For today’s installment, we take a page from our fall issue feature on collecting cookbooks and highlight the manuscript recipe book of actress and author Fanny Kemble. It will be on offer from Rabelais Books at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair beginning Friday evening.
Kemble (1809-1893) was a very popular English-born stage actress. She married American Pierce Butler in 1834, and they subsequently moved to his Georgia plantation and had two children. But the marriage didn’t last, due in large part to their differing views about slavery. Kemble’s Journal of A Residence on A Georgian Plantation, a raw chronicle of plantation life written during her early married years, was published in 1863.
This recipe book was compiled in Kemble’s later years, when she was living in Philadelphia. The clothbound “blank book” was published in 1870, and it contains 146 recipes written mostly in Kemble’s hand, for dishes like “Maryland Corn Cakes,” “Moonshine Biscuits,” and “Calves Feet Jelly.” There is also a laid-in, recipe-related letter from Kemble to her eldest daughter, Sarah Butler Wister (wife of Dr. Owen Jones Wister, and mother of novelist Owen Wister).
As an artifact of culinary, literary, or women’s history, this item is very special. The price is $25,000.
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Reprinted with permission from Fine Books & Collections, Rebecca Rego Barry, author
Rare Finds are a special feature from Biblio and the wonderful writers at Fine Books & Collections. Visit their site to see more about the rare book trade.