According an ad in an issue of the New England Kitchen Magazine, it appears that Shute & Merchant first introduced its 250 Ways to Cook and Serve Fish cookbook in 1894. That magazine ad notes that all one needs to do is send "three 2 cent stamps"
As the front cover shows, this early version of their cookbook cost 10 cents, however, later versions did not have a price listed. This particular cook book does not have an edition number identifed, so it may not have been the first edition.
A copy of this Fifth Edition of the Shute & Merchant cookbook is held in the library of the Peabody-Essex Museum, and its cover bears the notice "Copyright 1894, Shute & Merchant". Its edition number means several other printings had been done during the approximate year or so that the firm had made this item available to comsumers. What better way to encourage people to use Shute & Merchant fish products then to provide a booklet with 250 different recipes ... and pages advertising your firm's products. Eventually, nine editions of the cook book were printed.
By the time the Sixth Edition of 250 Ways to Cook and Serve Fish was published (above), the cook books had lithographically printed front and back covers. This added a much stronger visual appeal, as with other types of advertising pieces intended to be to be in the hands of a consumer.
On the last page of this edition there is a small section of "testimonials". Many companies today still rely on sharing comments from those who love their products, and that small sampling of testimonials also help to show how far and wide Shute & Merchant products were shipped.
Something new in 6th Edition was the introduction of a page that provided the comments of a physician, who was extolling the goodness and quality of the Shute & Merchant fish products. (below)
Part of his statement notes that whenever the qualtiy of food product has been "amply" proved, it is the duty of the physician to bestow his commendation.
A new cover illustration was created for each successive cook book cover. (below) While the hand holding a small package of a Shute & Merchant Gold Wedge product was repeated on the 7th Edition's cover, the graphics on the box were not the same.
Beginning with the Sixth Edition the term "receipts" replaced "recipes" that had been used on the earlier editions. During this time period, reciepts was a synonom for recipes.
The Eighth Edition of the cook book had a cover design that simply focused on images directly related to the fishing industry, where the previous two had emphasized a Shute & Merchant product. (above) A number of the firm's fish products were illustrated on it's back cover.
All of these lithographic covers were printed by the Brooks Bank Note Company of Springfield Massachusetts.
At least one 1906 magazine ad for Shute & Merchant includes the information about how to obtain a copy of their cookbook, so it is likely that this is the year the Ninth Edition was printed.
Both of the earliest editions of the cookbook are filled with advertising, many from other firms. Those ads probably helped to cover some of the printing costs. By the time the cookbooks started having lithographic covers, the advertising inside was for just Shute & Merchant products.
One piece in the later cookbooks notes that their fibered codfish is fibered by a "machine of our own make". James L. Shute was an inventor, and invented a fish cutting machine, and was the co-invventor of a fibering machine. He designed an improved brush that was necessary piece of the fibering machine.
In the last few editions of the cookbook, some items, such as poems about specific product lines, were also inlcuded with the ads and recipes.