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classic American Revolution era cookbook

CARTER, SUSANNAH. The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook: Wherein the art of dressing all sorts of viands, with cleanliness, decency, and elegance, is explained in five hundred approved receipts … to which are prefixed various bills of fare, for dinners and suppers in every month of the year; and a copious index to the whole

Boston: re-printed and sold by Edes and Gill, in Queen Street, [1772]

12mo. [12], 166 of 168 pp., final leaf O6 in facsimile. 2 engraved plates. 18th-century sheep. Spine rubbed, front hinge starting at top. Light toning, small tear without loss to title. Generally in excellent condition, a remarkable survival, especially given the subject matter.

FIRST AMERICAN EDITION. This is the second cookbook printed in America, preceded only by the similarly rare The Compleat Housewife printed in Williamsburg in 1742.

Carter’s Frugal Housewife was one of the “enduring classics in the American marketplace, reprinted in American cities into the 1830s” (Snell). Printed from the London edition with alterations, The Frugal Housewife strongly influenced the first cookery book by an American author, Amelia Simmons’s American Cookery (1796). Simmons copied entire passages almost word for word from Carter.

This first American edition of The Frugal Housewife, printed without a date, was advertised by Edes & Gill in the Boston Gazette as “this day Published” on 2 March 1772. Edes & Gill are best remembered as the most important printers in Boston during the American Revolution. In 1773, one year after publishing this cookbook, they and their newspaper, the Boston Gazette, played a crucial role in sparking the Boston Tea Party. For this cookbook they turned to another patriot, Paul Revere, famed as a silversmith and engraver. Paul Revere engraved two plates on copper to illustrate this work. Revere referred to his work in his Day Book on January 20, 1772, where he wrote: “Mesr. Edes & Gill Dr. To Engraving a Copper plate for coocrey [sic] Book & 500 prints 2-14-0.” Revere evidently engraved a single plate of copper with both illustrations.

A FABULOUS PROVENANCE. This book bears the apparently otherwise unknown book label of Sally Parsons dated 1774. Women’s book labels on American books of this interest and period are of the greatest rarity.

VERY RARE. No copy appears in the book auction records of the past 100 years, apart from an example lacking nine leaves including the title. In 1954 Goodspeed’s offered a copy with a portion of the title in facsimile—the only copy we have traced in the trade.

Only four research libraries have copies (Library of Congress, Harvard, Brown, and American Antiquarian Society) and the 1772  Frugal Housewife is lacking from almost all of the great cookery collections. Seven copies are known worldwide:

1.    American Antiquarian Society
2.    Harvard 2 leaves short and likely supplied
3.    Library of Congress lacking frontispiece plate
4.    John Carter Brown frontispiece plate imperfect
5.    Ross County Historical Society, Chillicothe, Ohio title-page imperfect
6.    Private collection lacking 9 leaves incl. title
7.    The present copy

Provenance:  Sally Parsons 1774, with book label reading “The Property of Sally Parsons. 1774.” with decorative border on front paste-down.

References: Evans 12348. Lowenstein, Early American Cookery 4. Rachel Snell, “As American as Pumpkin Pie: Cookbooks and the Development of National Cuisine in North America, 1796-1854,” Cuizine, vol. 5, no. 2, 2014. Brigham, Paul Revere’s Engravings pp. 95-98.

$48,000