When my niece from England was here on a recent visit, we celebrated by continuous eating, talking about food all the while. One evening as we stuffed ourselves with Italian delicacies, we came up with the idea of putting together a family cookbook.

The first thing to decide is who shall be included in the cookbook. You have to draw boundaries, but be sure to ask men as well as women, singles as well as couples, and consider children as contributors.

Ask each for a specific number of recipes--they don't have to be original, just ones they enjoy using--promising that in exchange each contributor will receive a copy of the book.

Also ask for a line or two about each recipe, something personal about its origin, why it is a favorite, or a descriptive note. Ask contributors also to write one or two biographical paragraphs about their work, interests and such.

Finally, give them a deadline. Then, once you have received all the recipes, type a working draft of the cookbook. The result will be a booklet 5 1/2 inches wide and 8 1/2 inches high, folded and fastened at the left. This is how to do it:

* Take some white paper 8 1/2-by-5 1/2 inches--half of a standard sheet of typing paper. Placed vertically, it will be the size of your actual cookbook pages. Leave left and right margins of at least a half inch.

Begin every page with the contributor's name at the top, followed by the biography. Next comes the recipe title, followed by any personal comments or descriptions of the dish; then the recipe. Be sure to double-check that the ingredients are accurate and the recipe instructions specify when to add each ingredient.

* Once your pages are in order, add page numbers.

* Count the pages. You have to end up with a number divisible by four because when the book goes to the printer, every printed page will consist of four typewritten pages. If the number is not divisible by four, add pages until you reach one that is. You will want to add pages anyway, because a cookbook consists of more than just pages of recipes. The first extra page is the title page.

There are many other possibilities for page additions -- an introduction or preface, a dedication, a page for making notes, an address list of contributors, an index.

* Type up the finished printer's copy, this time concentrating on accuracy.

* Count up the actual number of pages and divide by four. This number represents full sheets of paper needed for making the dummy.

Take the number of blank full sheets of 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper needed and add one extra sheet for the cover. Stack this number of papers and fold them in half in book shape 8 1/2-by-5 1/2-inches. Write "cover" on the top page, then begin writing a word or number to describe what goes on each consecutive page, using your printer's copy as a guide.

Uunfold the sheets, take them apart, and notice that consecutive numbers are not on the same sheet of paper once it is unfolded. This is how it should be.

* The dummy becomes the model for pasting up the printer's copy. To do this use rubber cement and carefully glue down the typed recipe pages in the order indicated on the dummy.

Using fresh sheets of white 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper, you will end up with two typed recipe pages pasted on each side of one sheet of paper, which remains open and unfolded.

* All that is left to do is the cover. If you are not artistic, go to a good stationery or art supply store and select some sheets of dry transfer letters for printing the title. You can also buy fancy lines and borders called graphic tapes.

The back side of the cover is always blank. You can leave the inside cover page blank too, or put something on it, e.g., a family tree.

* It's time to go to the printer, one you have selected in advance who has gone over the procedures with you. Prices vary, as does clarity of advice. When you go, bring your pasted-up printer's copy and dummy.

Offset and Xerox are the two basic printing processes. Xerox is less expensive, but make sure the copying machines are up-to-date models capable of producing dark, clean copy. Offset is more expensive but produces darker and more professional-looking results.

You may want to use a combination of processes. You can Xerox the inside pages and do the cover in offset. The cover should be printed on a heavy index-weight paper that comes in several different colors.

Most print shops require a minimum order of 25 copies. For a few extra cents a copy the shops will collate, trim and staple the pages.

While your family cookbook will never make the best seller list, and you will never be mentioned as author of the year, it is bound to become a family heirloom and will certainly provide conversation--and perhaps some untapped cooks--for your next family gathering.