To open the Spring 2016 exhibition, “What to Eat and How to Cook It: A Celebration of the Esta Kramer Collection of American Cookery,” at Bowdoin’s Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, antiquarian bookseller and epicure Don Lindgren spoke at Bowdoin on Jan. 27, 2016, about what the physical attributes of cookbooks can tell us about our social, cultural, and environmental past.

Assembled by Clifford Apgar, the new collection is named after longtime Bowdoin benefactor Esta Kramer, who made a generous gift to the College to enable its acquisition. It includes more than 700 books dating from the 18th century to the mid-20th century, with particular strength in the Colonial era through 1900 and landmarks such as the first American cookbook, the first cookbook published in Maine, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s domestic guide co-written with her sister Catharine.

Beyond cooking, the collection illuminates the development of American culture, encompassing American social movements and historical events, including women’s suffrage, temperance, the African-American experience, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, technological applications in the household, immigration, and Westward Expansion.