Comprising Information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and under house-maids, Lady’s-maid, Maid-of-all-work, Laundry-maid, Nurse and nurse-maid, Monthly, wet, and sick nurses, etc. etc. also, sanitary, medical, & legal memoranda; with a history of the origin, properties, and uses of all things connected with home life and comfort.
The first (1861) edition of Beeton's Household Management was quite different from those of today.
Mrs. Beeton's husband Samuel, whom she married in 1856, was a publisher of considerable flair and brilliance, and the 20 year old Isabella immediately became immersed in editing, translating French novels and helping with his business affairs. In 1852 he had launched The English Woman's Domestic Magazine, the first magazine to be devoted entirely to the interests of women, which was a great success, much of it edited by Isabella. The Beetons invited recipe contributions from readers, and so many poured in that a selection of them was published in 24 monthly parts from 1859 to 1961, when they were put together in bound form as Beeton's Book of Household Management. So began the major work for which Mrs. Beeton is known. It was a serious, and very good, cookery book of mid-Victorian and early 19th century recipes - recipes which would help people, as she put it herself, to "live economically, tastefully and well."
Every recipe that was published was tried out in her own kitchen, by herself, her cook and her kitchenmaid. Only the ones that worked well were included. Her first criterion was that they should be truly economical, so the cost was always included at the end of each recipe, as well as how many mouths each dish would feed.
Many of these recipes are indeed very economical. Those that are less so are marked "rich" or "very rich". English dishes have their English names. Just occasionally a French title appears, as in 961, Boudin a la Reine (an entree, "M Uhde's receipt"), in this case, a genuine French recipe. And she is not against taking a firm line, as when writing about how to boil sugar to a caramel: "Unless the cook is very experienced and thoroughly understands her business, it is scarcely worthwhile to atttempt this elaborate ornament." Eliza Acton has been the first cookery writer to add a list of ingredients to her recipes; Mrs Beeton did the same.
Isabella died from puerperal fever in 1865. Her husband soldiered on, but, troubled by the onset of consumption, by responsibility for his two surviving children, and no doubt by the loss of his energetic wife, he found the burden a heavy one. He already owed large sums of money to the bank of Overend, Guerney. The nack collapsed the year after Isabella's death, and when the publishing house of Ward, Lock and Tyler offered to buy the rights to his publications, he felt he had no option but to accept.
For some time he had been selling sections of Household Management (by then a lucrative business) at various prices to suir all pockets. Ward, Lock and Tyler continued to do so. Beeton's Penny Cookery Book (3d) Mrs Beeton's Sixpenny Cookery Book, and very many more, made Beeton a well known and trusted name in every kitcvhen in the land. In 1869 there was second edition made with the help of Samuel Beeton. "My late wife's writing was so clear", he wrote, "and her directions so practical, that only the slightest alterations and corrections were needed." The first edition was thus left substantially the same.
Samuel Beeton died of consumption in 1877. In 1888 there was a major revision, with 27 new sections which included menus, table decorations, directions for using tinned meats and a section on American, Colonial and Continental cookery. The pages were bigger and there were many more of them (1,641 now instead of 1,112), with 30 pages of advertisments. Gone were the 50 color plates in the style of Baxter prints, replaced by new collotype plates of a complicated kind showing highly decorated china, glass and table settings. This was partly due, no doubt, to the increased mass of production pottery, but also to the spead of genteel and suburban taste. Menus were given in English on one side and French on the other, and many of the recipe titles were in French as well as English; there was a recommendation that French should be used for English dinners.
The cook was further updated in 1906 when Herman Senn, author of many books on cookery and erstwhile cook of the Reform Club, became editor. Senn made Household Management a lavish product of high Edwardianism with a heavily French bias, much collected for that reason as well as for its splendid illustrations.
Further editions followed with various editors.