Cookbooks, herbals, and recipes at Rutgers Special Collections, 1480-1959


By Flora Boros and Helene van Rossum

Rutgers students studying rare herbals, cook books and and materials from the Sinclair NJ cookbook collection
Rutgers students studying rare herbals, cook books and materials from the Sinclair Jerseyana Cookbook Collection.

Whether you’re a food scholar, cooking blogger, or an amateur chef looking to try your hand at a new recipe, Rutgers’ Special Collections and University Archives has something for everyone. You can study gastronomic fashions in rare books like John Evelyn’s Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets (ca. 1699) or Sarah B. Howell’s booklet, Nine Family Breakfasts and How to Prepare Them (ca. 1891). You can see how food and medicine mingled in herbal manuscripts like John Gerard’s The Herball, or a Generall Histoire of Plantes (ca. 1633) and admire Elizabeth Blackwell’s copper-plate engravings in A Curious Herbal (ca. 1739). Alternatively, you can learn about table settings and managing servants in The Lady’s Companion (ca. 1753), find out how to “preserve a husband” in Cook Book of the Stars (1959), or how to avoid alcohol in food in New Jersey’s earliest cookbook, Economical Cookery (ca. 1839), written at the time of the Temperance Movement. Or why not just try out one of the recipes in the Newbold family’s farming ledger (ca. 1800), or in the 4,000 local recipe books in our Sinclair New Jersey Cookbook Collection?

Last recipe in the Cook Book of the Stars by the Darcy Chapter#138, Flemington NJ, 1959
Last recipe in Cook Book of the Stars, Darcy Chapter#138, Flemington NJ, 1959 (view in full)

Earlier this month, we challenged the students in Dr. Lena Struwe’s Byrne Seminar on Food Evolution to dig into a fraction of our holdings concerning culinary history, recipes, cookbooks and global food exchange. Below are some highlights from materials we pulled for the class.

(Download the complete list)




An herbal is a compilation of information about medicinal plants including their botanical identifiers, habitats, therapeutic effects on the body, and medicinal preparation. All herbals follow the same pattern: for this condition, take this plant, prepare it in a certain manner, administer it, and expect this result. Throughout Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, herbs might not have been ranked high on the European gastronomic table, but they were well-established remedies, and with the help of herbal recipes the cook was expected to keep a household healthy.

Virginian potato in John Gerard's Herball (ca. 1633).
Virginian potato in John Gerard’s Herball (ca. 1633) (view image in full).

Written by one of the most respected plant experts of his time, John Gerard’s thick tome, The Herball Or, Generall Historie of Plantes (ca. 1633) included the first descriptions printed in English of New World imports like potatoes, corn, yucca, and squash.

Notably, The Herball contains images that would have been the first that most English speakers would have seen of the potato. Although the plant was brought to England in 1586, it was not until the early eighteenth century when the potato finally became a staple in the European diet. Ahead of his time, Gerard commended potatoes as a “wholesome” food, best prepared “either rosted in the embers, or boyled and eaten with oyle, vinegar and pepper.”

To illustrate The Herball, publisher John Norton rented nearly 1,800 of the most accurate illustrations of the time, woodblocks from the Frankfurt publisher of the “father of German botany,” Jacobus Theodorus’ Eicones Plantarum (ca. 1590). Norton commissioned sixteen additional woodcuts of plants. Among the edible imports was an illustration of the potato, supposedly illustrated from a specimen grown in Gerard’s garden that was given to him by Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake.


Rare cookbooks

The French Cook: A System of Fashionable and Economical Cookery (ca. 1822) was perhaps the most extravagant work on French cookery published in England up to that time. By the eighteenth century, French food had been clearly established as the most popular type of cuisine in Great Britain. As was typical for the time, the author modified French techniques, Anglicized recipes while keeping French terminology, and equated French food with expense and extravagance throughout the introductions and commentary framing the recipes.

Pastry patterns for lamb and wild boar pie in Louis E. Ude's The French Cook (ca. 1822).
Pastry patterns for lamb and wild boar pie in Louis E. Ude’s The French Cook (ca. 1822). (view in full)

Such cookbooks targeted Britain’s middle classes, who desired fashionable displays of wealth and sophistication, straight from the mouth of the former cook to Louis XVI and the Earl of Sefton, and steward to the Duke of York. In a world that was becoming increasingly globalized, cookbooks meant that it was easier than ever to create an enviable lifestyle. Industrious Brits could serve an elaborate wild boar pie based on Ude’s pastry patterns, creations that epitomized Britain’s nobility—the ultimate expression of a life of wealth and ease. If you flip through its pages, you will surely notice how this book was written for English “gentlemen” and “ladies,” terms which became associated with a specific type of attitude, wealth and sophistication rather than family history.

In contrast to the male “food artists” coming out of France, women who wanted to establish a professional presence as a cookbook author framed their books by drawing on experience as wives, mothers, and housekeepers. Relegated by feminine stereotypes, female cookbook authors sold themselves as experts in all matters of the household, not just as cooks. As women ventured into this male-dominated realm, cookbooks slowly evolved into manuals of instruction for amateur cooks and housekeepers to maintain hearth, home, and familial values.

Late to the gastronomic game, Americans only began publishing cookbooks in 1742. Nearby New York and Philadelphian publishers cornered the market until New Jersey’s first cookbook, Economical Cookery: Designed to Assist the Housekeeper in Retrenching Her Expenses, by the Exclusion of Spiritous Liquors from Her Cookery (ca. 1839). It was written by an anonymous female author who urged women to take an active part in the Temperance Movement by eliminating liquors from their cooking and thereby safeguard their families from “the debasing slavery” of alcoholism.

Recipe for Election Cake from Economical Cookery (ca. 1839).
Recipe for Election Cake from Economical Cookery (1838) (view in full).

Among her booze-free recipes is election cake, a culinary creation dating back to 1660 that makes the rounds every election. Originating from when food and “ardent spirits” were persuasive agents for controlling local votes, both were dispensed lavishly as bribes and rewards. Be sure to check out NPR’s coverage, “A History of Election Cake and Why Bakers Want to #MakeAmericaCakeAgain,” complete with audio!


Sinclair New Jersey cookbook collection

"Teen time menus" in a 1950s Campbell cook book
“Teen time menus” in a 1950s Campbell cook book (view in full)

In addition to cookbooks in our rare book collections,  we hold a great number of recipe and cookbooks in the Sinclair New Jersey Cookbook Collection. The collection includes 4,000 recipe books from New Jersey towns, churches, schools, organizations, and companies that were primarily written by and for the middle class (View recipes sampled in previous blogs).

The collection includes privately and commercially produced recipe books, typically written for women. Among the commercial ones is a recipe book from the New Jersey based Campbell Soup Company, published in 1910 for “the ambitious housewife, confronted daily with the necessity of catering to the capricious appetites of her household.” The booklet has menu suggestions for every day of the month, with a Campbell soup as one of the courses for lunch or dinner or both. Another Campbell recipe book, shown above, addresses not only the women of the 1950s, but also future consumers: teenage girls. The section “Teen time menus” includes cheerful references to marching band practice, babysitting jobs, and being “happy as a clam.”

A great number of the non-commercial recipe books are produced by women communities of various denominations, often for fundraising purposes. One of the more unusual ones is the Cook Book of the Stars, printed in 1959 by a Flemington chapter of the Freemason society “Order of the Eastern Star,” which ended its list of recipes–tongue-in-cheek–with a recipe “how to preserve a husband” (displayed on top).


Newbold family account books

Pages include recipes for calves feet jelly and puff paste (left), a cure for dysentery, and a recipe for bologna sausage (right)
Recipes for calves feet jelly and puff paste (left), a cure for dysentery, and a recipe for bologna sausage (right) (view in full)

A more unusual place for New Jersey recipes is one of the five farm account books, kept by Thomas Newbold (1760-1823) at Springfield township, Burlington County, and his son Thomas Jr. The first three of the volumes, which altogether span almost eighty years (1790-1877) are “day books:” daily accounts and memoranda of transactions and agreements that were later transferred to ledgers. Among the regular entries on the last few pages of the first day book  are a few recipes for dishes and remedies for cures, jotted down in different hands, either from Newbold family members or customers visiting the farm. The food recipes include calves feet jelly, puff paste, bologna sausage, and cured ham, while the remaining recipes are remedies for dysentery, cancer sores, felons (finger infections) and botts in horses (a disease caused by botfly maggots in a a horse’s intestines or stomach).


Whether looking for recipes or remedies, visitors are always welcome to browse the collections at Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives. Bon appetit!

A New Jersey Recipe: Dey Mansion Orange Cake


By Tara Maharjan

I have always enjoyed cookbooks. I even wrote a whole blog post  about it back in November of 2015. I will post pictures of cookbooks to our Instagram page on occasion. But on one Wednesday morning in April I asked a simple question to our Instagram followers, “Is #WhatsCookinWednesday a thing?” The community of libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies quickly insisted we make this a challenge. (The #LibrariesOfInstagram community likes to challenge other repositories to post pictures of different things each month.) The month of May became a Library Feast (#LibraryFeast). To add to the challenge, it was suggested that people try to make a recipe from a cookbook in their collection.

Cover of the book "Salute to New Jersey:  A Collection of Original New Jersey Recipes and Historical Anecdotes."


I wandered the Special Collections and University Archives closed stacks to see what cookbook I could find. I stumbled upon Salute to New Jersey : a collection of original New Jersey recipes and historical anecdotes. Intrigued by the title, I flipped though the pamphlet to find a recipe entitled Dey Mansion Orange Cake. I enjoy baking and I thought that since Colonel Theunis Dey (the man whose family owned the Dey Mansion) was also a signer of the Queen’s College charter; this would be the perfect recipe to try with a nice hint of Rutgers history.

Recipe for Dey Mansion Orange Cake.


The recipe looked simple enough, though there was no size indicated for the pan, no baking temperature listed, and I was not sure I could buy mace for cooking. (To my surprise, mace is a common enough spice that it can be purchased at the local grocery store.) Three attempts later, I finally made a fully cooked Dey Mansion Orange Cake. I made a few changes to the recipe. Here is my version of Dey Mansion Orange Cake:


  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium orange
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (or mace)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 1 cup craisins (or raisins)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Bake in a 9 x 13 greased pan at 350 for 30(-ish) minutes

1) Cream together 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of sugar

2) Add 2 eggs

3) Add 1 finely chopped, medium-sized orange (I added the juice that came out of the orange)

4) Alternate adding sifted flour mix (2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon nutmeg (original recipe calls for mace), 1/2 teaspoon salt) and milk (1 cup of milk and 1 teaspoon of orange juice)

5) Add 1 cup of craisins (or raisins)

When finished, remove from pan. While hot, spread glaze on top.

For glaze, 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/3 cup of orange juice whisked together


Julia Child Sampled Our New Jersey Cookbooks. Why Don’t You?



Black cover of a cookbook that simply treads "Cook Book"

By Tara Maharjan

When I started my Library Science program at Simmons College in Boston, I came across an opportunity to become a Cookbook Librarian at America’s Test Kitchen. The collection is comprised of over 4,000 books ranging from local cookbooks to The Modernist Cuisine. I held the position as a very well fed volunteer for two years. I loved my position but graduate school ended, cookbook librarians are rare, and my passion is archiving. I moved back to my home state of New Jersey and strung together part-time, and sometimes full-time, temporary archiving work until I became  a full-time Processing Archivist in Special Collections and University Archives at Rutgers University.

The Sinclair Jerseyana Cookbook collection came to my attention: forty boxes of cookbooks that needed a finding aid. Finally my interest in cookbooks and my passion for archiving came together! The collection is made up of cookbooks from New Jersey towns,  local churches, schools, and organizations, and companies that operated in the great Garden State. Every book is unique. Some have homemade covers, others are professionally bound; some focus on ethnic cuisine, while a few focus specifically on and promote products to be used. Two of my favorite cookbooks with homemade covers are this wood burned cover from the 1976 cookbook by The Christian Community Shrine of St. Joseph, entitled Our Community Cookbook,


Wood burned cover of a cookbook with a tree and an church represented.

and this screen-printed 1973 cookbook entitled Look Who’s Cookin’, by the Somerville Neighborhood Troop 12 from Rolling Hills Girl Scout Council.


Screen printed cover of a 1973 Rolling Hills Girl Scout Council cookbook entitled "Look Who's Cooking"

Some cookbooks were for a cause.

Cover of a 1907 cookbook with a red cross on the front.

(Muhlenberg Hospital Auxiliary. Cook Book. Plainfield, NJ: The Auxiliary, 1907.)

Other cookbooks were produced to promote products, such as the 1962 Fun-To-Do Party Book, by the Ballantine Beer Company from Newark, or the Gem Chopper Cook Book (seen below) from Flemington, 1902.

1962 Fun-To-Do Party Book, by the Ballantine Beer Company from Newark

Cover to the Gem Chopper Cook Book.


This collection is filled with so many wonderful and unique cookbooks, with dates ranging from 1902-2006, that you just need to check out the collection yourself. Julia Child did in 1992 when she came and received an honorary degree at Rutgers. More information about the collection can be found here.


Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese, Please

Cover to the Taylor Pork Roll cookbook
Taylor Pork Roll — SNCLY TX749.5.H35T39 1940

By Tara Maharjan

Do you call it “Taylor Ham” or “pork roll?”  Either way, today would be the birthday of John Taylor, the man who created John Taylor’s Pork Roll [formerly known as Taylor Ham].  To make things easier we will be calling it “pork roll” because the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 forced Taylor to change the name, “Taylor Ham,” because it did not fit the new definition of ham by the Food and Drug Administration. He changed it to “Taylor’s Pork Roll,” however many people in North Jersey continued to call it by the original name, while South Jersey slowly transitioned to simply calling it pork roll, leaving those in Central Jersey using both terms.

Beyond creating the NJ diner staple, John Taylor was a businessman, member of Trenton City Council, and was elected to the New Jersey State Senate for Mercer County.

Today make sure to celebrate the day with a pork roll, egg and cheese, or maybe one of these pork roll recipes.

Taylor Pork Roll Recipes for Baked Stuffed Tomatoes and Pork Roll and Macaroni