Materials on Food and Drink
Central Library has one of the largest culinary collections in the country. Book topics include cookbooks, gastronomy, baking, beverages, diet, literary appreciation and biographies. Other formats are patents, menus, periodicals, advertising ephemera, photographs, audios and videos.
The General Collections
Most of the materials on food and wine are found in the Science, Technology and Patents Department. Access to the collection is through the catalog. Books are arranged by Dewey Decimal number beginning with 640. There are approximately 39,000 food and wine books in this area. Cookery is arranged first by generalities, then geographically. The collection has great depth in international cuisine. For example, there are more than 700 titles on French cookery, over a thousand on Chinese cuisine and more than 800 on Mexican cooking. Many non-English language books on the subject are in the International Languages Department. California and the Midwest cookery are strongly represented by both trade books and charitable (fund-raising) cookbooks. Following the geographic arrangement are books based on technique or appliance, such as blenders or microwaves, and then those based on ingredients, such as chicken or tofu. These are followed by books on beverages, and hotel and restaurant management.
The wine collection is non-technical with the library owning many important English language titles. Wine books class in the 663’s and are arranged geographically.
Other areas of food-related interest are diet books (613.2), and agricultural materials (630), which include growing and preserving fruits and vegetables. The chemical technology section contains a variety of food processing subjects. Julia Child and Jacques Pepin are among those represented by instructional videos.
Many related materials are found in other subject departments. Business and Economics has the economic aspects of the food and agricultural industries. History and Genealogy has restaurant guides and has indexed many books and periodicals to identify information about the history of California food and agriculture. Literature and Fiction house literary appreciation of food and novels with food, restaurant and wine settings. Social Sciences, Philosophy and Religion has information on food habits, etiquette, alcoholism and temperance.
The Periodicals Collection
Central Library’s periodicals collection, accessible from any subject department, is very extensive. There are long and complete runs of many culinary titles, such as The Boston Cooking School Magazine, Cooking for Profit, Gastronomica, Institutions, and Restaurant Business.
Rare Books and Special Collections (Art, Music, and Recreation)
This area of the Art, Music and Recreation Department houses many items that require special care. Access is through the catalog. Major features are California cookery, rare culinary books, menus and advertising ephemera. Appointments are required and may be made by calling (213) 228-7350.
Los Angeles Public Library has the largest collection in the world of cookbooks printed in California. It is the only library that owns all three of California’s first charitable books:
- How to Keep a Husband, or Culinary Tactics
- The California Recipe Book
- The Sacramento Ladies Kitchen Companion
all printed in 1872. There are more than 1000 books in this collection, including such important works as El Cocinero Espanol, the first Spanish language cookbook printed in California, and What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, the first cookbook written by an African American.
There are more than 500 rare books on European and American cooking, one of the largest and most important collections in the country. The earliest title is Francisco Grapaldi’s Parmensis de Partibus Adium, published in 1533. The three main cookery books on the Italian renaissance are here: Castore Durante’s Il Tesoro Della Sanita (1588); Domenico Romoldi's La Singolare Dottrina (1570); and Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera (1598). French and British cooking are well represented by the works of many noted authors from the early 17th century to modern times. The Central library has a major collection of materials on the tradition of Hispanic cookery. Several classic Spanish titles, such as Juan de Altimira's Nuevo Arte de Cocina (1756) and Juan de la Mata's Arte de Reposteria (1791), form the foundation of this collection. From Mexico comes an 1829 manuscript by Maria Dolores Calderon, El Cuaderno de Guisosos, and the first cookbook printed in Mexico, El Cocinero Mexicano (1831). There are several Mexican books from the 1830s to the 1850s.
American cooking includes significant early books such as an 1815 edition of Amelia Simmons' American Cookery but modern books predominate, including such items as the rare first edition, privately printed, of Irma Rombaurs The Joy of Cooking (1931).
The Library owns a collection of several thousand menus arranged by date and by restaurant. The menus are available on the library web site, and full images are available for much of the collection. Menus are primarily from California restaurants but this collection includes significant restaurants, and also common ones, from around the world. Gifts of menus are welcomed and the subject department manager in Science, Technology and Patents, may be contacted for more information.
Thousands of brochures promoting foods, from prunes to baking soda, are filed by subject. Besides ingredient-specific recipes covering a long period, they also contain eye-catching advertising art of every style. The Cookery Ephemera Index is available on the Library web site.
Photographs and Illustrations
The Los Angeles Public Library Historic Photograph Collection, housed in the History and Genealogy Department, contains more than three million photographs, primarily from the collections of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. There are many food and wine related images ranging from photographs of workers in tortilla factories to novelty photos of penguins dressed as chefs roasting chickens. Parts of the collection are available for searching and viewing on the Library web site. Photographs are also available for commercial use.
The Culinary Historians of Southern California
The Culinary Historians of Southern California was founded in 1995 to support the Library's collections and to provide public programming in the areas of food in culture and society. For more information, and to join, call Dan Dupill at (213) 228-7401.