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Culinary History and Cookbook Collection at RBSC

Community Cookbooks

Community Cookbooks, often called fundraising cookbooks, are books collaboratively created by church groups and community organizations, often to support a specific cause. Common in the 19th century and to this day, community cookbooks are often locally produced collections of recipes contributed by members of a church or school group. 20th-century examples are often spiral-bound. Some publishing houses specialized in printing and producing such community cookbooks, such as Morris Press (Nebraska),  Rasmussen Press, and Gateway publishing in Manitoba.

Subject headings:

Searching by the location keyword, in known, combined with Keyword "Cookbooks" or Cookbook, will return more examples than highly specific subject headings.

Further Listening:

Cooking is Community Podcast:

Commercial Cookbooks

Commercial cookbooks, also called advertising cookbooks, are recipe books created to promote, advertise and sell a product. Commonly created in the 20th century for flour products, shortening, cocoa, and many more. These are usually richly illustrated, often printed in colour, and promote a single product or a family of products.

Subject headings:

This subset of cookbooks is best found by searching for brand names as keywords, combined with Cookbooks. A sample search for an advertising cookbook by Swifning, a mid-century shortening company.

Kw: (Swiftning) AND kw:(Cookbook*)

Another approach is to search for types of ingredients:

e.g. Oils and fats, Edible, Cocoa

Manuscript Cookbooks

While the majority of Manuscript cookbooks are early examples created by women for household use or to circulate to a coterie of neighbours, we also have some twentieth-century examples of manuscript cookbooks. Early manuscript cookbooks usually combine medical receipts with cookery recipes.

In advanced search, limit the format to: "Manuscript." Then Search for keywords:




For an example search set using "cookbooks" as a keyword and limiting format to Manuscript, see here: kw:(cookbook) AND (x0:book + x4:mss)


The Menu Collection at McGill consists of menus acquired individually by the library. Menus date back to approximately 1886, but most of the menus are twentieth century. The bulk of menus are from Montreal-area restaurants and hotels, representing French, Quebec, and other styles of cuisine such as Indian. 

In addition to the Menu collection, there are many individual menu books, menu planning books, and design reference materials in the RBSC collection.

Subject Keywords:

Menus -  search limited to Rare books and Special Collections

You can further refine the subject heading by geographical region or era, e.g.:

Menus—20th century

Menus—United States

Another strategy to get the broader sense of the Menu collection at McGIll is to search "menu Collection" as a uniform title.:

ut: Menu collection.


Culinary Ephemera

Culinary ephemera consists of advertising materials, pamphlets, government publications, kitchen appliance manuals and recipe booklets, and food-related products. McGill has a significant collection of these materials, some cataloged individually and some in groups by topic, e.g. dairy, Food preservation, shortening, cocoa, toaster ovens, gelatine etc.

Subject Keywords: - limit search to print books and Rare books and Special Collections

"Culinary Ephemera"

"Printed Ephemera"




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