Bright Young Collectors: Julia Fine

James Gui

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Julia Fine, an honorable mention in this year's Honey and Wax Book Collecting Prize, for women 30 and under.

Where are you from / where do you live?

I live in Washington DC.

What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

I recently graduated from Harvard, where I studied History & Literature with a focus on the food history of the British Empire. Now, I work as a Humanities Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks and the Folger Shakespeare Library. At Dumbarton Oaks, I work on the Urban Landscape Initiative, putting together public programming that looks at the intersection between race, inequality, and the urban environment. At the Folger, I work on the “Before ‘Farm to Table’” Project, putting together an online exhibition of modern recipes. 

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in? 

My collection (which is always changing) is at its core a collection of modern American vegetarian prescriptive works, including cookbooks, diet guidelines, ethical tracts, and more. However, I recently started a second related collection on the global influence of South Asian cuisine during the imperial era. For that collection, I collect books published on South Asian food anywhere in the world before 1947.

How many books are in your collection?

In my main collection of vegetarian cookbooks, I have about 40 now, though that is still growing.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I can’t remember the first book I bought for my collection! I always had an interest in vegetarian works, so I’ve been reading and buying these books for a while now.

How about the most recent book?

Most recently, I bought a book to add to my collection on South Asian food. It is a 1917 tract on Hindu dietetics published in Minneapolis, so it is one of the earlier South Asian culinary books published in America. I found it due to the help of Don Lindgren at Rabelais.

And your favorite book in your collection?

I love all of my Moosewood cookbooks to death. They are some of the most important works in the US vegetarian movement, and the illustrations in those books are absolutely stunning.

Best bargain you’ve found?

I found a 1963 book on Hindu vegetarian cooking in an antique store in Maine for $10. It’s an incredible little book, and I am working now to do research on its history. I just stumbled upon it in a random store. 

How about The One that Got Away?

Don’t really have an answer for this yet — I try not to dwell on all the books I’ve missed out on!

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

For my collection on South Asian cuisine, I would love an early copy of Hannah Glasse’s 1747 work, which was one of the earliest cookbooks in Britain to mention Indian “curry.” For my collection on vegetarian books, I would love to complete my collection of Moosewood cookbooks.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

I just went to Rabelais a few weeks ago in Maine, and it was an unbelievable experience. Don knew just about everything about food history on any subject, and could point me in the direction of amazing books no matter what topic I threw at him. I learned so much from that visit, and will be going back many more times.

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

I don’t think I would collect anything! I love collecting books because I love books, and I don’t think anything could replace that for me.