Vintage Cookbooks featured image

After my grandma passed away 15 years ago, I remember going through her kitchen, and finding hundreds of well designed tools, books and notes from the mid century. Sitting in her pink kitchen, I began thumbing through all of the vintage cookbooks she collected over the years. I quickly fell in love with the eccentric fonts and illustrations. It brought back memories and stories that my mom had long forgot about.

Not only do these inspire current day illustrations that you see on dribbble and other inspiration blogs, but they inspire me to create. The simplicity and uniqueness, brings out the avid designer I am always striving to be.

It brought back memories and stories that my mom had long forgot about.

We can still appreciate and be influenced by the design, craftsmanship and history behind the books that are collecting dust and sitting on kitchen shelves across the world.

Check out a few I have found and collected from estate sales, etsy and my grandma’s home!




Midcentury Influence

Four colorful butchery illustrations from the MidCentury Esquire’s Cookbook



Alyson Thomas – San Fransisco


Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 11.18.29 AM

These gouache paintings from Alyson Thomas’s Drywell, resemble some of the animal meat diagrams from above. The prints are a great addition to my kitchen decor.

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I love the illustrated patterns on this “ABC” cookbook series by Peter Pauper Press.

Many of these books included slipcovers, handmade paper, one- or two-color printing, and illustrations, woodcuts, and graphics by some of the 20th century’s most acclaimed artists.




 Josh Holtsclaw – San Francisco


This is a beautiful illustration with a vintage style pattern.

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Years ago, publishers used simple illustrations due to printing costs and lack of printing technology. The woodblock and screen print style helped break up text and give visuals in place of photographs. Each illustration comes to life in the book and on their own.

This brings me back to offset printing, which has a similar look. When using pantone colors for offset printing, each color is created on one plate per color.





Lydia Nicholslydia

This illustration from Lydia Nichols is a great example of vintage style illustrations. The simplicity of color and use of halftone style makes her art unique!

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Brad Woodard – Austin Texas


This illustration from Brad Woodard are a great example of vintage style illustrations. The simplicity of color and use of halftone style makes his art unique!

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Alberto Vacca Lepri – vacaliebres – Genova, Italy


I love the asian influence of this illustration. The one color illustrations resemble some of the great old cookbooks.

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Vintage Cookbooks

Below is a large range of different vintage illustrated Cookbook Covers from around the world. 



Claudia Pearson


Mile End is a Montreal inspired Jewish Deli in New York City that specializes in traditional Jewish comfort food made from scratch. The owners contacted Claudia about illustrating the cover and asked for an image that felt reminiscent of vintage cookbooks and yet clearly contemporary. She also has items for sale in West Elm. 

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Louise Lockhart – England


Playing with food is a brilliant activity book for kids, for designing a menu for a café to decorating a dream ice cream sundae to filling in a bento box. This is a great example of vintage style.


I hate to admit that I don’t cook often, but collecting and showcasing each of my cookbooks is so fun. They make great gifts, especially for those artsy newly weds! Next time you are out shopping or online, consider investing in some of these gems.

It will spark some great conversations.


The Art of Vintage Cookbooks

Molly Francis

Lead Product Designer @

Category: Resources

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