The Joy of Cooking March 18, 2013 – Tags: , ,

It is the most popular and best-selling cookbook in American history, with nearly 18 million copies sold.

It is the only cookbook to be included in the New York Public Library’s list of 150 Influential Books of the Century.

The original edition was privately published by the author in an edition of 3000 copies and was illustrated by the author’s daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker, who also designed the spectacular dust jacket featuring St. Martha of Bethany, the patron saint of cooking, taking up a mop to fend off the dragon Tarasque.

The author marketed the book herself, selling copies out of her apartment for $3.00 apiece and sold approximately 2000 copies in two years, no mean accomplishment in the early years of the Great Depression. 

But the real joy came when Bobbs-Merrill took over the commercial publication of the book in 1936. 

The rest they say is history.

The image above is courtesy of James Jaffe Rare Books who is currently offering the original edition of the book. The first edition is scarce enough in its own right but to have retained the dust jacket in such nice shape is as Jaffe says “a miraculous survival,” for dust jackets and cookbooks are not usually the best of friends.

As the image below attests the dust jackets of the earlier editions are hard to come by.
And to boot, the dust jacket contains:

six short paragraphs of text printed on the inside front flap of the jacket, Rombauer presented her thoughts and intentions in publishing The Joy of Cooking: “In this book every effort has been made to add variety and interest to everyday fare, as well as to provide dishes for special occasions.” Acutely aware of the economic depression into which she is casting her book, Rombauer goes on to note that “The Zeitgeist is reflected in the Chapter on Leftovers and in many other practical suggestions.” These comments do not appear in the one-page Preface to the book, and they are not printed elsewhere. 

Drawing by Summer Pierre

The History of the Joy of Cooking via Joy of Cooking website.
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