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October 26, 2007

Mexican Manuscript Cookbook 1807

166. [MEXICAN COOKBOOK]. “Libro de Cosina [sic] en que se manifiestan varios polajes curiosos pertenecientas á las senoras mujeres ano de 1807.” Manuscript cookbook in Spanish with calligraphic title, written in ink in several hands, 107 leaves (appears to lack first leaf of text following title), documenting highly sophisticated cookery with traditional Mexican, Spanish, and international components. 8vo, old black cloth over black and tan mottled boards. Binding about shot, covers barely holding, sections of marbled paper missing, title spotted and foxed and occasional spotting to text, but for the most part the interior is fine and legible. Manuscript cookbooks from Mexico from the nineteenth century and earlier are exceedingly rare in commerce (none found in auction records).

            Because the earliest known Mexican published cookbook is thought to be from 1831 (El Cocinero Mexicano, Palau 55879), before that time, culinary arts were obviously passed down through a manuscript tradition, as embodied in the present manuscript. “In Mexico, recipe transmission historically has been from mother to daughter in the course of the child’s domestic training. The tradition of recording recipes in written form has its origin in the late eighteenth century. A number of these manuscripts have survived, and in the twentieth century several were published. The majority of the extant ones were written in convents, as opposed to those written for the home. Nuns were active in culinary practice and frequently recorded their recipes. The most famous of these, though not the most extensive, is the Libro de cocina del Convento de San Jerónimo, attributed to one of the greatest Mexican authors of the seventeen century, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz” (Pinedo, Encarnación’s Kitchen: Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California, p. 24).

            The recipes in the present manuscript are heavy on traditional Mexican dishes and preparation, emphasizing such ingredients as chicken, fish, goat, and rabbit, which are confected into many types of stews and other presentations. Yet even at this early date, European influences are evident, as in the recipe for chicken or goat fricassee in the French manner and other recipes reflecting foreign influences. On the other hand, indigenous values predominate as seen in recipes for tamales, tortillas, and other corn dishes, nopales, chicharrones, empanadas, mole, etc. that would be rejected later in the century as plebian. For example, one recipe is for “Pollos rellenos de Oaxaca,” which emphasizes indigenous spices, especially chiles. Other such regional recipes are also found. Some recipes of interest are “Guisado Chichimeco,” “Mole Portugues,” “Tortillas de mantequilla,” “Tortillas Mexicanas,” “El Nopal Zinamoma,” “Escabeche de Bobo,” “Guisado Mestizo,” “Ensalada de Calabaza” “Pan de Loco,” “Polo Borrachos,” “Enchilado,” “Bollo pa. dar chocolate,” “Leche Quemada,” “Bocadillas de Rosa,” “Bizcochos de Mescal,” “Tamales de Dulce.” As with many such recipes in early manuscript cookbooks, the directions are so vague that it would be very difficult to successfully prepare the dishes today. ($2,500-5,000)

Sold. Hammer: $6,000.00; Price Realized: $7,050.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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