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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 689: T-464

Papers of Elizabeth David, 1743-2007 (inclusive), 1950-1992 (bulk)


Correspondence, recipes, research, writings, and other personal papers of British food writer Elizabeth David.


  • Creation: 1743-2007
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1950-1992


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Elizabeth David is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


29.77 linear feet ((67 file boxes, 2 folio boxes) plus 9 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 18 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 audiotape)

The papers of Elizabeth David include personal and professional correspondence, diaries, travel journals, writings, recipe and research files, photographs of David, records of her kitchen shop, clippings, financial and legal files, files of her literary executor Jill Norman and her biographer Artemis Cooper, etc.

After David's death, her papers were removed from her home by her longtime editor and literary executor Jill Norman, and Norman's husband Paul Breman, an antiquarian book dealer. The papers remained in Breman and Norman's home until 2003, when they were acquired by the Schlesinger Library. During that time, Breman organized the papers, and they were used for a variety of projects. Norman edited Harvest of the Cold Months (1994), South Wind Through the Kitchen (1997), Is There A Nutmeg in the House? (2000), Elizabeth David's Christmas (2003), and At Elizabeth David's Table (2010). Norman and Breman also invited biographer Artemis Cooper to use the files to write an 'authorized' biography of David; Writing at the Kitchen Table was published in 1999.

When the collection arrived at the Schlesinger Library in 2004, the material was transferred into acid-free folders and the collection was made available for research. Folders were titled by Paul Breman; they have been retitled if further description was necessary. There is often considerable overlap between series, with specific cases noted in the series descriptions.

The collection is notable for its inclusion of David's research files: her interest in the history of British cookery is well-documented, as is her interest in the history of Mediterranean cookery. Large numbers of recipes (collected or created by David) can be found throughout the collection. In addition, menus are noted where they appear. David's interest in aesthetics and presentation is documented through correspondence with book editors about artwork for her many books, as well as in her own image files, which range from eighteenth-century engravings to photographs of vegetables for sale at market.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1929-1992 (#1.1-11.13, 68FB.1-68FB.2, 69FB.1v, F+D.1-F+D.3, PD.1-PD.2), includes David's awards; address and datebooks; legal, financial, and medical records; biographical clippings; food diaries; notebooks; and travel-related files. Datebooks are small pocket books in which David noted her appointments. There are few mentions of food eaten. Food diaries are dated volumes in which David notes particular foods she has enjoyed, along with some recipes. Notebooks are generally lined volumes in which David recorded any number of things: research on food, reading notes on food history or family history, recipes, drafts of articles, etc. All may have had correspondence or clippings laid in. Notebooks that were solely about trips to other countries can be found with other travel material, which includes David's research on recipes, restaurants, markets, etc., that she often used in her writing. Also included are two photograph albums created by Anthony David during his years as a member of the Royal Deccan Horse Regiment before World War II. The albums are primarily photographs of horses and horse races, with a few of British and Indian members of the regiment. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, GWYNNE FAMILY, 1881-1992 (#11.14-14.10, 68FB.3, 69FB.2v, PD.3-PD.4f), includes family correspondence, genealogy, and photographs. Elizabeth's mother Stella married John Hamilton in 1933, nine years after the death of her first husband Rupert Sackville Gwynne. She ran an antique shop, and receipts for items Elizabeth bought for her home are among their letters. Elizabeth's older sister Priscilla married Richard Barnes-Longland and had two daughters, Sabrina and Julia. Younger sister Diana Gwynne married Christopher Grey and had five children: Christopher, Rupert, Johnny, Christabel, and Steve. Diana Gwynne Grey committed suicide in 1971; her husband later married another woman named Diana. Felicité Gwynne, the youngest of the four daughters, never married and lived with Elizabeth for most of their later lives. Also included are several printed certificates of thanks from Rupert Gwynne's election campaigns, as well as a large number of theater programs purportedly collected by him. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, CORRESPONDENCE, 1932-1992 (#15.1-30.9, PD.5-PD.6), contains David's personal and professional correspondence. It is arranged in two subseries.

Subseries A, Personal, 1932-1992 (#15.1-25.13, PD.5-PD.6), includes incoming and some drafts of outgoing letters between Elizabeth David, her friends, acquaintances, and some readers. David's correspondence was sorted and foldered by Paul Breman. He created an index to prominent or frequent correspondents by first name (#25.13). Some folders contain only one letter. Some folders contain letters from readers; for other reader letters see Series III, Subseries B; Series IV, Subseries A; and Series VI. Folders that only contain David's outgoing drafts are marked as being "to" the recipient. Correspondents include other food writers, artists, novelists, historians, general readers, editors, etc.; significant correspondence is with Gerald Asher, James Beard, husband Tony David, Avis DeVoto, Anthony and Celia Denney, Jane Grigson, Karen Hess, and editor Jill Norman. The subseries is arranged alphabetically, followed by unidentified correspondents.

Subseries B, Professional, 1949-1992 (#25.14-30.9), includes David's correspondence with her publishers, editors at publications, food suppliers, etc. The subseries also includes general invitations to appear and requests for writings, advice, etc. There is some overlap between this and Subseries A, especially in matters of reader letters. Most files on companies contain requests for endorsing a product, or else for contributing a recipe or blurb to a product magazine or brochure. For more correspondence with publications see Series IV, Subseries A. Some of the publisher files involve disputes; David was very specific about book illustrations, and had a lengthy fight with Robert Hale about correctly crediting and paying her friend and photographer Anthony Denney. The subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, WRITINGS, 1942-1996 (#30.10-48.13, 68FB.4-68FB.6, F+D.4-F+D.6, OD.1, T-464.1), includes David's drafts, research, corrected proofs, and published copies of articles, monographs, and small pamphlets. Also included are reader letters, correspondence with publishers and editors (particularly regarding revisions for US editions of her book), and documentation of David's serious involvement in the art direction of her books. The series is arranged in three subseries by type of writing.

Subseries A, Articles, 1949-1991 (#30.10-35.7, 68FB.4-68FB.5, F+D.4), contains David's articles, columns, book reviews, etc. Folders may contain correspondence with editors, published articles, drafts (handwritten, typed, and/or edited), galleys, reader responses, clippings, etc. For more correspondence with publications see Series III, Subseries B. Some article typescripts or clippings have David's later notes on them, possibly made while she was choosing pieces for inclusion in An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. Other copies of published articles may be in David's monograph files or research files; see also Series IV, Subseries B and Series VI. David's Daily Telegraph binder (#30.18-30.19) has drafts, notes and ideas, correspondence (some from readers), clippings, etc., grouped by topic. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by title of publication, followed by unidentified drafts and material filed by topic.

Subseries B, Monographs, 1942-1996 (#35.8-47.14, 68FB.6, F+D.5-F+D.6, OD.1, T-464.1), includes research, drafts, revisions, correspondence with publishers and readers, artwork, etc., for David's published books, as well as two planned books published posthumously and one planned book never published. David was working on a planned anthology of Middle Eastern food at the time of her death; the work has not been published. Research files for the anthology include recipes, copies of literary quotations, and partial photocopies of 19th century books about traveling to Persia. Elizabeth David and Jill Norman planned to write a book with David's Christmas recipes as early as the late 1970s; files here document both David's own research for the book as well as Norman's work compiling and publishing Elizabeth David's Christmas (2003). Most files for this book reveal Norman's editorial hand; for example, the notecards (#36.3) were created by David, but some have Norman's notations. Folders created by Norman are identified. Harvest of the Cold Months was also published posthumously (1994), edited by Norman from David's voluminous notes and drafts. Material is grouped by chapter, with a set for David's handwritten drafts, and another for the more finished (and typed) drafts with which Norman worked. These have been noted as "David's drafts" and "Norman's drafts." Some folders of David's drafts have Norman's notes throughout. Many folders of research for the book are also included here; they may include correspondence, clippings, drafts, notes, etc. Some of the topics covered in Harvest of the Cold Months overlap with those found in the general research folders; see also Series VI. English Bread and Yeast Cookery research files include correspondence with readers and experts re: bread, from both before and after the book published; perhaps David used them as a general research file. For her earlier books, David traveled widely; see also the travel material in Series I. This subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries C, Pamphlets, 1951-1980 (#47.15-48.13), includes copies of and documentation of small pamphlet-size publications written by David. She was constantly approached to contribute to small pamphlets promoting food equipment and products, and several of these are included here. See also Series III, Subseries B for general correspondence re: contributing recipes/writing to company pamphlets. In addition, David decided to write and publish small books on specific ingredients that were sold at her shop and elsewhere. These "little books" include recipes, basic history, other notes, etc. Folders for each generally include a copy of the pamphlet itself, correspondence (often with printers about reprints), notes, drafts, research, etc. The subseries is arranged with shop pamphlets first, followed by pamphlets written by David for others (mainly companies).

Series V, ELIZABETH DAVID LTD., 1953-1989 (#48.14-52.6, 68FB.7, PD.7-PD.8, F+D.7, OD.2, ), contains records of the kitchenware shop David ran under her own name: correspondence, design material, catalogs, etc. Frustrated at the lack of quality kitchen equipment in London, she opened the store in 1965, and was intensely involved in its design aesthetic, publicity, stock, and sales until 1973, when she left the business. The store continued to operate under her name until the 1980s, which was intensely irritating to David, who often ran advertisements in newspapers declaring her disassociation from the store. Much of the correspondence in this series is regarding confusion between Elizabeth David the shop and Elizabeth David the person. The shop printed a catalog (#49.1); in addition, David's catalogs of cookware manufacturers often have her notes as to which products to sell. Files on the small pamphlets David wrote and sold in the store can be found in Series IV, Subseries C. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series VI, RECIPES AND RESEARCH, 1743-1991 (inclusive), 1955-1989 (bulk) (#52.7-66.20, 68FB.8-68FB.9, F+D.8), includes David's research files of images, recipes, ingredients, cuisine by country, early cookbook authors, and other topics. Folders of clippings contain general articles about food or chefs; some contain David's acerbic notes on the authors or people profiled. "Recipe books" are bound notebooks (some with alphabetical tabs) with recipes David used. Some recipes are filed by topic, some by year. "Recipes cooked" are groups of recipes compiled by year, originally tied together with a ribbon. Some also have clippings of David's columns, as well as other clippings of recipes and newspaper cartoons, interspersed. Specific files on recipe ingredients are mainly David's own handwritten or typescript recipes; some include correspondence. David's research files may contain correspondence, clippings, notes, recipes, handwritten drafts, edited typescripts of David's own writing, or copies of historical works. Folder titles listed in quotations in Breman's original collection listing have been maintained: these seem to be David's own folder titles. Some files in this series are similar to research done for Harvest of the Cold Months. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series VII, ARTEMIS COOPER AND JILL NORMAN, 1991-2007 (#67.1-67.15), includes papers of Cooper, David's biographer, and Norman, David's friend, editor, and sometimes publisher. Cooper's folders are correspondence she received regarding Elizabeth and Tony David during her research on the biography. Norman's files primarily relate to her work editing posthumous volumes on David. Other files on Elizabeth David's Christmas, and all files on Harvest of the Cold Months, can be found in Series IV, Subseries B. The series is arranged with Cooper's files first, followed by Norman's, and then alphabetically.

Series VIII, PHOTOGRAPHS AND OVERSIZED, 1900-1991, undated (#68FB.1-68FB.12, 69FB.1v-69FB.2v, F+D.1-F+D.9, OD.1-OD.2, SD.1, PD.9-PD.19), includes photographs of Elizabeth David and oversized material removed from elsewhere in the collection. The series is arranged in two subseries by format.

Subseries A, Photographs, 1944-1989 (#PD.9-PD.19), includes photographs of Elizabeth David and her house and kitchen. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online. The subseries is arranged chronologically, with most photographs of David organized by photographer.

Subseries B, Oversized, 1900-1991, undated (#68FB.1-68FB.12, 69FB.1v-69FB.2v, F+D.1-F+D.9, OD.1-OD.2, SD.1), serves as the shelflist for oversized items listed previously, as well as oversized items removed from preceding series and grouped as listed. Items removed from throughout the collection include articles by and about David, menus, etc.


Elizabeth David was the foremost British food writer of her day, publishing nine definitive books that helped reawaken the postwar British palate while educating a generation of cooks about food and its joys. Elizabeth was born to Stella Ridley and Rupert Sackville Gwynne, Conservative MP for Eastborne, on December 26, 1913. The second of four daughters, Elizabeth Gwynne grew up at Wooten Manor, a large house in Sussex, but after her father's death in 1924, she largely lived away from home, attending the Sorbonne in Paris in 1930, and subsequently studying German in Munich. Elizabeth pursued acting in London between 1933 and 1938, when she left England to travel the Mediterranean.

David escaped from Greece in 1941 after the Germans invaded, and spent the rest of World War II in Egypt. She worked for the British government in Alexandria and Cairo, and met and married Anthony David (referred to hereafter as Tony David), a British officer.

Returning to London after the war, David was disturbed by the terrible food, and determined to recreate menus she had encountered during her years living and traveling through France, Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Her marriage floundered; the couple lived apart for many years and were divorced in 1958. Partly as a means of income, David began writing articles about food and cooking, first publishing articles in Harper's Bazaar in 1949.

A Book of Mediterranean Food, a mixture of recipes and culinary lore, as well as an introduction to culture as food, was published in 1950. David subsequently published French Country Cooking (1951), Italian Food (1954), Summer Cooking (1955), and French Provincial Cooking (1960). She then wrote two books on the traditions of English food: Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen (1970) and English Bread and Yeast Cookery (1977), the definitive book on English baking. David published many articles in newspapers and magazines, including Vogue, House & Garden, Nova, the Spectator, the Times of London, etc. An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, a collection of her published short work, was published in 1984. David spent years researching the history of ice and the chilling of food; Harvest of the Cold Months was published posthumously in 1994 from her notes.

In 1965 David opened a kitchen shop in London, stocking it with the best cooking equipment available; in 1973 she severed ties with her business partners, but the store continued under her name. David's contribution to the gastronomic arts was recognized with numerous awards, including the first André Simon memorial prize, an Order of the British Empire, and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She also was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the French, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She died of a stroke on May 22, 1992.


The collection is arranged in eight series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1929-1992 (#1.1-11.13, 68FB.1-68FB.2, 69FB.1v, F+D.1-F+D.3, PD.1-PD.2)
  2. Series II. Gwynne family, 1881-1992 (#11.14-14.10, 68FB.3, 69FB.2v, PD.3-PD.4f)
  3. Series III. Correspondence, 1932-1992 (#15.1-30.9, PD.5-PD.6)
  4. Series IV. Writings, 1942-1996 (#30.10-48.13, 68FB.4-68FB.6, F+D.4-F+D.6, OD.1, T-464.1)
  5. Series V. Elizabeth David Ltd., 1953-1989 (#48.14-52.6, 68FB.7, PD.7-PD.8, F+D.7, OD.2)
  6. Series VI. Recipes and research, 1743-1991 (inclusive), 1955-1989 (bulk) (#52.7-66.20, 68FB.8-68FB.9, F+D.8)
  7. Series VII. Artemis Cooper and Jill Norman, 1991-2007 (#67.1-67.15)
  8. Series VIII. Photographs and oversized, 1900-1991, undated (#68FB.1-68FB.12, F+D.1-F+D.9, OD.1-OD.2, SD.1, PD.9-PD.19)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2003-M83, 2007-M37, 2009-M59, 2011-M31, 2022-M41

The papers of Elizabeth David were acquired from Jill Norman, literary trustee and agent for the Elizabeth David estate, in July 2003 and March 2007. Additional material came from Eddie Cass in 2007 and Henry Sotheran Limited in 2011 and from the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2022.


Donors: Jill Norman

Accession number: 2003-M83

Processed by: Jenny Gotwals

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection (pending review by curator) :

  1. Elizabeth David. Entertaining with Grand Marnier. L.Rose & Co., n.d.
  2. Elizabeth David. Syllabubs and Fruit Fools. 1969.
  3. Elizabeth David. Green Pepper Berries: A New Taste. 1972.
  4. Elizabeth David. The Baking of an English Loaf. 1969.
  5. Elizabeth David. Dried Herbs, Aromatics and Condiments. 1967.
  6. Elizabeth David. Cooking with Le Creuset. n.d.

Processing Information

Processed: October 2011

By: Jenny Gotwals and Camille Owens, with assistance from Camille Torres.

Updated: November 2022

By: Johanna Carll



David, Elizabeth, 1913-1992. Papers of Elizabeth David, 1743-2007 (inclusive), 1950-1992 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Radcliffe College Class of 1950 and the Radcliffe College Class of 1968.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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