles Carter cooked for leading soldiers and diplomats serving Queen Anne in Berlin, Hanover, The Hague, Flanders, Spain and Portugal. He claimed to be able “in no mean way … to surpass a French Cook.” His book is arranged in chapters following the order in which dishes were usually consumed at dinner, which makes its comprehensive index extremely useful. It also includes a glossary of the continental cookery terms used throughout the book. The outstanding feature of this volume, however, is its series of 59 engraved table settings, of which he was particularly proud.
4. Antonin Carême –
Le Pâtissier Royal Parisien
Carême’s monumental table centrepieces, or pièces montées, the showstoppers of their day, marked the blossoming of the craft of the confectioner into fine art in the nineteenth century. Turned out of his home as a child, Carême began an apprenticeship in a modest cookshop at the age of 10, was subsequently employed by M. Bailly, one of the leading Parisian pâtissiers, and would go on to prepare technical masterpieces for Napoleon’s table, as well as the Prince Regent, Tsar Alexander and Baron de Rothschild. His detailed recipes in Le Pâtissier remained highly influential over the following century.
5. Isabella Beeton –
The Book of Household Management
Despite her great reputation as a cook and housekeeper, Mrs Beeton was essentially a compiler and editor working for her publisher husband Sam. Her great achievement was the compilation of some 1,700 recipes into an accessible form we would recognise today, alongside paragraphs on the history, natural history and facts regarding the raw foodstuffs or individual dishes and numerous illustrations. This book was a comprehensive manual, also containing information for the mistress of a middle-class house on managing servants, raising children, caring for the sick, and dealing with legal matters.
6. A.B. Marshall –
Mrs Marshall was THE celebrity chef of the 1890s. Her books, cookery school, demonstrations and weekly paper, The Table, instructed the booming middle classes in fine cookery. Mrs Marshall earned the nickname the ‘Queen of Ices’ for her writing on ice cream and other frozen desserts. She was granted a patent for a machine that could freeze a pint of ice-cream in five minutes and proposed the use of liquid nitrogen in the process. The success of her books resulted in an increased demand in Victorian London for imported Norwegian ice.