Dishman/Justice Cookbook Collection

DishmansLamar University’s Special Collections, located in the Mary and John Gray Library, includes a significant cookbook collection. The Dishman/Justice Collection is composed of volumes dating from 1500 to the 1980's with the majority of the books published before 1900. The collection includes books written in languages including English, French, Latin, German, Swedish and Czech. The collection is especially strong in English and American cookbooks of the 19th century. The importance of the collection ranges far beyond food and drink preparation. The volumes cover manners and etiquette, household supervision, medical advice, child care, gardening, and social advice and guidance.

Philip S. Justice, a Sun Oil Company executive, compiled the collection in the 1940's and 1950's. Justice was a man who did everything in a big way. He was well known in Beaumont for cooking 150 gallons of gumbo for a Duck’s Unlimited benefit. When he began collecting cookbooks he was determined to create a unique collection. Although the collection is large, over 1600 volumes, it is the quality and not the quantity that make it noteworthy. Justice sought out books that were landmarks in culinary history. His collection includes some of the earliest cookbooks published in the United States. The rarest single item in the collection is Coelius Apicius’ de Re Coquinaria, published ca. 1500, in Venice, written in Latin which documents Roman cookery.

There is a legend surrounding Apicius (a first century Roman) that he spent vast sums of money on food; and that when he had only a small fraction of his riches left, he hosted a hugeMr. Justice banquet and ended his life afterwards by taking poison, “fearing that he might have to starve to death someday.”

It was natural Mr. Justice's collection included volumes celebrating Thomas Jefferson, as our third President was a Renaissance man who “wrote out a recipe for Biscuit de Savoye with the gravity he signed a treaty.” During Jefferson’s time in Europe, he learned much of continental cuisine. He shared his knowledge in America and introduced foods to the New World, including ice cream, vanilla, waffles and macaroni. The collection includes many culinary greats besides Jefferson, including Fannie Farmer. Her contributions to cooking included the standardization of measurements into cups, tablespoons and teaspoons instead of vague notations such as “butter the size of a walnut.” Farmer also instituted the practice of listing all of the ingredients at the head of a recipe.

Mr. Justice's close friends, Herb and Kate Dishman, donated the initial collection to the library in 1979 with subsequent donations over the years. Work is under way to digitize selected volumes of the Dishman/Justice Collection so that it can be utilized around the world.

Browse The Dishman/Justice Cookbook Sample Pages

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The Cookbook in The Texas Gulf Historical Society Journal

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