Sandy’s cooknote: This article was written in the 1990s when there were a lot more used bookstores than there are today. It has given me so much grief to go to visit a favorite used bookstore and find its been replaced with a furniture store. Consequently, today, I buy most of my pre-owned cookbooks from an internet website, such as Alibris.com and Amazon.com. I also resort to finding a lot of my pre-owned cookbooks at Friends of the Library book sales.
The following was written around 1994:
Within our world of cookbook collecting, possibly nothing creates more heated debate than the subject of the value of cookbooks and possibly topping the list may be books on the subject of the value of cookbooks.
Having said that, let me say that I had read and propose to review without bias the book COOKBOOKS WORTH COLLECTING BY Mary Barile Published by Wallace-Homestead Cook Company, in 1994.
As cookbook collectors, you may know, reference books on the Subject of cookbook collecting are a double edged-butter knife. It’s fun to read through books like these and sometimes we find references to books that we have in our collection. The downside is that every used book dealer is certain to buy the reference books too, and they price the books on their shelves accordingly.
What this means is that cookbooks are often greatly overpriced and you are less likely to find used cookbooks in book stores at reasonable, fair prices.
This is not to say that you won’t find the bargains in your search for cookbook treasures. Years ago, I found a #1 Bake Off book at a rummage sale in Palm Springs—and bought it for $1.00! I didn’t find it in a bookstore – and the seller’s folding table was filled with boxes of cookbooklets and pamphlets, marked 50 cents each. I almost didn’t buy it when the seller said “Oh, I need a dollar for that one”. I almost balked—I don’t approve of that kind of salesmanship. But I bought that one and two others for $2.00 and it wasn’t until I was back in the car with my sister Becky that I took a look at what I had bought and I realized I had a #1 bake off book. (I’m sure you must all know, there isn’t anything on the cover indicating it’s the first one. Pillsbury didn’t know what they had started. It was the only bake off book I needed to complete my collection; I would have even purchased a facsimile edition if Pillsbury had published one. Now we are up to something like #45. As for the bake off booklet, I have seen #1 listed at different prices ranging from $50 to $75.00—and no, I would never have paid seventy five dollars for a cookbooklet. I don’t think I would spend that much on ANY cookbook.
I do find much of the text in Mary Barile’s COOKBOOKS WORTH COLLECTING to be informative and helpful—if you just focus on the TEXT and what she is sharing with you, and not on how much a cookbook in your collection might be worth—you’ll find it a good book to have. I’ve also found references to books I’ve never seen or heard of before which inspires me to keep searching. There were even a couple of rhymed recipes, taken from community cookbooks, that I wish I had had when I was working on an article on that subject.
(*Sandy’s cooknote Rhymed recipes and kitchen-related poetry has been a pet project of mine for many years—I finally collected enough to do a series on this blog titled The Kitchen Poets. There are ten parts to the series).
COOKBOOKS WORTH C0LLECTING is interesting and well done. Like all cookbook reference books, you must take it all with grain of salt—keeping in mind that price lists are, or perhaps should be, GUIDES and aren’t cast in stone. Also keep[ in mind when you buy a cookbook reference compilation that the featured books are usually the personal property of the writer and generally not for sale. Virtually everything I write in Sandychatter is based from books in my own collection.
State the publishers, “Whether you’re a chef, bibliophile, collector, historian or simply a cookbook lover, you’ll enjoy this guide to collectible cookbooks…it takes a look at the history of cookbooks from ancient Rome to colonial America to the nineteenth century. Charity and fundraising cookbooks as well as ephemera and related items are also discussed.
There are over 100 black and white photographs with detailed captions…over a thousand captions…over a thousand listings include bibliographic information and current values.
Mary Barile specializes in recreating menus and dishes from America’s past for historical societies and serves as food editor for Kaatskill Life magazine*. She is also the editor of JUST COOKBOOKS, for which I couldn’t find any references on either Amazon or Alibris.
(*Sandy’s cooknote: There is a Kaatskill Life Magazine, a quarterly that has been published since 1986. I don’t know if Mary Barile is still writing for the magazine).
But I could have had a field day ordering other books from Amazon—on the page featuring Mary Barile’s COOKBOOKS WORTH COLLECTING (which you can purchase on Amazon.com for $1.24, pre-owned,) while Alibris.com doesn’t have any of her books—however! I saw the following titles listed on Amazon:
Vintage cookbooks and Advertising leaflets, lowest price $9.56
Price Guide to Cookbooks and Recipe Leaflets, Linda Dickinson, paperback copy starting at 1 cent,
Guide to Collecting Cookbooks, Colonel Bob Allen
Collectors Guide to Cookbooks. Identification and Values.
So, you can assume—there are books of this genre to be had but you might have to do some detective work finding them.
Happy Cooking & Happier cookbook collecting!