Our vintage cookbooks have been passed down through the generations, and the worn, bookmarked volumes are some of our most treasured possessions. They're filled with dishes that have nourished our families for decades—needless to say, we want to preserve and protect our vintage cookbooks so that we can pass them down to our children too.
We have a few pointers to share in regards to storage and use that will help you keep your vintage cookbooks in tip-top shape, and we also have one major tip for ensuring their contents are preserved forever. The most important advice, though? If you treat them gently and treasure them, your cookbooks will be heirlooms for many generations to come.
Protect them while in use.
While using your vintage cookbooks, elevate them on a stand and protect them with an acrylic splashguard. We recommend this one, which is a stand and splashguard in one and will allow you to see the page while also shielding the delicate paper from rogue splatters. As a bonus, this stand also holds the pages open so that you don’t have to flip back and forth. While it’s not advisable to set up the cookbook too close to the area where you’re preparing and cooking (i.e. it should be at least an arm’s length from the mixing bowl), the stand combined with the splatter guard will help protect the pages in the event of a spill or an explosion of cake flour from the mixer.
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Handle with care.
It’s important to wash and thoroughly dry hands before handling antique pages. Any exposure to moisture residue or oils from your fingertips will cause the book’s paper to age faster. Also try to refrain from touching the pages while in the process of cooking. Once you set up the book and place the splashguard, don’t move it around the kitchen with you, and don’t touch it with messy fingers. If you wash and dry hands each time you need to handle the book, you’ll be preserving the life of the pages and the contents inside.
Store them safely.
When not in use, store your cookbooks in a dry, protected place. While it may be tempting to stack them in a kitchen cupboard where they’re easily accessed, it’s essential to store them in a place where they’re safe from spills. If you’re really serious about protecting your vintage cookbooks, you should tuck them into archival-quality storage boxes and keep them away from dust and direct sunlight. It’s not recommended to store them in attics or basements, because those areas often experience dramatic temperature changes and are prone to leaks. Instead, keep the books in a room in your home with a mild, consistent temperature—far away from heating vents.
Digitize, digitize, digitize.
It’s good to have physical copies of your most treasured recipes, but it’s also crucial to digitize them. When you have a free afternoon, bookmark it for this project. Make digital copies of your recipe cards and cookbook pages so that you have a backup even if the original pages fade or deteriorate. It will be a comfort to know that there’s a copy of your mama’s favorite cookbook saved on your computer, and you can easily email it to all your siblings—something they’ve been asking you to do forever, no doubt.
You can also get handwritten recipe cards or cookbook pages made into heirlooms like this plate or this tea towel. It’s easy to enjoy these recipes beyond the kitchen if they’re emblazoned on a beautiful platter or framed on a wall. We’re convinced: The more copies you have, the more you’ll enjoy and share your vintage recipes, and the better you protect your cookbooks, the longer you’ll be able to enjoy them.
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What are your favorite vintage cookbooks? How do you care for your cookbooks, and have you digitized any to share with friends and family?