OP: A New System of Domestic Cookery
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London: John Murray, 1840. Hardcover. Very Good. Sixty-fourth edition.
This historically significant book “By a Lady” was originally published in England in 1805. Maria Eliza Rundell (1745–1828) wrote the book as a guide for her young daughters and enlisted family friend and publisher John Murray to print it, having no expectations of earning royalties.
The household guide proved to be hugely successful—both in the UK and in the US, where it appeared in 1807—and became Murray’s most profitable asset. He took it upon himself to expand significantly the scope of the book after its first edition, adding new recipes and removing obsolete ones over its many years in print. Half a million copies sold during the author’s lifetime, and it continued in print until the 1880s.
In addition to the nearly one thousand recipes, the book also includes household hints ranging from “Useful Directions to give to Servants” to tips for feeding the poor to managing a dairy. Alan Davidson’s Oxford Companion to Food states that the 1809 fourth edition in fact contains the first recipe in print for scotch eggs.
Ours is an 1840 UK printing, stated 64th edition. The volume is small in trim size—3-½” x 6”—despite boasting some 500 pages, plus an index. The interior shows signs of a long life with marginalia, occasional splatters and stains, and recipes handwritten in elegant script—in at least two different owners’ hands—on the endpapers. The copy remains sturdy and well-bound in green cloth, bearing a ticket stating “Bound by W. H. Smith & Son” (now Smith’s) on the rear pastedown. An uncommon opportunity to own one of the major cookbooks of the early nineteenth century.