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Mail-Order Books on Food

by Nancy Freeman

Some of us food fanatics are lucky enough to live near one of the fine bookstores that specialize in cookbooks. But even though such stores can be found worldwide, most of us have to travel a fair distance to get to them. Enter the mail-order catalogue business to satisfy our needs.

New, used, rare or specialized, the books are out there and so are the book lovers to help you find them. Some of the mail-order booksellers have developed websites. Most do business by mail, phone and fax and will happily put you on their lists to receive periodic catalogues. In almost all cases, the catalogue lists a mere portion of actual stock. Feel free to ask for titles you don't see. Used book dealers take great pleasure in scouting out books for their clients and will usually search for one at no charge.

Some dealers carry only books currently in print at jacket prices. Others carry discounted new books that are out of print or on their way out. Used book sellers carry a mix of stock that ranges from a year old to rare and antiquarian. Some specialize in particular topics and areas. Others carry a little bit of everything.

New Books

Books for Cooks
231 W. 256th Street
Riverdale, NY 10471
Phone: (800) 355-CHEF
Foreign Orders: (718) 796-1306
Fax: (800) 435-7917

Books for Cooks, presided over by Lydia Cheng, provides the most extensive collection of cookbooks in print at jacket prices. The collection of 3,000 titles includes books on cooking, baking, special diets, appliance cooking, entertaining, marketing and management, reference, gastronomy, and wine and spirits. A separate catalogue covers culinary arts, hospitality, travel and tourism. The handsome two-color catalogues are easy to read with substantial paragraph-long descriptions of each book. Pictures of the book covers march across the top of each page. Catalogues are clearly marked by topic and then arranged in alphabetical order by title. Visit their website at the eGG on AOL.

Cook's Books
P.O. Box 481
Lebanon, New Hampshire 03766
Phone: (800) 874-0872

This modest but attractive two-color catalogue offers books at jacket prices and is divided into subjects including: American Contemporary, American Regional, Historical, Latin American, Asian, Technique and Reference, and African. Sections are not alphabetized, but are short and a Table of Contents at the beginning and author's index at the rear guide the reader safely through. Descriptions are two or three sentences long, but provide a tantalizing glimpse of book contents.

Jessica's Biscuit
Box 301
Newtonville, Massachusetts 02160
Phone: (800) 878-4264
Foreign Orders: (617) 965-0530
Fax: (617) 244-3376

This jazziest of mail-order businesses offers over 6,000 new books, almost all discounted. Periodic sale catalogues offer further reductions. Many books are out-of-print or remainder stock. David Strymish started the business in 1980, naming it after his dog Jessica. The glossy, full-color catalogue pictures all books for sale. Photos and book descriptions are scattered across the pages making it sometimes difficult to determine what goes with what. Descriptions are limited to one sentence. But for scope you can't beat Jessica, may she rest in peace.

Gourmet Guides

Gourmet Guides Cookbooks
2025 33rd Ave  S
Seattle WA 98144
Toll free : 800-413-3327
phone: 206-726-1958

Gourmet Guides started in 1973 by Jean Bullock  specializes in cookbooks.
Now a mother/daughter business, Gourmet Guides deals exclusively in new books at terrific discounts. Once again, many are recently out of print or remainders. This is the place to find a hardbound copy of a book that is about to come out in paper -- at the same price you would pay for the paper version. Catalogues aren't fancy but watch here for some real gems.

Used Books

Astor House Books
Box 1701
Williamsburg, Virginia 23187
Phone: (757) 220-0116

The serious collector of used books will definitely have fun with this one checking out everything from Betty Crocker to Mrs. Beeton. This is a simple photocopied catalogue arranged in alphabetical order by author and including fairly substantial descriptions of both book conditions and contents. Its biggest drawback is its type size which must be 8 point or smaller. I had to get higher strength reading glasses for this one, but you young folks out there should do fine.

Bee & Thistle Books
811 Sisson Road
Greene, RI 02827 USA
tel/fax: (401) 397-6599
email: beethistle@cox.net

Specialist in used, out-of-print and rare books on cookery, gastronomy, herbs and gardening. Free searches. Member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Cookbook Catalogue
Barbara Weindling
P.O. Box 368
Bridgewater, Connecticut 06752

You need to know what you're looking for to make use of this catalogue because there are no descriptions of the book contents or even their condition. A note at the beginning claims, "All books are in good or better condition unless otherwise specified." "Good," has a special meaning in bookseller's language, a step below "Very Good," which is a step below "Fine," which is a notch below "As New." The austerity of this list did not stop me from finding a book I wanted.

Cooks Books
34 Marine Drive
Sussex BN2 7HQ
Phone: 01273-302707
Fax: 01273-301651

Cooks Books will charm you with its cover and illustrations which consist of old drawings from mostly unidentified sources. Look here for a number of genuinely rare books in English, French, Italian, German and Latin mingled with a broad range of used books. This is the only catalogue I've found that includes a section on herbs and fungi which will give you a sense of its breadth. Prices are in pounds sterling, but payment is accepted in any currency. The catalogue costs $5.00, refundable on purchases.

Food Words
Box 42568
Portland, Oregon 97242-0568
Phone: (800) 880-4314
Fax: (503) 232-3470

Johan Mathiesen never fails to get a chuckle out of me as I read through his catalogue. He injects the same quirky humor that informs his newsletter Word of Mouth into the briefest of one-sentence book descriptions. You'll find used books here, some of them antiquarian, also new items from England's Prospect Books. Books are arranged alphabetically by author. This is one of the few catalogues which provides definitions for standard book dealer's terminology -- useful to the amateur. Get this one for the sheer fun of the read, if nothing else.

Janet Jarvits, Bookseller
P.O. Box 11327
Burbank, California 91510

Ms. Jarvits' latest catalogue consists of the complete library of cookbook author Helen Evans Brown, but this hardly represents her whole collection. Once again, you have to know what you are looking for to use this catalogue because descriptions are minimal if at all, type is pale and the layout jams everything together. Arranged alphabetically by author.

Visit her website at: abebooks.com/home/JJARVITS/

Louis & Clark Booksellers
P.O. Box 5093
Madison, Wisconsin 53705
Phone (608) 231-6850

This extensive and highly readable catalogue is divided into "Old/Rare/Important Books," "Cookery, General and Regional," "Foreign and Ethnic Cookery," "The Bestsellers," and "Wine, Spirits, Beer & Other Beverages." Descriptions are substantial, particularly in the first section, which starts right out with Apicius at $475. "The Bestsellers" contains just about any Betty Crocker or Farm Journal cookbook you might hope to find. Sections are alphabetized by author. As with most catalogues, the entries do not reflect the complete collection, so call if you are looking for something not listed.

Specialized Booksellers

Acanthus Books
830 W. Main, #150
Lake Zurich, IL 60047
Fax: (847) 726-9811

Acanthus carries facsimilies and unabridged reprints of antique cookbooks. They have a very extensive inventory and are happy to search for any title you desire. Their catalogue has a brief synopsis of each book -- helpful if you're looking for something specific. Send an email to the above address for an updated catalogue.

Food Heritage Press
P.O. Box 163
Ipswich, Massachusetts 01938-0163
Phone: (503) 356-8306

If you are as fascinated by food history as I am, this is a must-have catalogue. Joseph Carlin's collection consists of facsimiles and reprints of historically important books, studies of foodways and culture and other scholarly works. It is particularly strong on the medieval period. Many of the books come from university and museum presses and are not easy to find elsewhere. The catalogue is laid out like a newsletter with ample descriptions of books and is extremely easy to read. All books are new and sold at jacket prices.

Howard Karno Books
P.O. Box 2100
Valley Center, California 92082-9998
Phone: (800) 34-KARNO
From Mexico -- Phone/fax: 525-511-9612
Other Foreign Orders: (619) 749-2304
Fax: (619) 749-4390

Howard Karno specializes in books from Mexico and Latin America and has a large collection of cookbooks in his stock. Two of his catalogues are devoted to food and drink. Ask for Number 537, "Food and Drink of Latin America" or 556, "Cookery Books from Latin America and the Western United States." These are divided into section on Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, California and the Southwest, Coffee, Chocolate and Spice, Wine and Liquor and General Latin America. Number 537 throws in the Pacific Rim and Spain as well. Descriptions are in Spanish for Spanish books and English for English books. Prices are in dollars.

Denis Montaut Libraire
87, rue de la Course
33000 Bordeaux
Phone: (33) 05-56-81-96-38
Fax: (33) 05-56-44-81-03

One reason for placing this catalogue in the specialized department is that many of the books are clearly rare. Another is that all of them are in French. But frankly my French has deteriorated to the point where I can't really tell you much else. An attractive catalogue with good layout and adequate descriptions of the contents -- if you read French. Prices are in francs and payment in francs is required.

Dick Perier Books
P.O. Box 1
Vancouver, Washington 98666
(360) 696-2033

Perier specializes in books of the old West, although you'll find a little bit of everything in his catalogue. Descriptions in this typed and photocopied list are limited to a single sentence at the most. Few books are rare, but you'll find little treasures here and there.

John Thorne -- Liquid Literature
19 Downing Road
Essex, RM9 6NR
Fax: 0181-220-0082

"The art of browsing can be facilitated by imbibing a large measure of your favourite tipple," says John Thorne, who specializes in new and used books on wine, beer and spirits. You'll find a number of books here in German and French along with a few in Italian and Spanish. He provides adequate descriptions of the books which are arranged in alphabetical order by author. Reproductions of old woodcuts are scattered throughout the catalogue to relieve the gray. This is a gold mine for lovers of wine and spirits. Prices are listed in pounds sterling with no mention of payment in other currencies, but Mr. Thorne comes across as such a good natured sort I bet you can find a way to pay if you're not from the UK.

Sally's Place

One site worth mentioning is the book reviews and ordering portion of Sally's Place. Through an agreement with Amazon.com books, whose library consists of over 2.5 million titles, Sally's Place has reviews of tons of books (adding more all the time) and offers an easy link to Amazon.com to place orders. Shopping just got a whole lot easier!


And finally, for those of you who detest phones, faxes and snail mail, several hundred used and rare booksellers from around the globe have banded together to make their collections available by internet. If you are looking for a rare or out-of-print book, you can do a search for it at www.bibliofind.com and hopefully one of these many book dealers will have what you want.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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