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Rare Collectible Books

Retro and Vintage Books

Julia Child, Nigella Lawson, Irma Rombauer, Jamie Oliver...all of these people have made their name and fame and living on their creative culinary skills, and all have published books of their recipes, tips, tricks and techniques. Over the years, copies of well-loved cookbooks can become extremely collectible as they become scarcer and trends change. Here we have a list of the top ten most expensive cookbooks ever sold on AbeBooks. The majority of the ingredients may have been basic, but these recipe books were worth their weight when sold.

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1. A Guide to Modern Cookery

Auguste Escoffier

Sold for $5,124

One of the world’s greatest and most revered cookbooks, this was a rare 1907 first edition signed by the author and inscribed to Sarah Morgan, who worked at the Cavendish Hotel in London.

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2. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy

Mrs. Hannah Glasse

Sold for $2,875

First American Edition of this cookery classic, first published in England in 1747. Glasse's book was oft reprinted, and was the most popular cookbook in early America. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned copies.

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1845 Modern Cookery in All its Branches by Eliza Acton3. Modern Cookery in All Its Branches

Eliza Acton

Sold for $2712

One of England's first cookbooks aimed at the joy of reading as well as the techniques of cooking. This was a rare 1845 first edition in its original binding - brown cloth with, gilt imprints of various animals on the spine.

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4. A Cookbook for Girls and Boys

Irma Rombauer

Sold for $2370

From the author of the world-renowned The Joy of Cooking. This copy came with a long inscription to Rombauer's family friend, as well as a handwritten letter, still in envelope, ticked into the rear of the book.

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Streamlined Cooking by Irma Rombauer5. Streamlined Cooking

Irma Rombauer

Sold for $2000

Another high-ticket sale from legendary cooking guru Irma Rombauer makes the list. This hardcover edition was signed and inscribed to a "Margaret" by Rombauer, and was in near fine condition.

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6. Le Viandier de Taillevent

Guillaume Tirel

Sold for $1950

One of the most important culinary texts of the middle ages. This limited reprint of 350 copies in 1892 was signed by top European chef Ferran Adria. Tirel cooked for French kings Philip VI, Charles V and Charles VI from around 1325.

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Menon's La Cuisiniere Bourgeoise7. La Cuisiniere Bourgeoise


Sold for $1,751

This is an anonymous translation of Menon's La Cuisiniere Bourgeoise (the French Family Cookbook) that was originally published in 1746. This is arguably one of the most influential cookbooks in history and helped define the genre.

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8. The Complete Housewife

Eliza Smith

Sold for $1,400

The 1742 edition, published in Williamsburgh, VA, was the first cookbook published in the US. The text contains recipes for food and herbal medicines. The marvelous engraved frontispiece depicts an 18th century kitchen with three cooks and their attendants.

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9. El Cocinero Español (The Spanish Cook)

Encarnación Pinedo

Sold for $1,350

The first cookbook written by a Latin American woman in the United States, and the first Spanish language cookbook published in California, published in 1898. This item was accompanied by a copy of Dan Strehl's book, Encarnación's Kitchen containing English translations of about 300 of the recipes.

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Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking10. Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not To Do in Cooking

Mrs. D.A. Lincoln

Sold for $1,200

A good first edition copy (1884) of the only cookbook to be included in the Grolier Club’s exhibition of 100 American books printed before 1900. The book was in print, in original and revised editions, for forty years, a twenty-third printing being recorded in 1923.

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Have an appetite for more cookbooks? Don't miss:

A Guide to Collecting Cookbooks

Reader Recommended Cookbooks