Last modified Tuesday, 10 May 2011 at exactly 9:05:05 am PDT in San Diego, California
And Grandmother. And Great-Grandmother. And Great-Great-Grandmother. And so on...
Thanks to modern technology, many long-forgotten cookbooks from the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries (and some even older) are now available for the 21st Century public.
The Archive.org and GoogleBooks projects have scanned images of these original books and placed them online for free viewing. Most book files can also be downloaded in PDF format. The downloaded files make it easier to access, compared to having dozens of bookmarked favorites in a browser. If you're like me, your need bookmarks for your oodles of browser bookmarks!!
However, having to open and read through 50 or more PDF files can be tedious. The Archive.org book format, which has features like a regular book, even to page flipping, is one of the best I've seen. I prefer it to GoogleBooks' viewer. And, fortunately, many of GoogleBooks' holdings can be searched and viewed through Archive.org. (Though I don't know why, I've found in GoogleBooks' holdings, many illustrated books have their illustrations omitted in the online viewer, yet are complete with images when viewed in PDF version.)
Best yet, Archive.org allows embedding the entire book's images onto personal websites. Thus, I decided to construct this website as a repository for cookbooks I've found there. Archive.org's search feature isn't perfect—cookbooks can be hidden under different searches such as "cookery," "cooking," "cookbook," "cook book," "receipts," "recipe," "foods," "eating," and even "housewife" and "housekeeping." So, even if you have previously viewed cookbooks through searching Archive.org, you may find books here that you missed. Also, vintage receipts are included in most vintage Home Economics, Home Canning, and Home Gardening books.
At the left are links to these cookbooks, that will take you back in time. Besides the still-popular foods, such as strawberry jam or blueberry muffins, there are the not-so-common dishes (bet you always wanted to make eel pie!). You'll find a treasury of archaic or now seldom-used cooking terms. Did you know Peter Piper picked two gallons of pickled peppers? A peck is equivalent to two gallons. And a gill, now just used to measure alcoholic drinks in Great Britain, used to be a common measurement in cooking, about 4 ounces. Besides many vintage cookbooks giving their own explanation of cooking terms for their era, EarthlyPursuits.com has a page on vintage Cooking Terms and Tips.
There are numerous receipts, which is an old term for what is now called recipe, quite commonly used until about the 1920s, although both words were used interchangeably for centuries. (My mother's brother still talked about his wife's "receipts," on to the 21st century.) Both recipe and receipt derive from the Latin word recipere which means "to take in; receive." The Latin word later changed to Old French, where it became two separate words, then both words migrated to Middle English. The English "recipe" derived from the imperative form of recipere, which in Old French was récipé. (In other words, a command to receive.) It was first used as a medical term, in place of our modern word "prescription." Meanwhile, the English word "receipt" derived from the past participle of recipere, into Old French recete, which meant "received." Most of the world's languages use one word or equally similar words that interchangeably mean either "receipt" or "recipe."
After finding these vintage receipt books, I've decided to use receipt to mean cooking instructions from books prior to about 1920, where cooking was mostly done on a wood-burning stove and gives an oven of "slow," "moderate," "quick," etc. for baking temperature. And I use recipe for cooking instructions after about 1920s, where cooking was mostly done on modern stoves and gives a Fahrenheit or Celsius temperature for baking.
Researching material for this site, I came across oodles of websites listing online vintage cookbooks in public domain. Besides Archive.org and GoogleBooks, which have the most original images in their digital book collections, there is Gutenberg.org. However, Gutenberg only has book text transcriptions, or else hybrids, where illustrations are scanned and placed with text transcriptions.
As I wanted this to be as "authentic" as possible, I only included books with actual images for this site. However, these other online cookbooks, though only in text-transcription, are still good. Several of the following sites contain links to transcripts of books printed before the 1700s, even as early as the 1400s. To allow the reader access to these books I didn't include, here are links to websites I came across, whether they included authentic cookbook images or text-only transcriptions: Historic Cookbooks Online, Historical Culinary and Brewing Documents Online, and, as previously mentioned, Gutenberg.org.
Enjoy these vintage receipts and recipes!