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(FOOD AND DRINK.) Robert Roberts. House Servant's Directory. 180 pages. 12mo, contemporary tree calf, minor wear, sympathetically rebacked; original endpapers, minor marginal worming with modern repairs to pages 23-38 and 151-180, minor dampstaining. Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1827
First edition. Often credited as the first cookbook by an African American, the work goes well beyond cookery. It is a comprehensive guide to the management of an elite household--one of the few careers open to Black men during this period. Sections are devoted to table service, "answering the bells," coal heat, and recipes for various cleaning agents. Pages 120-153 are devoted to cookery, marketing, and table service. The author Robert Roberts (circa 1780-1860) was born in South Carolina, probably into slavery, and came north to New England by 1805. He served as head butler to wealthy Bostonians, most notably former governor Christopher Gore, while becoming increasingly active in local politics and the abolition movement. After Gore's death in 1827, Roberts ended his career as a butler and worked as a stevedore until his own death in 1860. "Among the very first books written by an African American and issued by a commercial house, the book was certainly written with Gore's permission and perhaps with his financial support"--introduction to the 2016 edition of the House Servant's Directory, page xiii. Afro-Americana 8912; Cagle, Food & Drink 647; Lowenstein, American Cookery 107.
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