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OP: The French Cook or The Art of Cooking

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by Louis Eustache Ude

London, J. Ebers, 1815. Hardcover. Very Good, recased. Third edition.

One of the generation of great nineteenth century chefs, French-born Louis Eustache Ude (1769–1846) came out of a cooking family. His father had worked in the kitchen of the ill-fated King Louis XVI, and Ude himself apprenticed there. While still a young man, he relocated to England, where he stayed and worked for the rest of his life, both as a personal chef and at Crockford’s, an important men’s club in London.

His major publication (1813) was entitled The French Cook, or The Art of Cookery in all its Branches. A substantial work—its table of contents runs nearly thirty pages—it is a handbook of French cuisine, widely accepted in England as the standard for fine cooking in hotels and clubs, restaurants, and great houses.

Although measurements hardly ever appear in the recipes, the instructions are more detailed than in many works of the period. Ude clearly draws a line between ordinary home cooking and his own offerings. “The Art of Cookery,” he points out in his preface, “is a science appreciated only by a very few individuals; and which requires, besides a great deal of studious application, no small quality of intellect, and the strictest sobriety and punctuality, to be brought to perfection.”

Our copy is the 1815 third edition. It is identified as the only edition carrying on the title page, the notation, “Printed for the Author and sold by J. Ebers [London].” The volume, 480+ pages, includes eight plates illustrating bills of fare, as well as a frontispiece portrait of Ude.

We have had this copy rebound in burgundy cloth with a matching slipcase. The interior is in an amazing state of preservation, most of the pages clean, crisp, and barely handled. One 16-page signature—all within the index—is foxed noticeably, and four pages at the end of the book have two dark spots, but there are no further defects.

It should be noted that all of the first three editions of this title—1813, 1814, and 1815—are very scarce. OCLC shows two library-owned copies of the 1813, only one copy of the 1814, and just four copies of the 1815 edition that is offered here. It does not appear that Ude’s book was ever translated or issued in French.

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