Cooking aside, books are my big passion. So when I can find books that embody cooking it just doesn't get much better than that. Consequently I own a number of cookbooks in a variety of degrees of usefulness. I am a firm believer in pictures being worth a thousand words and think that no where is that more true than in a cookbook. In fact I think a cookbook is worthless if it doesn't have full-color, professionally shot photos.
Now that I've given that absolute statement, let me back-pedal and clarify (generally I try to steer clear of absolute statements because I nearly always have to recant). What I mean is that since that advent of full-color, professional photography there is no reason why it shouldn't be present in a cookbook. I hate buying a new, modern cookbook and having it be picture-less. What makes me look at a recipe and want to try it is the visual appeal, not the list of ingredients, usually. Of course, one has to make exceptions for books where it is impossible for there to be photos (black and white or otherwise). In fact, that brings me to the whole point of the post.
I have started my collection of antiquarian cookbooks. It's still small (this recent grad just doesn't have tons of money to spend on antique cookbooks just yet) but pretty awesome. The dream is to one day own a first edition of Mrs. Beeton's Guide to Household Management, but it will be many years before that dream is realized. Last summer I ran into an 1861 edition (I don't think it was a true first edition though.) and was thrilled to find that it was in pretty good condition, but the man wanted 200 GBP for it and I just didn't have that kind of money. So, I've had to start smaller. As you may recall, I am very much interested in Victorian cookery and so I hope to have my collection ultimately be mostly Victorian in nature; though right now it is more 1st half of the twentieth century. In some ways that's almost better because the cooking instructions are quite a bit easier to follow.