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Special Collections

Overview of the General Special Collections at New York University, including the Marion Nestle Food Studies Collection; the Alfred C. Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll, and the Avant-Garde Collections.

Collection Development Policy - Marion Nestle Food Studies Collection


The collection of food and cookery materials at the NYU Special Collections documents the evolution of cuisine and food practices in 20th century America, with a particular focus on the food habits and activity of New York City. These materials support the research of undergraduate and graduates students, faculty and other researchers working within disciplines such as food studies, food management, nutrition, performance studies, American studies, and history. Due to the nature of this collection, these materials are also of use to professionals outside of the university who work as writers, journalists, chefs or food professionals.

NYU Special Collections is committed to preserving historical documents in their original format, paying close attention to the physical traits of the objects. Artifacts preserved here are intended for scholarly research that requires original materials and complements the collection policies of the general stacks by supplying rare or fine editions of texts or other materials and by prospectively collecting works that will become important historical evidence.


  1. American Cookery Collection: Books and Pamphlets

    1. General Guidelines

      The collection includes cookbooks, magazines, pamphlets and books exploring or documenting food habits and practices. Materials that reflect the culinary trends, diets and food practices in the United States and New York City from World War II to the present are the primary focus of this collection. The intention is not to select the "best" or most praised cookbooks or food volumes, but to select those volumes offering the greatest insight into food trends, food practices, and the role of food in society.

    2. Retrospective Collecting

      Attention is given to filling in any major gaps within the American cookery collection. In particular, any foundational volumes of American cookery - cookbooks defining the scope of American cuisine - not already owned will be sought. Because recipe and organizational changes made from edition to edition reflect important shifts in food habits and diet perspectives, all editions of core cookbooks will be collected when possible. Attention is also given to the acquisition of books documenting the establishment and evolution of New York City foodways and cuisine.

    3. Prospective Collecting

      Prospective collecting will involve the acquisition of cookbooks and food volumes that reflect current culinary, diet and dining habits. Although awards such as the James Beard Award and the IACP award will be used to help select important volumes, it is recognized that other less acclaimed volumes also play an important role and reveal a great deal about American food habits.

    4. Primary and Secondary Literature

      Primary materials such as cookbooks, pamphlets, menus, food essays, and memoirs are collected by the Fales Library. Secondary materials in food studies scholarship from disciplines such as food studies, performance studies, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, women's studies and American studies will be collected by and held in the general stacks.

    5. Language

      Due to the nature of this collection and its emphasis on American and New York cookery, most collected materials are published in English. However, due to the multinational and multiethnic nature of the United States in general and American cuisine in particular, it is occasionally necessary to collect materials in other languages. Such materials are collected if they are deemed to have an influence on American cuisine in general or are integral to a particular ethnic or immigrant group residing in the United States.

    6. Geographical Aspects

      The majority of volumes collected are American cookbooks; however, due to the nature of American cookery, cookbooks highlighting cuisines from around the world are represented. For the most part, despite international content, these volumes are published in the United States. Because early Americans cooked, in large part, from British cookbooks, important British cookbooks from the colonial period are collected as well.

    7. Chronological Aspects
      • Pre-1800

        Early American cookbooks and the British cookbooks used in America during this period. This period is not a strength of the collection.

      • 1801-1900

        The fundamental and most used cookbooks from this period, both American and British, are collected.

      • 1901-Present

        This most recent century is the strength of the collection, particularly post WWII to the present.

  2. Manuscripts and Archives

    1. General Guidelines

      Materials that illuminate the past and present of New York City food and food habits are the primary foci of manuscript and archive collecting. The personal papers of individuals working within and reflecting on New York food practices are collected as are the archives and records of food businesses and institutions such as: food purveyors, restaurants, markets, food organizations and government institutions.

    2. Retrospective Collecting

      Attention is given to individuals and organizations defining New York City cuisine and food habits from the early 20th century to the present. Such individuals and organizations may include chefs, food writers, purveyors, restaurants, distributors, food organizations and government institutions. Materials collected retrospectively offer insight into early New York City foodways including the trends and food items that define New York City cuisine. In addition to the manuscripts of food luminaries and the records of restaurants and established food businesses, materials collected may include the papers and records of small-scale merchants and pushcart peddlers whose experiences reflect the food practices of their time.

    3. Prospective Collecting

      Prospective collecting will involve the acquisition of manuscripts and records of individuals and organizations making significant contributions to the food world. These materials will document current trends in food consumption, production and distribution.

    4. Language

      Due its emphasis on New York City cuisine and foodways, most collected materials are in English. However, due to the multinational and multiethnic nature of New York City people and cuisine, it is occasionally necessary to collect materials in other language, particularly in order to document the food and experiences of New York City immigrants.

    5. Geographical Aspects

      Manuscripts and records collected as part of the American Cookery Collection relate primarily to the food and food habits of New York City including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island.

    6. Chronological Aspects
      • Pre-1800

        This period is not a strength of the collection.

      • 1801-1880

        This period is not a strength of the collection.

      • 1880-1940

        Materials collected in this period will document New York City's immigrant history and the introduction of many of New York's now iconic foods.

      • 1940-Present

        This most recent period is the strength of the collection. It documents the development and evolution of American cuisine and of New York City as a culinary center.

Types of Materials

The Fales Library's collection of American cookery includes books, pamphlets, magazines, manuscripts, recipe cards, menus, records and ephemeral materials. Emphasis is placed on acquiring items in their original states; preference is given to first editions. Facsimiles of historical cookbooks are purchased, but sparingly. Most facsimiles should be purchased by the general stacks.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection


Strengths lie in the extensive post WWII collection of American cookery books - one of the largest culinary collections in the country. The collection also includes approximately 5000 publicity recipe pamphlets published by food and equipment manufacturers.


Collection weaknesses include recent cookbooks published after 1990. The collection of books published prior to the 20th century is also less comprehensive and more selective than those published in the last 100 years.


Because many of these volumes are cookbooks, they have been used as such, and some show kitchen wear. Many have paper jackets that are tearing or badly worn and some are in need of Mylar jackets. Early volumes have gone through several ownerships and many are badly worn, with brittle pages and bindings in need or repair or replacement.

Transfer Criteria for Moving General Stacks Materials to Special Collections

Cookbooks and other primary cookery materials will be collected and held by the Fales Library. The general stacks will house all secondary materials including books, anthologies, journals, encyclopedias and other reference materials related to food and cookery. Food memoirs, essays or literature will also be collected by and held within the general stacks, except in instances of rare or autographed volumes, which will be transferred to the Fales Library.

Deaccession Policy for the Fales Library & Special Collections


The deaccession of materials in special collections is governed by different principles from those for general research collections. Because of the primacy of preserving special collections materials in their original format and, concomitant with that, the role of special collections as repositories of cultural history, the Fales Library will carefully assess all materials before accepting them to lessen the likelihood of deaccession. This said, there are valid reasons why materials in special collections may be deacessioned.

Acknowledging these points, The Rare Book and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries included a lengthy set of guidelines for deaccession of materials in Standards for Ethical Conduct for Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Librarians, with Guidelines for Institutional Practice in Support of the Standards, 2d edition, 1992. The following policy for deaccession of materials from the Fales Library and Special Collections incorporates and upholds the standards established by RBMS for the ethical deaccessioning of material from special collections.

Guidelines for the Deaccession of Materials

In the deacession of rare books and manuscripts, the Fales Library will weigh carefully the interests of the public for which it holds the collections in trust, the interests of the scholarly and cultural community, and the Fales Library's own mission.

The Fales Library will consider any legal restrictions, the necessity for possession of valid time, and the donor's intent in the broader sense. Procedures for the deaccession or disposal of materials will be at least as rigorous as those for purchasing and should be governed by the same basic principles. The decision to dispose of materials must be made only after full and scrupulous consideration of the public interest and the needs of researchers; the process of deaccession will be carried out in as open and public a manner as possible.

Mandatory restrictions on disposition which accompanied a donation will be observed unless it can be shown clearly by appropriate legal procedures that adherence to them is impossible or substantially detrimental to the New York University. When statements of donor's preferences accompany an acquisition, any departure from them will be carefully considered and negotiated with the donor or the donor's heirs or settled by appropriate legal procedures.

Responsibility to the needs and reputation of the Fales Library requires that in preparing for and accomplishing any deaccession, the Fales Library will take care to define and publicly state the purpose of the deaccession and the intended use of monetary or other proceeds of the deaccession, to avoid any procedure which may detract from the Library's reputation for honesty and responsible conduct, and to carry out the entire process in a way which will not detract from public perception of its responsible stewardship. The following points must be taken into consideration:

  • The Fales Library will insure that the method of deaccession will result in furthering the agreed purpose of the deaccession, whether this be monetary gain or more appropriate placement of scholarly resources.
  • The Fales Library will disclose to the potential new owner or intermediary agent any action, such as the retention of a photocopy of the material, which may affect the monetary or scholarly value.
  • To the fullest extent possible, the Fales Library will make public information on the disposition of deaccessioned materials.
  • The Fales Library will not allow materials from its collections to be acquired privately by any library employee, officer, or volunteer, unless they are sold publicly and with complete disclosure of their history.
  • Due to consideration should be given to the library community in general when disposing of items. Sales to, or exchanges between, institutions will be explored as well as disposal through the trade.

Other Resources

In addition to the food and cookery holdings at the Fales Library, New York researchers will find useful materials at the following New York libraries and archives.

Columbia University Libraries

The majority of this collection is housed at the Butler Library, which holds approximately 40 titles prior to 1800. Additionally, the Teacher's College Russel Library holds approximately 1000 titles written by women who operated or taught at domestic science and cookery schools.

Cornell University Libraries

The nucleus of Cornell's food and cookery materials are held at the Nestle Library and support the Cornell School of Hotel and Business Administration. The library includes the J.B. Herndon collection of mostly late 19th and early 20th century materials and the Joseph D. Vehling collection of approximately 500 titles from the 15th to early 20th century.

The Culinary Institute of America, Conrad N. Hilton Library

This collection of primarily 20th century texts supports academic and professional courses at the Culinary Institute of America. The library's collection of rare materials consists primarily of French classics dating from the 16th century through the 19th century. Collected menus date primarily from 1950 to 1990 and include menus from every state, over 75 countries, and feature airline, cruise ship and railroad menus.

New York Academy of Medicine Library

Holdings date from 9th century to the present and include the Dr. Margaret Barclay Wilson collection. Contemporary materials focus primarily on health and diets.

The New York Public Library, Humanities and Social Science Division

The library holds a large variety of food and cookery materials with an emphasis on the 17th and 18th centuries. The library also holds the Helen Hayes Whitney collection of over 200 cookbooks from the 15th to the 20th century and the Buttoloph Menu collection.