Marylene Altieri, the Curator of Books and Printed Materials at the Schlesinger Library, gave twelve lucky people an insider’s look into the library’s renowned culinary collection on February 18th. The Schlesinger began as a women’s history library, mostly focusing on suffrage and women’s rights. The culinary collection got its start in the 1960s, when Widener Library wanted to get rid of 1,500 culinary volumes. They donated it to Radcliffe, thinking that since it was a woman’s library, they would want it.
The culinary collection got a big boost when Julia Child donated over 4,000 of her books and papers to the library, including her first edition copy of the Joy of Cooking (which we got to see!). The library has large international collections, including ones on Chinese cooking and Russian cooking. A donation from a schoolteacher who collected books on the history of vegetarianism is also in the library. Food writers have been donating their papers, including MFK Fisher, Simone Beck, and Elizabeth David.
Other highlights of the Schlesinger’s collection include one of the earliest written works on food from 1601, the first American cookbook that was published in America, and what is thought to be the first cookbook published by a woman (from 1679). The library also collects food related dvds, magazines, pamphlets and zines, menus, and community cookbooks. Schlesinger Library is open to the public, but be on the lookout for other Food Literacy Project sponsored tours!