To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Mrs Beeton, Guildhall Library is currently staging the exhibition Celebrity Cooks: Mrs Beeton and her Contemporaries. As the owners of the largest collection of cookery books in a public library in the UK, we were delighted to be able to tell the story of this extraordinary woman with some of the fascinating items from our collection.
Mrs Beeton was born in 1836 in Milk Street, a couple of minutes from Guildhall Library. At the age of 20 she married Samuel Beeton and immediately became involved in his publishing business, spending four years compiling the information that would make up the Book of Household Management, published in 1861. She died soon after its publication, in 1865 at the age of 28.
In the time since her death her remarkable book has never been out of print, and the name ‘Mrs Beeton’ has become a household name. Many people are unaware that she died at such a young age: her book continued to be re-edited and published with no reference to her death, giving the impression she was still alive and working on various revisions.
This exhibition traces her lasting impact on the world of cooking, including her influence on today’s ‘celebrity cooks.’ We also look at her place in the world of nineteenth-century cooking and two of her contemporaries, Eliza Acton and Alexis Soyer (who were, arguably, better cooks than Mrs Beeton herself, who was really a journalist!).
We also have an exciting accompanying events programme, which will cover different aspects of food history, including the lost world of the Georgian Chocolate House and the history of the English Cookbook, as well as an ‘edible exhibition’, where visitors will have the opportunity to taste sweet dishes through the ages (14 April, 6 – 8pm, £5 per person). While you’re visiting look out for our range of Mrs Beeton merchandise (including a chef duck!).
Want to find out more? Our exhibition is free and open until 17 April. Don’t forget, you can learn more about our food and wine collections any time, without appointment or membership!