52 Weeks of Historical How-To’s, Week 7: A Complete System of Cookery

Echoes from the Vault

When word went around that this year’s Special Collections’ Christmas party (blog forthcoming) was to be hosted by Maia Sheridan, with everyone chipping in by bringing food made to historical recipes, I immediately scoured the shelves for something suitable. My eye fell upon a rather plain looking volume, which, when opened, revealed page upon page of detailed menus.

This humble-looking book is John Simpson’s A Complete System of Cookery. On the front pastedown is the inscription “James C. Bruce Balchrystie”, which is partially obscured by an armorial bookplate of ‘Balchrystie’ (motto ‘Irrevocabile’). Balchrystie is a Georgian house situated in the East Neuk of Fife, purchased by the Bruce family at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The book was donated to the library in 1934 “in memory of John Rollo, Esq., of Rodney Lodge, Perth and Edgecliffe, St Andrews” by his sister, Miss Rollo. It seems likely that…

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