Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Among the many treasures to be found in wonderfully diverse library of the late Martin Orskey were a number of 17th and 18th century cookery books and manuscripts.

The most expensive in the Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium) sale of June 26, at £11,500, was a neatly written example that bears the armorial bookplates of a clan chieftain, James Brodie of Brodie, and another Scottish nobleman, Sir William Bennet of Grubett.

Dated to c.1700, handsomely bound in contemporary red morocco gilt and running to 79pp, it contains 175 numbered recipes.

Temptations include “Pitty Pattys the French way” and “a Hare with a pudding in his Belly”, along with instructions on how to “pott a Swan” or “fry Harticholks”.

New highs

The printed examples noted below all sold for record sums. The most expensive was a rare 1661 first (in a modern but period style panelled calf binding) of William Rabisha’s Whole Body of Cookery... that made £5800. The author was a Cornishman who claimed to have worked for many noble families.

Another work in a modern but period style binding was a 1675, third edition of a much more famous book, Hannah Woolley’s The Queen-like Closet..., that sold at £4200.

In a contemporary inscription, the annalist, politician and bibliophile Nicholas Luttrell (1657-1732) records his relatively youthful purchase of this copy in 1676 at two shillings and sixpence.

A 1683, third edition of Woolley’s The Accomplish’d Ladies Delight in Preserving, Physick, Beautifying and Cookery in modern full sheep made £4000.

Scotch collops and Shrewsbury cakes, the management of strong drinks and assorted medicinal recipes, among them one to deal with the bite of a mad dog, are the stuff of a rare copy of Bradshaw’s Family Companion.

When published in 1753 it cost a shilling, but at Dominic Winter it sold for £3400.

The author was a Mrs Penelope Bradshaw, who claims on the title to have served as housekeeper to several noble families.

In 1954, Orskey and Paul Dinnage formed the Holland Press to produce affordable copies of rare and out-of-print books and their first publication was a famous cookery book: a reprint of Vicaire’s Bibliographique Gastronomique.

In a stew


A spread from Giles Rose’s A Perfect School of Instructions for the Officers of the Mouth..., a 1682, first English edition of a work first published 20 years earlier in French – it contains recipes for frog and tortoise tarts. It sold for £6000 as part of the July 10 Forum sale of books from the Fox Pointe Manor collections. Seven years ago, when offered by Bloomsbury Auctions as part of the Cetus Library, it made £5000.

A 17th century work by Giles Rose that sold for £6000 as part of a July 10 sale of early printed books from the Fox Pointe Manor Library held by Forum (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) is illustrated above.

In similar vein, back on November 29 last year the London saleroom sold for £5000 a manuscript collection of recipes compiled for the Bragge family of Sadborow Hall, near Thorncome in Dorset. Dated to c.1690-1720, it was now partly waterstained and browned but still in the original marbled wrappers.

Some of the recipes named those responsible for the contribution, among them “To make Marrow Pudding.... Aunt Raw” and “To do Lambs Ears & Tails... Mr Lloyd”. Understandably, perhaps, no one is blamed for instructions on how “To stew Lettice”.