St. Louis, MO. [the author]; A.C. Clayton Printing Co., 1931.
Octavo (20.5 x 14 cm.), , 395 pages. Illustrated with chapter silhouettes and with a dust jacket design by Marion Rombauer. FIRST EDITION, privately published by the author in an edition of 3000 copies, and illustrated by the author’s daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker, who also designed the dust jacket depicting St. Martha of Bethany, the patron saint of cooking, who took up a mop to fend off the dragon Tarasque. Irma von Starkloff Rombauer, the daughter of Max von Starkloff, an affluent St. Louis doctor, studied art at Washington University, and enjoyed a brief romance with the writer Booth Tarkington before marrying Edgar Rombauer, a lawyer, in 1899. As she wrote in her introduction to The Joy of Cooking, “Will it encourage you to know that I was once as ignorant, helpless and awkward a bride as was ever foisted on an impecunious young lawyer? Together we placed many a burnt offering upon the altar of matrimony.” After her husband committed suicide following decades of intermittent depression in 1930, Rombauer needed to find a means of support and decided to publish a book of the recipes that she had perfected as a homemaker, as the teacher of a cooking class for the Women’s Alliance at a midwestern church that she had started in 1922, and as hostess to numerous civic and cultural organizations in St. Louis to which the Rombauers belonged, including the elite Wednesday Club, of which she eventually became president. Using part of the $6000.00 legacy she had received following her husband’s death, Rombauer paid the Clayton Printing Company to publish her cookbook, which she marketed herself, selling copies for $3.00 apiece, and managing to sell approximately 2000 copies in two years, no mean accomplishment in the early years of the Great Depression. The original edition enjoyed modest success, but it was not until Bobbs-Merrill took over the commercial publication of the book in 1936 that The Joy of Cooking began its rise to the position it holds today, that of the most popular and best-selling cookbook in American history, with nearly 18 million copies sold to date. The Joy of Cooking is the only cookbook to be included in the New York Public Library’s list of 150 Influential Books of the Century. The first edition of The Joy of Cooking is rare, and very rare in the original dust jacket. The book, in medium blue cloth and gilt-titled on the front panel, is very near fine, with just the faintest of light soiling to a few early pages. The dust jacket is separated at the front hinge, and with some edge chipping; one small chip effects the “I”and the “R” in the author’s name, but the jacket is remarkably clean, and the beautiful Art-Deco design is otherwise unimpaired. [Bitting, page 403; Cagle 653; NYPL’s 150 Influential Books of the Century; Fales, 101 Classic Cookbooks, pages 56-59].