Of the many women’s service magazines that came into being in the late nineteenth century, one of the most celebrated was The Modern Priscilla, which was published from 1887 until 1930. Initially a needlework publication, it evolved to deal with subjects of broader appeal, such as home decorating and cookery, eventually adding fiction. Food coverage was heavily influenced by the domestic science movement, its recipes adopting exact measurements and standardized procedures that home economists recommended to assure “consistent success.”
In the Modern Priscilla Cook Book, published in 1924, every one of its one thousand recipes was tested by the Priscilla Proving Plant, whose director offers the book’s introduction. Accuracy, it is argued, brings savings in money and in time, as well as “mental relief,” and it is noted that “a feeling of confidence takes considerable strain from a busy woman’s mind.”
Whether macaroni with poached egg, which has just four ingredients, or spaghetti Bologna style with nineteen, everything is carefully laid out. Also included are innumerable tips and hints, a glossary, tables of weights and measures, lists of substitutions, canning charts, menus for every occasion, nutritional advice, and instructions on table setting. This is an earnest book, highly influential in the way that Americans cooked well into the latter part of the twentieth century.
Most copies of this book that we see are in dreadful condition since many of the printings were done on high acid paper and using inferior binding materials. This 1924 first edition is unusual, in that the book block is clearly Very Good—clean and unmarked. The case, however, had taken a beating, so we had our binder, Albert, recase it in beige cloth, laying on the original spine and cover and replacing the endpapers. There is no dust jacket; those provided for this title were, unfortunately, extremely flimsy and, when present, are virtually always in shreds, unremovably stuck to the case. We have seen no copies of the 1924 edition with a jacket.