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OP: Mary Frances Cook Book

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by Jane Eayre Fryer

The John C. Winston Co., 1912. Hardcover. Very Good, recased. First printing.

This entrancing, beloved children’s cookbook is as much a marvelous story as it is a manual of culinary instruction. Subtitled Adventures Among the Kitchen People, it embeds its recipes in a narrative through which we see kitchen tools and implements come to life and guide young Mary Frances in making the dishes that her mother has set down for her in a notebook. 

The characters are Mary Frances herself, her parents, her stern Aunt Maria, various friends, and an array of companions such as Big Iron Pot, Sauce Pan (also known as “Saucy”), Mr. Toaster, and Aunty Rolling Pin. Using her simple recipes and aided by her Kitchen Friends, she produces breakfast for her father, makes an omelet for a passing tramp, and poaches up some eggs for a sick neighbor.

The book, the first of a series (others on sewing, gardening, and so forth) written by Jane Eayre Fryer (1876–c. 1924) is intended to teach basic domestic skills to young girls. However, the didactic elements are disguised beautifully in the story, profusely illustrated throughout.

The volume is very nicely designed, handsomely printed in two colors. Bound in blue cloth with a pictorial title label on the front, it displays bookmaking that is a pleasure to browse again and again. Although the book has been reprinted in later years, most of the surviving original copies have been loved half to death—scribbled in, torn, often broken at the spine. Indeed, our copy, believed to be a 1912 first printing, was falling apart, so we had it recased, laying on the original cover illustration. The interior is largely clean; however, some young artist has colored in many of the illustrations throughout and pasted a sticker on the original rear endpaper. Gift inscription at the front.

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