Amazing old HOWTO book: "Lee's Priceless Recipes, a collection of famous formulas and simple methods."

My mom recently found and scanned this fantastic family heirloom, a 1917 edition of "Lee's Priceless Recipes, A Collection of Famous Formulas and Simple Methods For Farmers, Dairymen, Housekeepers, Mechanics, Manufacturers, Druggists, Chemists, Perfumers, Barbers, Chiropodists, Renovators, Dyers, Bakers, Confectioners, Woodworkers, Decorators, Painters, Paper-hangers, Metal-workers, Hunters, Trappers, Tanners, Taxidermists, Stockmen, et cetera, and all people in every department of human endeavor."

A quick internet search shows that the book was published starting in the late 1800s, and was reissued in later editions through the 20th century. You can buy a 1990's reissue here.

More scans below. Click on each to view larger size. Note the particularly grody use of Pomegranate root extract!

(Thanks, Mom!)


  1. The 1990s reprint removes some of the more dangerous explosives recipes.

    My copy has a red cover.

    1. So does the movie version of Fight Club. Nobody wants to take responsibility when we blow ourselves up. They’re so childish.

    2. I believe I browsed the red covered edition at the public library many years ago.  I distinctly remember that it had a recipe for mercury fulminate,  It also mentioned  iodine crystals and anhydrous ammonia, and I knew someone that was said to have put drops of the solution onto sheet of paper, and when flies would land on it, they would explode. 

      1.  Our high school chemistry teacher would have us make that…  He got in a bit of trouble when he had one of us paint the principal’s office doorknob.
        Ah, the good ol’ late 20th century when we could still have good clean fun with stuff that goes “pop” without risking a felony charge.

  2. I had no idea sarsparilla was good for certain scrofulous and depraved conditions of the system. I simply must make some!

  3. My stepmother had a copy of this, or at least something extremely similar from the same time period. Recipes for everything from barbecue sauce to paint and so on.

  4. Re-published in 1990; does this mean it got re-copyrighted?  Surely this ought to be public domain, first on general principle, secondly because of its historic and sociological value as an artifact of its time. 

  5. Abebooks, which is owned by Amazon but whose listings are often absent in Amazon, has booksellers with the 1928 edition at ~$30, the 1917 edition at ~$60, and the 1895 edition at ~$120. Or the reprint at ~$1, rather than the $9 at your Amazon link (some clown is also selling the reprint at ~$80, or trying to).

    1.  Yes. People die from Senna infusions. Shitting out all the water from your blood plasma and having convulsions from electrolyte imbalances until your heart stops is an unpleasant way to die.

  6. The explosive recipes were probably removed because they would give the ingredients with no good instructions or diagrams. Some of them would get you blown to bits. (Inaddeiquite cooling on nitroglycerine for example.)

  7. Another well-known book in this vein is _Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes and Processes: containing ten thousand selected household and workshop formulas, recipes, processes, and moneysaving methods for the practical use of manufacturers, mechanics, housekeepers, and home workers_

    I see it’s available free from Google!

  8. By curious coincidence I found a copy of this at a thrift shop just a week ago.  Mine has an orange/red cover and is dated 1934 and says Copyright 1912 William H Lee.

  9. Somewhere in a lockbox* in my closet, I have a heavily fire-damaged booklet that I inherited from my grandfather, who inherited it from a friend, who, according to family lore, found it in a chink in the wall of log cabin/sod house in Iowa that had burned down. The front and back matter are missing, and its written in a mixture of  early American German (in Fraktur, presumably published either in St. Louis, MO, or western Pennsylvania) and Latin. 

    It would appear to be a book of household recipes, but mixed in with practical advice on running a farmhouse are a lot of “recipes” that involve practical magic, such as magic squares (SATOR, AREPO, etc.), spells for curing nosebleeds (human) and shin splints (equine), and so on.

    I suppose it would make  a nice web project, assuming that a) I buy a decent scanner, b) I could find an interested German antiquarian to collaborate with, and c) I weren’t so f*cking lazy and easily distracted.

    * I had it appraised back in the 70s by a rare-book librarian, and it has little intrinsic value, but I want to protect it from light and excessive handling.

    1. Mom’s mom was a St. Louis area German, scrubby dutch.  I have a few German language school books and bibles from Concordia Publishing in St. Louis from late 19th/early 20th.  Fraktur’s a bitch.  I like the cursive, though.

      Also included in granny’s book box were some old funeral pix.  I can still remember a goofy great-aunt taking pix during a showing and later at the graveside.  She had these in a damn album.  I think this behavior ended with my mom’s generation. At least, I hope it did. ;)

        1. Same granny had a braid of her mother’s hair in a necklace box.  So happy it wasn’t a bag.

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