Join us for an archival countdown to Christmas as Helen O’Neill, Archive Heritage and Development Librarian treats us every week-day between now and Christmas Eve to a small tasty nugget from the archive…
An archival countdown to Christmas…
9 December 2013
Over the next three weeks join me for an advent calendar with a difference. Between now and Christmas Eve I will be opening small windows onto the Library’s literary and cultural past by unveiling from the archive past London Library members. To get the ball rolling on these short but quick fire blogs I’m starting with a name synonymous with Christmas – Beeton.
The membership ledgers reveal the publisher Samuel Orchart Beeton joined the London Library in 1863. He had established himself as a publisher in partnership with Charles H. Clarke when he was just 21 and capitalized on an early opportunity to publish Uncle Tom’s Cabin the staggeringly successful novel by the then unknown American Harriet Beecher Stowe. Beeton was innovative and prolific publisher and editor. A supporter of women’s suffrage it is perhaps no surprise that his wife also played a role in the success of the company – commuting with her husband to work. The breadth of the Beeton publishing empire is clearly visible in advertisements in The Times on December 23 1863 in which the following Beeton titles appear:
Beeton’s Robinson Crusoe Penny parts
Beeton’s Christmas Annual
Beeton’s Dictionaries of Reference
Beeton’s Garden Management
Beeton’s Home Games
Beeton’s Home Pets
Beeton’s Household Management
Boy’s Monthly Magazine
Boy’s Own Library
Boy’s Own Magazine
Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine
Isabella Beeton’s took four years to write the most abiding of these titles Household Management and it laid the groundwork for many a cookbook that was to follow – ingredients given first then instructions accompanied by colour illustrations: but it was a great deal more than a recipe book. The eldest girl of a household of twenty-one children in her youth Mrs Beeton’s clear and meticulous recipes were augmented by common sense advice on all things domestic from understanding cuts of meat to recognizing and administering to childhood diseases or hiring domestic staff. The book was a staggering runaway success. She died when she was 28 but the Mrs Beeton name continued as a hugely successful brand that it is still recognised today.
Check in tomorrow when I will be sluicing down the Christmas pudding with another archival helping in the shape of a glass of something “dry and racy”.