Content and Context – II


The late seventeenth and early eighteenth century featured a growth in the publishing industry and middle class in London who were “minimally literate,” which lead to more and more secular printed material such as almanacs, broadsides, cookbooks, medical manuals, novels, pamphlets, and periodicals (Richetti, 1996, p. 6).

Confectionery was the most highly regarded trade related to food preparation in the eighteenth century (Day, n.d.).  While some worked for the aristocracy in their homes, others had shops where they sold sweetmeats, cookies, ices, and other delicacies.  The skills needed to prepare and present elaborate deserts requiring frames and other furnishings were very admired.  Those who had skills as a confectioner were very sought after, especially away from urban centers.  Abbot points out in the preface to The Housekeeper’s Valuable Present, “many housekeepers to noblemen and gentlemen were frequently present in order to observe our peculiar method of preparing confects” (p. iiv) to the point where the Pineapple was almost a cooking school.

The preface states that Abbot, the author, was so harried for the recipes he and those he apprenticed under used in their work that he didn’t have time to respond to the requests and keep up his livelihood “being engaged in the service of several nobleman” (Abbot, 1790, p. iiv).  He was so engaged, in fact, that he “cannot be supposed qualified to write in a master stile [sic]” (p. iiv).

The book is divided into eight sections, each with recipes (outlined in a larger table of contents) that are written succinctly in a few sentences or more.  The eight sections are as follows:

  1. Different Methods and Degrees of boiling and clarifying Sugar.
  2. Methods of preserving various Fruits in Syrups, etc.
  3. Methods of making Marmalades, James, Pastes, etc.
  4. Methods of making Syrups, Custards, Jellies, Blanch-mange, Conserves, Syllabubs, etc.
  5. Methods of preserving various Fruits in Brandy.
  6. Methods of making a Variety of Biscuits, rich Cakes, etc. etc.
  7. Methods of mixing, freezing, and working Ice Creams.
  8. Methods of preparing Cordials and made Wines.

Printers and Publishers

The publisher identified by the Library of Congress in their bibliographic record for The Housekeeper’s Valuable Present is C. Cooke.  I could not find a record of C. Cooke as a printer/publisher in London, but I was able to find him and his father, John, listed as one of the Paternoster Row booksellers:

Cook, Charles. Died [16 Apr] in Paternoster-row, Charles Cook, Esq., many years an eminent bookseller, and one of the Common Council for his ward. He had a few days previously undergone the operation for the removal of a stone in the bladder. In 1809, he succeeded to the property of his fathr, the late John Cook, amounting to above 50,000l. acquired in the same trade (GM Apr 1816, 382; MM May 1816, 369) (Maxted, 2001).

Paternoster Row was a pivotal location in the bookselling trade, and the Cookes were part of that history: “For a century or more the famous locality has been almost entirely inhabited by booksellers or stationers, such as the Longmans, Cookes, Harrisons, Hoggs, Rivingtons, Baldwins, and very many others, whose careers would each need a lengthy chapter” (Roberts, 1889, p. 141).   Roberts (1889) also mentions the Cooke family’s work publishing weekly periodicals in the latter part of the eighteenth century (p. 142).

Place of Publication

A place of publication is not given on the title page, but the Library of Congress has presumed that it was published in London, given that it was sold in Cooke’s bookshop and published for the author, whose relevant work was in Berkeley Square.