The National Cook Book

 Published in 1853 in Philadelphia, this volume in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection is a general cookbook containing over 500 recipes characterized by excellent, easily understood directions and written by a highly educated (unusual for her time) Quaker woman who was also an accomplished astronomer.

Born in 1811 to a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family, Hannah Bouvier was particularly concerned with making her recipes as useful and practical as possible, drawing them up in the “most concise and simple manner,” sacrificing “style to minute detail; not even avoiding repetition where it might render directions more explicit.” She noted correctly that in many contemporary cookbooks, the cook was forced to wade through a “formidable amount of reading before she can learn the process of making a pudding,” and others at the opposite extreme “are so brief in their explanations [they] are ever liable to misconception.” Bouvier’s training in mathematics and popular science advanced her goal of making the recipes as easy to use as possible for American women of the day, utilizing only readily available utensils and ingredients and encompassing only “purely American” cooking. She was also deeply concerned about cooking for the sick and convalescent and included a significant section with recipes prepared according to the directions of an eminent local physician.


As might be expected of a scientist, the book is thorough and comprehensive, including recipes for soups, fish, meat, vegetables, sauces, pickles, pastry, sweets, tea cakes, cakes, preserves, and miscellaneous dishes, clearly organized with both a detailed table of contents and index, unlike many contemporary cookbooks that lacked both.


This edition of The National Cook Book 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 lives 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 comprises approximately 1,100 volumes.

About the Author

Hannah Mary Bouvier Peterson was an unusual woman for her day because of her interest and training in science and mathematics, especially, of all things, astronomy. She was born in 1811 to a prominent Quaker family in Philadelphia and was educated at private academies, showing a strong interest in learning and displaying an analytical mind. She worked with her publisher husband, Robert Peterson, who taught her applied mathematics, and from these roots she later developed her own interest in astronomy. Her first book, written in 1850, was Familiar Science, published under her husband’s name, since she felt that a “woman should never be known outside of her own home.” The book was extremely popular and sold 250,000 copies. Her second book Bouvier’s Familiar Astronomy, or an Introduction to the Study of the Heavens, published under her maiden name, was equally successful and extremely well reviewed in the scientific as well as popular press. 

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