The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections contains thousands of rare books and other documents on food, wine, cookery, household management and gastronomy dating from the 15th century onwards. These materials trace the evolution of recipes and home remedies, restaurants, the rise of national cuisines, food production, distribution, and marketing, nutrition, dieting, and home entertaining. Other works feature the writings of great cooks, wine makers, and food authors, past and present. The rise of fine eating, drinking and dining, and the democratization of access to these activities is represented by the works of noted 18thth and 19th-centuryh chefs and gourmands, such as François Pierre de La Varenne, Menon, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Marie Antonin Carême, and Auguste Escoffier, as is the spread of interest in and access to cuisines from all over the globe. The collection also features rare and early volumes on the history of household and kitchen management from the 16th-century onwards.
The original foundation of Cornell Library's rare books, photographs, and other rare materials on these subjects came as a gift from James B. Herndon, Jr. and Joseph Dommers Vehling. Originally housed in Cornell's School of Hotel Administration Library, the Herndon/Vehling collection was transferred to the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in 1994. The collection has grown significantly since.
The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections continues to build collections on these subjects, deepening resources available for the growing scholarly interest in evolving cultural practices relating to cooking, eating, drinking, and entertaining.