Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Food Studies. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 18 April 2024

The History of Cookbooksfree

The History of Cookbooksfree

  • Henry NotakerHenry NotakerIndependent Scholar


This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Food Studies. Please check back later for the full article.

The history of cookbooks describes the development of an old literary genre with an explosive growth from the last part of the 20th century. Cookbooks are primarily collections of culinary recipes, written instructions often based on earlier oral communication. Cookbooks are handwritten, printed, or digitized in various forms on the Internet. Most interest has been given to printed cookbooks, first published in Italy, France, and Germany in the 15th century and later spread globally. These books may build on local traditions, but many of them are translations from foreign languages, adapting advanced technology to local cuisine. The cookbook belongs to the handbook genre within nonfiction literature and has certain characteristics in composition, structure, literary style, format, typeface, design, and illustrations, features interesting for the student of book history, bibliographical science, and literature. The authors of the earliest printed books were men, many of them the printers or booksellers who published the books, but women gradually took over, in Northern Europe and the USA from the 18th century and in Southern Europe only in the 20th century. Most cookbooks bring recipes for all sorts of culinary products, but there are also special books on one particular foodstuff, one particular type of dish, and special diets such as vegetarian, vegan, paleolithic, kosher, and halal. Cookbooks are important sources on the development of culinary traditions but also for any historical study. Apart from offering practical instructions, cookbooks contain statements and references to social status, health, manners, religion, taste, and aesthetics.


  • Food History and Anthropology