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OP: Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine

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by Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870), most notably the author of the musketeer adventures and The Count of Monte Cristo, was also a passionate cook and surely a bon vivant, travelling extensively, and often spending more than he earned in order to maintain his preferred lifestyle of extravagant feasting and entertaining.

Dumas wrote prolifically, garnering fame and wealth enough to enable his epicurean proclivities, but his last work, Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, was his passion project, what he called “the pillow of my old age.” Indeed, Katherine Bitting’s Gastronomic Bibliography characterizes Dumas’ opus thusly: “A noted author and gourmand who wrote novels and stories because he needed the revenue but produced his masterpiece, the Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine, because he loved the work.” 

Dumas never saw the book for which he expected to be best remembered published, however, as he submitted his manuscript just before the Franco-Prussian war broke out in July 1870. Dumas died in December that year. It was published posthumously in 1873 by Alphonse Lemerre and remained in print—both in its original form, as well as in an abridged version called the Petit Dictionnaire...—with the same publisher until they folded in the 1960s. It has been translated, reproduced—in full and abridged—several times over since then.

In a work that is part encyclopedia and part cookbook, Dumas’ approach is certainly one of an enthusiast, writing largely from his own remembrances and preferences with little attempt at being a thorough reference. Not all subjects are treated equally, as, like Dumas, one might find elephant meat a more engaging subject than carrots. Great novelist that he is, Dumas made his Dictionnaire at once humorous and informative, though, we must admit the content should be taken with a grain of salt. Not all of the anecdotes can be substantiated but might be forgiven for all their charm.

We offer here a special limited edition copy published in 1965 by Claude Tchou for his subscription club, “Cercle du Livre Precieux.” Our copy is number 2126 of the printing of 3000. It is in Very Good condition, clean and unmarked; however, the case, as one might expect of the handsome white cloth binding, has picked up some discoloration over the years and some of the cloth has frayed at the top of the spine and around the corners. Minor repairs have been made to reinforce the spine, which had cracked somewhat; it is now quite sound. This edition is heavily illustrated with black and white engravings and artistic reproductions. The tricolor ribbon marker remains attached. It is in French, unabridged. Great browsing and good fun.

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