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OP: The Complete Confectioner

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by Frederick Nutt
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London, Samuel Leigh, 1819. Hardcover. Good. Eighth edition, corrected and improved.

First published in 1789, The Complete Confectioner was a highly popular and detailed manual on the art and craft of confectionery. These delicacies—from biscuits and wafers to candies, ices, preserves, and, in this edition, liqueurs and wines—were made at great expense with specialized labor and, thus, were only available to the upper classes at the time.

The introduction to our 1819 eighth edition states that “the vast expense which was formerly incurred in order to obtain even a general knowledge of Confectionery, deterred many persons from the attempt, and consequently confined the knowledge of the art within very narrow limits; but with the assistance of this work, any person of ordinary capacity may become a confectioner.” 

Fortunately for us, Nutt did not accept an offer of “One Thousand Pounds to withdraw it from the public” to prevent others from learning the secrets of the trade, as the work is an engaging, historically significant document of pastry making before the invention of labor-saving appliances and before sweets became mass produced, inexpensive, and available to the hoi polloi.

The first two editions did not bear Nutt’s name, stating only “by a person,” perhaps as an understanding that many of the recipes originated from his apprenticeship at London’s high end confectionery shop, The Pot and Pineapple, under the tutelage of Domenico Negri. By the 1806 third edition, however, the book had become well-known enough to warrant Frederick Nutt’s name on the title page.

The book includes ten engraved plates, three of which are folding. Our folding plate no. 8 is missing paper, about a quarter of the image. The plates show ideal arrangements for confections around various table displays and a pastry syringe with two tip shapes. An image of Pomona—Roman goddess of fruit and gardens—attending to a pineapple makes for an attractive frontispiece that was changed for the American editions.

Bound in ¾ black calf leather and handsome marble boards, now quite rubbed, ours shows previous repairs to both hinges, and the front board and first two leaves are now detached. We have had made for it a clamshell box to protect it from further damage. The interior is clean and bright. A bookplate stamp, stating “M. William’s Book” is on a front flyleaf. [The fork in the image serves as a page weight, not to convey size. The book is 7" x 4.5" x 1"].

This copy comes from the Sontheimer Foundation Library. Carl Sontheimer (1914–1998) invented the original Cuisinart food processor. The front board bears a bookplate stating, “This book is a gift from The Sontheimer Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut.”

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