About the History of Food & Drink (aka Culinary History) Collection

In 1999, Special Collections received a donation of more than 700 books, now known as the Peacock-Harper  Culinary Collection. The donation was the combination of two private book collections. This first group of materials contained publications documenting more than 3oo years of culinary history and was the inspiration to begin the History of Food & Drink Collection. More information on the subset of Peacock-Harper materials is available online.

In addition to recipe books and guides on household management, the History of Food & Drink Collection also includes and helps document nearly four centuries of  local and community cook books in Virginia and nearby areas; the history of food processing and food technology; social, domestic, and economic history as they relate to food; food behaviors and eating; and nutrition. As of late 2011, we have expanded our collecting to include the history of the American cocktail from its roots in the 19th century through the modern age of entertaining. While a majority of the collection consists of published materials, we have nearly two dozen manuscript collections relating to culinary history, ranging from advertising ephemera to handwritten receipt books to faculty and department papers. More information about our History of Food & Drink Collection online.

A second subset of the History of Food & Drink Collection relates specifically to children’s cookbooks and nutrition. In 2006, Dr. Ann Hertzler, a Professor Emerita of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, endowed the Ann Hertlzer Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Archive.” This collection contains both historic and contemporary children’s cookbooks, books about nutrition babies and children, and Virginia Extension publications. It also includes Dr. Hertzler’s professional papers and presentations. A website with more information about Dr. Hertzler’s research, publications, manuscript collection, and the endowed collection, as well as links to digitized and web content, is available online.

Nearly 200 books from the History of Food & Drink Collection, including cookbooks and publications relating to the industrial arts are available online through the new VTechWorks digital repository hosted by Newman Library. A list of culinary book titles is available here. Four of our handwritten receipt books have also been digitized and can be downloaded in pdf format here. The earliest of these is dated from the 1730s and the most recent from about the 1930s.

As of 2012, we’re starting to think about the collection in new ways. Instead of focusing on the type of material, we’re focusing more on the themes and content of the existing collection and letting it help us shape the future of our acquisitions. We’re re-casting the Culinary History Collection in a wider light and are slowly re-introducing it as the “History of Food & Drink Collection.” The collection isn’t just about the history of cookbooks and cooking, but also social, domestic and economic history, gender roles and relationships, household management, and food preservation/technology.

In addition to any of the informational links about, you can contact us directly with questions, comments, and suggestions relating to the History of Food & Drink Collection.

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  1. An Orange a Day? | What's Cookin' @ Special Collections?!

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