Cooking and Restaurant Magazines

This entry began with a call from my old friend and bookseller par excellence, Rusty Mott of Sheffield Massachusetts, offering me a broken run of a rare cooking magazine The Table.
Rusty told me that it was the second cooking magazine ever published and the volume of five of the eight issues had the original wrappers bound in. The price was right; I hadn’t acquired much new lately so here it is.

Further research indicates that there are five institutional holdings, only two of which are complete (University of Minnesota and The Library of Congress). The editor was the pseudonymous Barry Gray, in actuality Robert Barry Coffin (1826–1886), an American journalist, poet, and writer of relatively minor importance. This appears to be his only foray into magazine publishing.

I then called the dealer who sold Rusty the volume, the very pleasant and knowledgable Dan Rabelais of Rabelais Books of Portland Maine, who told me that the best research on early cooking magazines appears in an article by Janet Longone of the great Clements Library at the University of Michigan in a recent magazine Gastronomia. Mr. Rablelais was a general bookdealer who now specializes in cookbooks and the like.

Dan also told me that Janet identified the first cooking magazine that has a “weird name”. This rung a bell and when I asked him if it was Mystery of Life, he believed that that was it. In fact, I had acquired a copy in 1997 for $100 from Bob Seymour of Colebrook Book Barn, not really knowing much about it other than that I didn’t have it and it was a first issue in wrappers. I had cataloged it in my addendum as appearing in 1868 and indeed containing recipes and advertisements for food-related items, published by Alfred Berney. I could not find another copy in Union List of Serials but now when I just checked Berney’s Mystery of Life, one holding shows up at New York Public Library. It was intended as a quarterly but there is no evidence a second issue was ever published. My wrappers are slightly different than those illustrated in Janet Longone’s article. Perhaps she used the copy from NYPL.

I am proud to say It would, therefore, appear that my collection is the only one in the world with copies of both of these periodical gems, however serendipitously they were acquired!

While I’m on the subject of cooking magazines, I thought I’d add one more related item from my collection, a wonderful magazine from 1886 entitled Restaurateur. This wonderful periodical contains articles and copious advertising about restaurants and, most interestingly to me, an extensive price list of food items, including such present-day staples as Bass Ale and Guinness’ Stout! Ths magazine is not in ULS and may be the first of its kind. I’ve never seen another issue and have no idea how long it lasted.

You may find the above a little boring, but I continue to find it all quite fascinating.

Periodically yours,

Steven Lomazow, M.D.