About Old Cook Books
Vintage and antiquarian cook books have become highly sought after in recent times, especially as people have become more aware of the chemical pesticides, genetic modification and inhumanity involved in some modern food production. These old recipe books represent a forgotten era of honest food skilfully prepared, and a time before the endless electrical kitchen gadgets of today. They can also be highly collectable, with some rare volumes printed before the 1850s fetching thousands of pounds at auction.
There are countless old cook books for sale online, and prospective collectors typically start by choosing a category to specialise in. This could be a particular region, country or ethnicity, a time period, an author, or else a specific type of food or cooking, such as vegetarian food or desserts.
Generally speaking, a cookbook becomes 'collectable' from around 25-30 years after publication, however this is by no means a hard-and-fast rule. Other factors, including the rarity of the book and the cultural or historical interest of the recipes contained therein are usually far more determinant of its value than age alone. The condition of a book is also vitally important, with cook books showing visible signs of heavy use tending to be less valuable than pristine copies.
While the 1950s and 1960s saturated the market with mass-produced recipe books, some editions from this era nevertheless fetch several times their original price. Some of the most valuable and sought after books, on the other hand, include Salvador Dali's signed 1973 volume, Les Diners de Gala, which was illustrated by the artist, and Julia Child's classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking in first edition. These books have been known to fetch upwards of £3100 and £4700 respectively.