The Glasgow Cookery Book

One key resource which relates to food, health, and the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science is the Glasgow Cookery Book (GCB), a text first published by the school in 1910. This was just two years after the Glasgow School of Cookery and the West End School of Cookery had merged to form the college. The college’s first principal, Ella Glaister, was the driving force behind the publication of the cookbook. As Carole McCallum (university archivist at the GCU archive centre) writes in the introductory history to the cookbook’s centenary edition, Glaister wished to publish a cookery book so that pupils had a standardised printed book for cookery instructions, rather than having to copy down recipes by hand in class.

The cover of the 1910 edition of the GCB compared to the cover of the Centenary Edition, published in 2009.

In the preface to the first edition, Glaister wrote that the book was ‘compiled specifically for the use of Students in training as Teachers of Cookery at the College. The Recipes are those which have been successfully used for many years, and have been proved therefore to be essentially practical’ (1910: 1). Rather than a commercial venture, the Glasgow Cookery Book started off as an educational tool. Fittingly, the early editions of the cookbook contained notes pages – sometimes at the back and sometimes at the rear – so that pupils could write their own recipes or observations as they used the cookery book as part of their learning materials. Notes from the cookery school’s students that pre-date the 1910 publication of the GCB correlate with the cookbook’s contents, and so the recipes in the cookbook were clearly derived from the teachings that happened within the school. 

As the existence of the centenary edition published in 2009 belies, however, the cookbook had success far beyond its initial purposes, and was popular not just with pupils of the college but also with the public. It is a much-loved publication still, long after the GWSCDS became integrated into Glasgow Caledonian University, and cookery ceased to be taught at the institution. 

In the records of the Queen’s College Glasgow held at GCU, there are 22 copies of the GCB published between 1909 and 2009. While there are other four other editions in the alumni collections that have been gifted to the archives, this section focuses on the QC records as they are the texts that have been catalogued by the archive. Some of the cookbooks present in the records of the Queen’s College Glasgow are multiple copies of the same edition, but even these contain different handwritten notes or markings that are worthy of attention. By focusing on the many editions of this longstanding publication, it is possible to note changes in the way recipes were written and presented.

These changes – or indeed any lack of change – can illustrate shifting attitudes towards certain ingredients, cooking methods, technologies, and dishes. What was pertinent to the GCB in 1910 may not have been relevant, interesting, or even possible for readers and cooks in the 1970s or twenty-first century. Over time, food trends and fashions change. So too do the ways we cook, and our attitudes towards food and the time spent in the kitchen. Numerous editions of the same cookbook are therefore a valuable resource for measuring the passing of time, and how that can be read through food writing. 

This section highlights key changes between the invalid recipes included in the different editions of the GCB which are kept in the Queen’s College records. The records do not contain every edition of the cookbook, and the twelfth edition which was published in 1938 is the last one that is numbered in this set (though the gifted alumni copies do contain the 13th and 14th editions). The next book in the QC records was published in 1951, and rather than containing a number it is called the ‘New Revised Edition’. This is the first cookbook in the Queen’s College collection that is published by John Smith rather than the initial publishers, N. Adshead and Son. From this point on, the editions are called ‘Third Revised Edition’, ‘New and Revised Edition’, or ‘Revised edition’, and so it is harder to tell how many editions may have come between them, given the lack of a numerical order.

The cookbooks housed in the Queen’s College Glasgow records are as follows: 

Most of the copies were owned by students of the GWSCDS, which have been added to the Queen’s College special collection at several points throughout time. Between some editions the invalid recipes remained the same, but at other times changes shed light on interesting developments in the perceptions around food and health. 

By navigating through the bulleted links above, you can click through the different editions of the text to see how the invalid recipes changed between these editions of the GCB. It is recommended that you read in chronological order to see how the treatment of invalid cookery changes over time.