The collection comprises, as its core, the personal library of the distinguished cookery writer Jane Grigson (1928 - 1990). It is located in the Special Collections Reading Room of Headington Library, Oxford Brookes University.
This collection, primarily of books and pamphlets, reflects closely the culinary themes that underpinned her writing, and includes her personal notebooks. The Jane Grigson Trustees continuously add material to complement and update the core collection. The contents of the main collection have been catalogued on LibrarySearch and the Archive Catalogue. Many of the cookbooks have also been indexed by the Eat Your Books database, to which the Library subscribes.
Content of the Jane Grigson Collection
The heart of the collection is the personal library of Jane Grigson, including her notebooks, from which she wrote over twenty years worth of The Observer's food column. However since Jane's daughter, Sophie Grigson, kindly placed the library on permanent loan with the Jane Grigson Trust, the collection has been open to donation by benefactors, and has grown via the addition of several bequests.
The majority of the collection is made up of books and pamphlets reflecting the themes that Jane tackled in her writing. In particular, Jane was a passionate advocate of food culture, and advocated returning to the roots of cooking, and the rejection of fast food, and modern food processing. For example, in her book Good Things (1971), Jane says 'I feel delight in the seasons and what they bring us. One does not remember the grilled hamburger and frozen peas, but the strawberries that come in May and June straight from the fields, the asparagus of a special occasion, kippers from Crastor in July and August, the first lamb of the year from Wales, in October the fresh walnuts from France where they are eaten with new cloudy wine. This is good food.'
Her personal library reflects this preference, including not only many collections of recipes written by her contemporaries, but also books with titles like The Pleasures of Cookery and The Joy of Eating. There are also many volumes concerning themselves with but one vital ingredient, for example, Cherries by Norman H. Grubb, or Sprouting Beans and Seeds by Judy Ridgway. But there too are large numbers of books devoted to various international cuisines, anywhere that good food could be found, with perhaps a special emphasis on French cookery, surely unsurprisingly, as Jane and her family holidayed there every year.
Jane's own bibliography was the subject of an issue of Petit Culinaire, number 33. A copy of this is held in the Collection for consultation.
Her column in The Observer inspired people for decades, and her influence can still be felt today. She always fought passionately for causes she believed in, for example, supporting small producers, but what has lasted, and will last, is wonderful writing and brilliantly clear recipes that later generations will use with as much ease and confidence as we can today.
About Jane Grigson
Jane Grigson, née McIntire, was born in Gloucester, but was brought up in Sunderland, and after taking an English degree at Cambridge in 1949, worked in art galleries, publishers, and as a translator. In 1953 she joined the publisher, George Rainbird, as a picture researcher, where she met her husband Geoffrey Grigson, who worked there as an editor.
Coincidentally, a number of the books he edited, and a copy of Jane's The International Wine and Food Society's Guide to Fish Cookery, are available in another collection at Brookes, as the Library also houses the Rainbird Archive, which is a bibliographical chronicle of the books George Rainbird made through his thirty years in the book trade.
Jane herself did not start out to become an expert in food and cookery. It was only years later, after she and her family began to spend several months of the year in France, that Jane developed a fascination with French cuisine. She ended up researching and writing Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, which looks into the wealth of cooked meat products that are available in even the smallest French market towns. This work was received with much acclaim, and as a direct result, Elizabeth David recommended Jane to The Observer newspaper as their food columnist. She remained in this capacity for the next twenty one years.
As well as writing her entertaining columns and delicious recipes, Jane also wrote eleven other books, including Jane Grigson's Fruit Book, English Food and Good Things, copies of which are available in the Special Collections Room.
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