Bowdoin College obtains historic cookbook collection

 boxes of cookbooks

As cookbook collections go, Bowdoin College’s recently acquried 700 volumes isn’t extremely large. It is, however, rich in history, as the Portland Press Herald notes. The college obtained its collection of books, published from 1772 to 1960, from a private collector in New York who worked with Biddeford, Maine-based bookseller Rabelais Inc. to place the collection.

“The breadth is astonishing,” said Bowdoin Library Director Marjorie Hassen. “It demonstrates the history of the culinary arts in this country, as well as early American life and right up through the 20th century. It’s an extraordinary resource for the study of social and cultural history.”

Most of the books are from the 18th and 19th centuries. The collector, Clifford Apgar, is a retired banker who assembled the volumes over many years, working closely with Rabelais. A few years ago he told the store he wanted to place the collection where it could be used for research. The collection is named in honor of Esta Kramer, who donated money to the college for its purchase.

The historic books offer more than recipes; they “document social change in America… through our shifting tastes in food.” The collection offers insight into important historical episodes like the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil War, and the African-American experience. Discover more about the cookbooks at the Portland Press Herald website

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