Food History Resources

Last year, as a project for one of my library science classes, I created a Food History LibGuide that brought together a collection of online resources for food history. I have since found myself referring back to it many times as I search for recipes for this blog. However, since my LibGuide was a student project, it is hosted on the school’s server and is not viewable by the public. I decided to recreate parts of it here, with a list of helpful resources from around the web. I will come back to this page to update it as I find more.

Cookbooks and Home Economics Collection

This is a collection of over 10,000 digitized cookbooks hosted by the Internet Archive. It includes collections from UCLA, UC Berkeley, and the Prelinger Library, ranging from the 16th century to the present day.

Cookery and Culture Digital Collection

A digital collection of cookbooks from Utah State University, ranging from the 16th to 20th centuries.

Early American Cookbooks

A collection of 1,450 cookbooks published in the United States between 1800 and 1920.

Early English Books Online

A partnership between Proquest and dozens of academic libraries with over 70,000 transcribed texts from the 15th to 18th centuries. A subject search for “cookery” will retrieve all cookbook results.

Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection

A special collection at the Library of Congress, containing hundreds of volumes of European cookbooks from the 16th to 19th centuries. Some of the materials have been digitized and are available online.

EUVS Digital Collection

An online collection of bartending books from the 1820s through the 1940s.

Feeding America

A digital archive of 76 of the most important and influential American cookbooks from Michigan State University’s collection, ranging from the late 18th to early 20th century. Although some of these cookbooks are available elsewhere, the Feeding America archive is useful because it allows full text searching and includes introductory essays for each book.

Google Books Advanced Search

This is by far the resource that I use the most. Google Books has thousands of digitized cookbooks available for free. Since you can search the full text, it is an incredibly useful tool for finding recipes for specific dishes. I generally enter the subject “cooking” in my searches to narrow the results to cookbooks, but it can also be interesting to leave it out and see what other sources mention particular types of food. You can also narrow the search to specific years if you’re looking for a certain time period.

Hearth: Home Economics Archive

This is a digital collection of books and journals in Home Economics and related disciplines from Cornell University, ranging in date from 1850 to 1950. I’ve mostly used this to browse Good Housekeeping magazines – they have every issue from 1885 to 1950. Nearly every issue contains recipes, as well as lots of fun vintage housekeeping advice.

Katherine Golden Bitting Collection

A special collection at the Library of Congress, containing thousands of publications and manuscripts on gastronomy from the 15th through 20th centuries. Some of the materials have been digitized and are available online.

Library of Congress Research Guide – Community Cookbooks

This collection includes digitized community cookbooks ranging from 1864 to 1922.

Manuscript Cookbooks Survey

An ongoing project, this site is a database of pre-1865 manuscript cookbooks held in U.S. public institutions.

National Library of Scotland Manuscript Recipe Books Collection

This collection includes 42 manuscript recipe books (handwritten cookbooks) ranging in date from 1600 to the present day. Although the handwriting can sometimes be difficult to read, manuscript cookbooks offer insight into the lives of ordinary people and cooks.

Nova Scotia Archives – Digitized Cookbooks

A small collection of 17 digitized cookbooks from the Nova Scotia Archives Library and the Nova Scotia Museum Library, ranging from 1820 to 1943.

Szathmary Recipe Pamphlets

A digitized collection of recipe pamphlets from the University of Iowa, ranging from the late 19th century to the present day with a particular focus on the period 1910-1940.

What America Ate

Another online archive from Michigan State University, this is an absolutely fantastic resource for food history of the 1920s and 1930s. It includes original source materials from the WPA America Eats project, over 200 community cookbooks, and a collection of rare advertisements, pamphlets, recipe leaflets, and food packaging materials. It also has advanced search capabilities and allows full-text searching.