Visualizing Data

While entering this data about our chosen subset of cookbooks, we noticed something a bit unexpected—something we felt could be illustrated most effectively through a visually interactive medium; there’s a distinct difference between the cookbooks’ cities of origin and their cities of publication. Now, to an extent this makes sense, since there can’t be a publishing company in every single city in which a book has ever been published. However, this led us to dig a little deeper and discover that there were a few recurring publishing companies in the mix, and that they weren’t really anywhere near most cities of origin.

Let us leave the recurring companies for a moment. It’s important to get a sense of the scope of the entire data set, hence the map comparison below. We felt it important to create a visual representation of the fact that local cookbook authorship is not just a here-and-there phenomenon; it is a large part of any culture you care to study. With the Pam Allison collection specifically, we were able to work with a very rounded data set, since Mrs. Allison herself so thoroughly and systematically collected cookbooks from the Southern Appalachian region in particular. Because of her efforts, we were able to look at the culture of an area through a lens that we had never thought to look through before.

Our small sample size—the books in the collection from the Southern Appalachian region—is incredibly concentrated, so just imagine how this map would look if we had expanded our data search to the entire country.

Hint: it would look very blue.

Map detailing number of books per community city:

Map detailing number of books per publication city:

(Note: in our data sheet, some entries were labeled N/A. Somehow, Google translated this to mean Namibia, Africa. Rest assured that this is an error in code and not, in fact, an overseas shipment of supposedly local cookbooks.)

We promised specifics, though. We only needed a different medium with which to share our discoveries.

Prior to this course, the concept of publishing companies existing solely for local, often fundraising, cookbooks was all but foreign to us—not because of any sort of outlandishness, but simply because we never had any reason to think about it before. So, naturally, we opted to explore their histories, just to see if we could dig anything useful out of it. Surprisingly enough, we did; the information we found was interesting as well as useful, and it came about by accident. We had planned to incorporate this information in a timeline from the beginning, but failed to realize how difficult it was to make a single timeline about three independent entities. In an effort to improve organization, we attempted to group the publishers together, and it didn’t take long to realize that, while completely independent of each other, the publishers actually flourished and advanced in incredibly similar ways.

By weaving the stories of these publishers together, we are able to examine their different stages of development—and, of course, how closely they align. It’s just an added bonus (and a testament to how much information lies hidden just below the surface of seemingly mundane topics) that this particular revelation came about by accident.

“About Us.” Fundcraft Publishing | Fundraising Cookbooks.

“Cookbook Publishing Leader.” Cookbook Publishers.

“The Nation’s #1 Cookbook Publisher.” Morris Press Cookbooks. 1997.