Until the 1800s, most cookbooks were written for chefs by other chefs. That's when upper-class women began writing cooking instructions for common families. The cookbook genre as we know it today, however, was developed in the late 19th century by Fannie Farmer.
Farmer, the Director of Miss Farmer's School of Cookery, taught practical cooking to housewives and self-published The Boston Cooking School Cook Book in 1896. Whereas recipes used to call for a "sprinkle" of this and a "pinch" of that, Farmer implemented uniform measurements and syntax that is still in practice today. Versions of her book are still being printed.
Until the late 1700s, cookbooks in America were published in England or featured English foods. The first all-American cookbook was American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, published in 1798. These distinct recipes used foods natively grown in the U.S., such as pumpkins.
In the 1800s, cookbooks also contained information about how to keep your house, how to make soap, how to set the table, produce home remedies, and so on.
Big names in 20th Century cookbooks include The Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker. Good Housekeeping published their first cookbook in 1903, and in the 1940s and '50s, other magazines and newspapers began publishing cookbooks.
Other collectible cookbooks are those created by churches or charities. Usually spiral-bound and created to be used as fundraisers, charity cookbooks date back as far as the late 1800s. The majority of cookbooks are soft-cover (although some do come in hardcover), and most were written by women.
With collecting cookbooks, the possibilities are endless - and you can put your collection to work and actually use the recipes!