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2011-06, 370, Art, Cookery Books, Doug Mackenzie

Review Article

Doug Mackenzie
An annotated bibliography of Australian domestic cookery books 1860s to 1950 by John Hoyle; editor Geoff Bock. Billycan Cook, Sydney, 2010. ii & 416 pages. A4 size. $55 plus $15 postage within Aust. Available from Billycan Cook, PO Box 695 Willoughby NSW 2068; no credit cards.

With reference to:
1. John Hoyle, An annotated bibliography of Australian domestic cookery books 1860s to 1950, Sydney, Billycan Cook, 2010.
2. Bette R Austin, A bibliography of Australian cookery books published prior to 1941, Melbourne, RMIT, 1987. xxii & 192 pages, [7].
3. Elizabeth Driver, A bibliography of cookery books published in Britain 1875-1914, London and New York, Prospect Books in association with Mansell Publishing, 1989. 748 pages.

OVER A LONG TIME John Hoyle gathered together 1084 cookery books published and/or printed in Australia before 1951. Nobody else, and no library, had a cookery book collection anywhere nearly as large as his. For the last 20 years he has been working on a bibliography and this is the book under review. It is a triumph of scholarship.

We are all accustomed to seeing given in a book: Author, title, place of publication, publisher, date. Having these available makes the bibliographer’s task much easier, but that was not so for author Hoyle. After a careful examination of several hundred books he found that in many: the author or compiler was not given; there was no acknowledged publisher; the printer was the only production person named; no indication of a date was given; and more than half were issued to promote particular products or as fundraisers. This meant that some of the usual ways of organizing a bibliography could not be used. He also found that there were many problems in comparing various editions or printings of the one title, and decided to include only those books he could see and assess. This enabled him to give the dimensions of each book and the number of pages. Consider the title Everything a lady should know (Hoyle 494-500), where the 27th edition was published in 1929. As he sighted only editions 3, 9, 20, 21, 24, 26 and 27, this title is listed as 7 books, not 27. The bibliography covers 784 titles and 1418 books, numbered from 1 to 1418.

Listed alphabetically are 525 headings. Usually it is the author or compiler (such as Gilmore, Mary), the issuing organization (Foster Clark (Aust) Ltd), or the body for which funds are being raised (Crippled children); otherwise, the first words of the title (War economy recipe book). Under a heading, titles are listed in alphabetical order, and editions in date order. For instance, under Floate, Mrs Dorothy, there are three titles, Mrs Floate’s secret of success cookery book vol 1, vol 2 and vol 3; 514 1.1 to 518 1.5, 519 2.1 to 520 2.2 and 521 3.1. Five editions were seen of vol 1, out of 11 up to 1950, two of vol 2, of 2, and one of vol 3.

Finding dates was a serious problem since only 37% of the books had a date given by the publisher or printer. The author used great ingenuity in forming an estimate, including using telephone numbers and directories, and often gives comments on how the estimate was formed: ‘The coins shown in an advertisement bear the dates 1936 and 1937.’ ‘Butter rationing ended in June 1950.’ ‘ . . . there is a reproduction of a wedding note, which has at its head “Wed. 2nd March”; if this had been taken from a contemporaneous calendar, the book would have been issued in 1921 or 1927; 1927 seems more appropriate.’ ‘The postage rates went up to twopence halfpenny in December 1941.’ ‘There is an advt for Vegemite which places it after 1922.’ ‘The book contains a testimonial letter dated 1st September 1906 . . .’ and then shows the printer had moved by 1914, ‘so this would have been printed between 1906 and 1914.’ Note that, very carefully, he does not say that the publication date is in this range.

There is a Chronological index 1837 to 1950, which lists 268 titles where there was a given date on the first edition seen, and 223 titles where the estimated date was considered to be correct within a year. Hence there are 293 titles, out of the total of 784, not in the index and so, roughly, each of the three categories holds one third.

As well as the usual Subject index, there is a Short-title index. This helps if you want to find, for instance, The commonsense cookery book, that is not entered under C. The index leads to the heading ‘NSW Public School Teachers’ Association’, which published at least 24 editions. Although written for school use, it was widely popular in the general community and sold well over a quarter of a million copies.

The 324 cross-references are a very good feature of the book. Included are three areas in NSW: Hawkesbury district, Hunter Valley and Shoalhaven district, and 67 towns in Australia. Most are small places, although Launceston, 3 books, and Newcastle, 6 books, are there. Forty eight have a reference to only one book. Eleven towns do not need a cross-reference as they form part of a heading. Examples are the two small ones in South Australia: Moonta Mothers’ Club and Pinnaroo Soldiers’ Memorial cookery book. Out of the 12 mentioned in the headings for Methodist and Presbyterian, seven failed to be cross-referenced: a pity. If we include all these, mention is made of 89 towns and districts: NSW 32, Vic 26, SA 21, Qld 4, Tas 4, WA 2. They are associated with 113 titles and 191 books. It would have been an improvement if the complete information had been given in an appendix.

Some collectors would have been interested to see a listing of books from each state. Scanning through, it seems there are from: Vic 586, NSW 508, SA 139, Qld 68, WA 21, Tas 20, ACT 2, NT 0; no information 38, and NZ 36. Note that, although this is a bibliography of Australian books, New Zealand is included.

On the covers are the only coloured illustrations, those of the books Mrs Theo P Winning, Housekeeping for two or more, Melbourne, EW Cole [1915]; and [Edward Abbott], The English and Australian cookerybook . . . by an Australian aristologist, London, Sampson Low, Son & Marston, 1864.¹ At that time, Abbott lived in Bellerive, now a suburb of Hobart. Inside are 25 full-page illustrations of 23 books, a menu and a flyer for cookery classes. A small photo of a young boy, in chef’s uniform, standing by a table that has a cake upon it, is captioned amusingly ‘A not so recent photo of the author’, and an even smaller photo, uncaptioned, shows him in modern times.





He examined books in two libraries in Sydney, two in Melbourne, one in Canberra, and one in Adelaide, and in nine private collections in Sydney, N1 to N9. At the end of the entry for each book its locations are stated. Included in N1, Hoyle, are 535 books not held in any of the other 14 collections. The 151 books in N9, the late Mary Payne, have gone to the National Library in Canberra and the Mitchell Library in Sydney. About 600 books in N1 have been given to the Mitchell, all the ones not there held. This was a very generous gesture and a gift to all of us by making them forever available. A selection of illustrations from the covers may be viewed on the website of the NSW State Library by entering: „John Hoyle cookery collection‟. Although, at the time of compilation, 46% of the 1418 books were not held in public collections, 98% now are.

Lady Eliza Darling, Simple rules for the guidance of persons in humble life; more particularly for young girls going out to service, Sydney, 1837 (Hoyle 353 1.1 and Ferguson 2251) is the earliest book listed, and is important even though the section on cookery is small.




Ice, and its uses was published in Adelaide by Sinnett & Co, Patent ice manufacturers. If the likely date of 1860 is correct, it would be the first Australian recipe book; anyway, the author believes it is the first one published and printed in Australia.

Once I found a lifestyle book with just one, complicated, recipe, and thought it was a record minimum. Later, it was trumped by what was labelled a recipe book, with zero recipes! One needed to collect them piecemeal when buying the company’s goods, and paste them in, but this copy had none. John Hoyle was not tempted to clutter his book with such curiosa, and decided to set a limit of at least four pages of recipes and at least 20 recipes. Darling (no recipes) and Abbott (neither published nor printed in Australia) are the two important exceptions made to his selection criteria.

In such a large undertaking it can be expected that there will be occasional slips. On page 361, Hoyle 1328 and two cross-references are printed for the second time. Hoyle 313 was thought to be issued before 1951 but further checking proved it to be a reissue, with some changes, at a later date. For technical reasons, however, it was not possible to omit it. These and other slips, often in punctuation, do not spoil the bibliography.

The work on dating is an important feature. The other great strength lies in the further annotations. These are on many aspects but, particularly, on the actual contents. The Ocklye cookery book has no information in its title, but the note ‘The recipes are for baking and jams’ is helpful. ‘Meal preparation’, ‘general cookery’, ‘wide range’ and ‘comprehensive’ are four terms defined in the introduction to indicate an increasing variety of recipes, and are often used in the notes. Sometimes more specific details are given such as: ‘Pavlova cake includes vinegar in the meringue mixture.’ ‘The game section includes kangaroo, emeu [!], wombat, mutton birds . . .’ ‘The [1917] recipe for Anzac biscuits uses flour and rice flour, and no rolled oats or coconut.’ ‘The meat recipes include 9 recipes for rabbit.’ From the introduction and the notes for Hoyle 628, we learn that a savoury was often a reasonably substantial dish, favoured in entertaining, served after the main course and before dessert. Sometimes a general comment can cover half a page.

The whole tone is friendly and it seems just as if you were chatting with the knowledgeable author.

Bette Austin published her bibliography in 1987. It is a major work, the first such in Australia. It stimulated John Hoyle in his collecting. She identifies 760 books in the period 1864 to 1940. There are annotations for 350 books, but almost two thirds of these are notes about the date: ‘1918?’, ‘no date’, ‘193?’, and so on. Other annotations are usually equally terse. Apart from the information included in the title, the only attempt to show what the recipes are about is the occasional addition of the cover title. No notes are given about the size of a book, or the number of pages, apart from labelling 28 books ‘P’ for physically insubstantial, of 24 pages or less. More than one sixth of the books, 134, were not sighted. There is one index: a chronological list of short titles.




Elizabeth Driver’s bibliography part of a series, appeared in 1989. This massive volume lists 1193 titles and is very well annotated. As with Hoyle, editions not seen are not entered, and there are the same three indices. Clearly Hoyle learnt a lot from Driver. Driver’s subject index includes 17 countries and the Isle of Man. Hoyle’s cross-referencing of towns seems to be an innovation — a very welcome one.



The first citation of Hoyle in print is probably that by the Adelaide antiquarian bookseller Michael Treloar. His Catalogue of latest acquisitions 114, March 2011, contains two editions of The Kandy Koola cookery book, produced for Kandy Koola tea. For the first edition, 1898, he notes (Hoyle 702 1.1) and for the second, 1906, ‘Not in Hoyle’, and then gives the title and date of Hoyle’s book. It seems the bibliography has been accepted already as the standard reference. The two editions are priced at $400 and $300: old cookery books are not cheap.

Hoyle has almost double the number of books that Austin has, 1418 to 760. Checking through the pages of Hoyle suggests that there existed at least 270 editions that were not seen, and so, if found, can be noted as ‘Not in Hoyle’. Some of these, when found, together with new titles so far undiscovered, will bolster a future Australian bibliography.
On page 9 of the introduction, Hoyle mentions an area for study, namely how British cookery books of the 1700s have morphed into the Australian ones of the 1860s and later, and indicates how difficult it will be. We can expect that people will produce more than one PhD out of this.

Libraries do not get thanked enough. Clearly John Hoyle is very grateful that the Mitchell, through Mrs Ann Enderby, provided him with a desk in the library’s stacks where he could work on the book. This is a style of contribution, of an unexpected kind, of which the public could be unaware.

We need to thank John Hoyle for producing a book of such authority and importance.²


1 Aristology is the science or art of cooking or dining; from the Greek ‘ariston’ (breakfast, lunch).
2 The writer is a friend of John Hoyle.

Editor’s notes

1 Distortion in some illustrations is due to difficulties in flattening pages in book without damage to binding when photos being taken.
2 Publication of this article is timely given the theme of this year’s History Week in NSW (3-11 September) is ‘Eat History’.





One thought on “Review Article

  1. I have found an add for “Everything a Lady Should Know” dated 1917. http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=HC19171204.2.26.1

    Posted by Deborah | 12/06/2013, 11:58 am


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