I love old cookbooks. They seem like such an interesting window into the daily lives of our ancestors. Some of my favorites are from my grandmother's collection of food literature. Here's an example of a fascinating recipe from my of my most cherished little cookery tomes:
THE WHOLE ART of CURING, PICKLING, AND SMOKING MEAT AND FISH, BOTH IN THE BRITISH AND FOREIGN MODES; WITH MANY USEFUL MISCELLANEOUS RECEIPTS, AND FULL DIRECTIONS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN ECONOMICAL DRYING-CHIMNEY AND APPARATUS, ON AN ETIRELY ORIRGINAL PLAN.
JAMES ROBINSON, EIGHTEEN YEARS A PRACTICAL CURER.
The book is filled with recipes that range from interesting and delicious sounding, to a bit horrifying. For example, I doubt many of us will be running out to the Home Depot anytime soon to get the extra ingredients needed for this one:
Wash the fish well in strong salt and water, and put next them in a strong pickle for twenty-four hours; then take them out, put them on the rods, and smoke them six hours, after which wipe each fish with spirits of terpentine, as they hang on the rods, and smoke them until become of a bright dark brown colour. When cold, and perfectly firm, put them into a clean calico bag, sew it up at the mouth, and let them lie a month in new sawdust of pitch pine; they will then be fit for use.
Fit for use indeed! though I'm not sure for what. A few observations...first, that entire recipe is one long sentence. Second, it does not follow the formatting conventions we have today for recipes. That said, some of the receipts (aka recipes) in the book do, mostly as it relates to the uses of spices. Below is a scan of the section of book I took it from and the opposite page lists out ingredients and quantities.
Here are a couple of other interesting sites that talk about old cookbooks: