Culinary ephemera

Culinary ephemera refers, broadly, to material other than cookbooks that contain information about the culinary past, including brochures, almanacs, menus, and posters. “Ephemera” refers to the ephemeral nature of the text, which advertisers and food companies often did not expect consumers to keep. Ephemera provides the potential to understand the culinary lives of those who did not own cookbooks, and some of our ephemera contain marginalia that indicate the text’s use. The collection has a particular strength in American advertisements from the late 1800s to the 1970s, including recipe books and almanacs, commissioned by food and appliance companies. Advertisements provide evidence of the ways that advertisers constructed their target audiences, what assumptions they made about the public, what designs they utilized, and what methods they claimed would be effective to sell products and move public sentiments.


Cooks have written their recipes down for millennia, but the modern commercially produced cookbook arose in the wake of the printing press. The cookbook collection currently has its strength in modern American and Latin American cookbooks, but will expand in upcoming years in its temporal and geographic scope to include medieval and early modern texts, including manuscripts, and bolster the categories it already has strengths in.

This project was created by Stefano Mancini, Friends of Skillman Library Fellow, 2022.