Thursday, 22 October 2009

If Jane Austen owned a cookbook ... might have been this one.

I blogged about this book earlier in the year and thought I'd highlight it again now that it's available and I've ordered it - eek! I have NO willpower where books are concerned :-0 Anyway, back to the book ... A New System of Domestic Cookery by Mrs Rundell has just been reprinted by Persephone Books.

Maria Rundell (1745-1828) was the original domestic goddess. The daughter of a barrister, Maria married Thomas Rundell, a Bath surgeon, at the age of 21 and they had five children. After her husband died, Maria travelled frequently on visits to friends and relations, but found time to collect and sort her large collection of receipts and remedies for her daughters. She eventually sent the manuscript to a family friend the publisher John Murray and it was published in 1806 as A New System of Domestic Cookery; a second edition was written at Swansea, where Mrs Rundell was then living with her married daughter. Every year 5–10,000 copies were sold and the book, one of the earliest manuals of household management, became one of Murray’s most valuable properties. In 1814 there was a law suit over the copyright; Mrs Rundell eventually accepted Murray’s offer of 2000 guineas. Between 1806-44 there were sixty-seven English reprints and it was also a bestseller in America. It sold more than 245,000 copies in the UK, remaining in print until 1893.

Persephone are reprinting the 1816 edition, the same year as Jane Austen's Emma was published. As well as more than a thousand 'receipts' (recipes), The New System of Domestic Cookery contains numerous tips and wrinkles for nineteenth century domestic challenges and household management, such as how 'To cement broken China', 'To take stains of any kind out of Linen' or 'To prevent the creaking of a Door'. There's even instructions on how to make a 'Fine Blacking for Shoes', something that Sir Seymour Dinniscombe, a character in my latest Regency romance Ice Angel, would appreciate! Here's a 'receipt' for lip salve for chopped (chapped) lips...

Put a quarter of an ounce of benjamin, storax, and spermaceti, two penny-worth of alkanet root, a large juicy apple chopped, a bunch of black grapes bruised, a quarter of a pound of unsalted butter, and two ounces of bees-wax, into a new tin saucepan. Simmer gently till the wax, &c. are dissolved, and then strain it through a linen. When cold melt it again, and pour it into small pots or boxes.

The endpaper from the Persephone edition of A New System of Domestic Cookery -
a block printed cotton in Lapis style 1808-15
, Victoria and Albert Museum

A New System of Domestic Cookery by Mrs. Rundell, published by Persephone Books 2009. ISBN 9781903155745

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