Auctions | June 15, 2022

Rare Collection of Culinary Books at Forum Auctions

Courtesy of Forum Auctions

A rare second edition of The French Cook is by the founding father of French cuisine, François Pierre La Varenne. Estimate: £2,000-3,000

London — Forum Auctions is excited to present a private collection of exceptional culinary literary works that, as well as spanning five centuries, takes us on a fascinating gastronomic journey of discovery. The collection was carefully curated over a period of 40 years by the late Caroline Crisford, a passionate collector of exceptional books on the subject of gastronomy. It offers unique insights into the field of cooking and charts its progression in Europe. Commenting on this extraordinary collection of works, Rupert Powell, Deputy Chairman and International Head of Books at Forum Auctions, said: “The Caroline Crisford collection was assembled with a genuine passion and depth of knowledge of not only British food & drink, but also that of the other two major European cuisines of France and Italy. The books and manuscripts from five centuries take us from the raw ingredients (be they in a kitchen garden, or on a farm), on to the recipes that transform them and thereby chart the evolution of eating and drinking across Europe.” The collection is estimated to fetch between £60,000-£80,000.

Among the highlights is a rare First Edition of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glass (printed under the pseudonym ‘A lady’), which contains the original recipe for what would become one of the most popular dishes in England; 'Currey the India Way'!

This rare work, which is central to any collection of English cookery books, was bought in a china shop called Mrs. Ashburn's on the ‘Corner of Fleet-Ditch’, London in 1747. It once belonged to a former soldier John Le Mesurier (1781-1843), who became the last hereditary Governor of Alderney (the Channel Islands). The book is amongst other rare gems in the collection, which spans 158 lots that are being offered in an online sale titled The Late Caroline Crisford Collection at Forum Auctions on Thursday 23rd June 2022. The book is estimated to fetch £3,000-£4,000 (Lot 53).

Another rare book in the collection titled The French Cook is by the founding father of French cuisine, François Pierre La Varenne (1615–1678), who brought bisque, bechamel and mille-feuille to our tables and introduced the use of bouquet garni in cooking for the first time. La Varenne transformed Renaissance and Medieval French cooking in the 16th and early 17th centuries. He wrote the famous Le Cuisinier François in 1651 and it is considered to be one of the most important cookery books in early French cuisine, in use right up until the French revolution. This rare Italian second edition carries an estimate of £2,000-£3,000 (Lot 80).
The collection also features a rare First Edition by the well-known 17th century Physician Dr. Daniel Duncan, titled: Wholesome Advice Against the Abuse of Hot Liquors, Particularly of Coffee, Chocolate, Tea, Brandy and Strong-Waters. Coffee, tea and chocolate, which today are a huge part of everyday life, arrived in Britain in the mid-17th century, to great bemusement. With tea coming from China, coffee from North Africa and chocolate (initially in liquid form until the 18th century), originating from the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, they were seen as highly exotic by the public and therefore very desirable.

However, their arrival and consumption caused concern amongst some of the medical community, such as Dr. Duncan Daniels, who feared the impact that these new ‘substances’ might have on the country’s health. He was from the prevailing ‘four humours’ school of thought, in which the body was comprised of four distinct substances that needed to be in balance: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Their imbalance was thought to threaten well-being and trigger disease, which Dr. Daniels believed was instigated by the effects of caffeine and alcohol.

When they emerged in Britain, coffee, tea, chocolate and brandy were officially classified as drugs rather than food, by doctors that saw them as health-inducing, with recommended dosages being prescribed only by physicians and chemists. Tea was considered a decongestant, coffee was believed to help headaches and digestion amongst other things, while chocolate was thought to help with childbirth and to also have beauty benefits, causing women to start drinking chocolate across the country! Brandy had been introduced in the 16th century and was also first used as a medicine for its antiseptic qualities. This treatise is a First Edition in English and was printed in 1706. It is estimated to fetch £600-£800 (Lot 40).

Louis-Auguste II de Bourbon, Prince de Dombes (1700–1755) was the grandson of Louis XIV and his mistress Francoise-Athenais de Montespan. An accomplished amateur cook, he compiled his highly original recipes into a book titled: Le Cuisinier Gascon, with a dedication to himself at the front of the book, believed to have been written deliberately to put readers off the scent of the identity of its author. His recipes were much admired, as they were easy to follow, yet impressive and delectable.
His creativity radiates throughout the book, his culinary skills most likely to have been developed via small intimate dinner parties held for other members of the aristocracy. This First Edition dates from 1740 and is bound with a First Edition of Marin's Les Dons de Comus, Paris, 1739. It is estimated to fetch £1,500-£2,000 (Lot 38).