The Hand-Book of Carving

Published in Boston in 1840, this volume in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection contains directions for carving all kinds of fish, meat, and game, as well as advice for appropriate behavior at the table.

According to the unknown author, “Without a perfect knowledge of the art of Carving, it is impossible to perform the honor of the table with propriety; and nothing can be more disagreeable to one of a sensitive disposition, than to behold a person, at the head of a well-furnished board, hacking the finest joints, and giving them the appearance of having been gnawed by dogs.”


This slim volume provides the dinner table host with detailed instructions and drawings for carving various fish, “joints” (mutton, lamb, beef, veal, pig), poultry, and game It also contains handy advice for the host (“The brief interval before dinner is announced may be easily filled up by the common-place inquiries after health, and observations on the weather”) and the guest (“You will probably have to wait a little time before dinner is announced. During this short period, render yourself as agreeable as possible to the assembled company.”) Charming and disarming, this clever little treatise provides a fascinating window on dining culture and etiquette of the day.


This edition of The Hand-Book of Carving was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the Society is a research library documenting the life of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The Society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection includes approximately 1,100 volumes. 

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