Category Archives: Elaine Leong

Exploring CPP 10A214: Enter Lady Honywood, Continued; Getting it on Paper

By Hillary Nunn with Rebecca Laroche

Elaine Leong’s posting about paper’s use as a medical tool inspired me to look more carefully at instances of paper in the Layfield manuscript, which Rebecca Laroche and I have been examining in this series. What I found was much more than I expected. It turns out that concentrating on paper highlights some of the embedded puzzles about recipe transmission that have been lurking in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia manuscript, and even in the Recipe Projects blog itself. My exploration also brings us back to Lady Honywood, proving once more Rebecca’s observation that “one just has to take advantage of a name like ‘Lady Honywood’ if it’s given to you.”

Rebecca and Elaine both have written substantially about Lady Honywood (or Honeywood) in Recipe Project posts before. This past March, Elaine pointed out that Joanna St. John’s 1680 recipe book contains a remedy attributed to Lady Honeywood “for a cancer,” where the medicine is spread on paper and then laid on the sore. Not surprisingly, Lady Honeywood’s name rang a bell for me, since almost two years earlier, Rebecca had devoted two posts to Lady Honywood’s presence in the Layfield manuscript. Lady Honywood’s recipe for the gout, Rebecca showed, hinted that the compiler of the CPP manuscript’s second section had a particular need to treat that ailment since seven cures for gout appear there.

But it turns out that Elaine and Rebecca were talking about the same recipe, or so I found out when I searched for mention of paper in the CPP manuscript. While St. John labels the recipe as a cancer treatment, the Layfield manuscript identifies it as “The Lady Honywood: receite for the Goute, running & swellinge.”

Layfielde_MS Honywood

The Layfield manuscript mentions the concoction’s effectiveness against cancer as an afterthought, but it is nonetheless there – as is paper as mode of administration. The ingredients are identical as well, with two notable variations. First, the Layfield manuscript walks the user through the process of rendering juice from its herbal ingredients, while St. John begins with the juices:


Otherwise, the only difference is that St. John’s version calls for “bean flower” while the Layfield manuscript calls for “wheaten flour.”

The variation in recipe titles is not uncommon, of course, and it certainly highlights Rebecca’s point about the importance of local needs in the organization of these manuscripts. At the same time, it underscores how easily categorization schemes can obscure connections among texts and contributors. Lady Honywood and her recipe, variant title or no, forge a connection between two manuscripts, the St. John and the Layfield, that otherwise show no obvious overlap. And, ironically enough, a search for paper helped bring to light what had been an unidentified link within this very blog. The overlap between manuscripts, and the one between blog entries, hints further at what connections lie just beyond the reach of our current digital tools. Just more evidence that we need a searchable database of these manuscripts!


[1] Below is a transcription for the Layfield hand:

Rx. one handfull of Fetherfew, salladine, smalledge, &
Rhew, of each a handfull, pick them cleane, wash them &
drie the water out cleane, & beate them in a mortar very
small, & then straine the Juce of it into a dish, &
thicken it with wheaten-flower; & put into it the
yelke of anew-laid egg, & as much honey as [that] con-
taines too, all beaten together, & spread it vpon capp
paper, or Grossers browne-paper, & apply it to the
place pained; & as the paine remoues, or moues so
follow it with this medicine –
2. this same also will helpe the Ague in a womans breast
or any bruise, the bloode beinge setled, or kill a felon
or the Kings euell, if it be swellinge or runninge.
If it be runninge lay adrie peece of paper vpon the
soare, & the plaister vpon it, by Gods blessinge it will
do all these cures

Looking at Paper and Recipes…

By Elaine Leong

Earlier this year, when the daffodils were in full bloom, I shared the fruits of my recent research with the readers of this blog. My current project, ‘Papering the Household: Paper, Recipes and Technologies in Early Modern England’ explores the intersection of early modern recipes and paper making and paper use.

Folger Shakespeare Library, Manuscript v.a. 456, fol. 28r.
Folger Shakespeare Library, Manuscript v.a. 456, fol. 28r.

In that post, I marveled at the myriad of ways in which early modern householders utilized paper in their production of a range of medicinal and health-related products – as plasters to apply medicines, as a means to preserve drugs and, in some cases, to separate mixtures. A good example is the recipe to heal a bruise showcased in the image above. This week, over at the Shakespeare’s World blog, I explore the way householders used paper in culinary and, in particular, baking recipes. Paper, it turns out, was a crucial tool for early modern home cooks. Bakers used floured paper to line cake and biscuit tins and to mold and shape sugar confections such as almond lozenges and cheesecakes. There was also one fascinating instance where paper was employed as a way to gauge the heat of one’s oven. Once I started looking, uses of paper began to crop up in recipe after recipe.

When I reflect upon my adventures in research paper and recipes, two key thoughts spring to mind. First, my previous notions of paper-use in early modern England were woefully misguided. While certain kinds of paper were undoubtedly expensive and largely used for writing and book production, many other kinds of paper were in constant use and re-use in the period. For example, grocers were in the habit of wrapping foodstuffs in brown paper. The same paper was then used or, most probably, re-used to make medicinal plasters and to line cake and biscuit tin. While we might think of the more expensive seized white paper as reserved as letter paper and book production, it seems that it was also used for making marchpane, drying apricots and stopping nosebleeds. Early modern men and women used paper in a wide range of contexts that we’re only beginning to uncover.

Secondly, I was also struck by the collaborative nature of the research. As many of you know, shifting through the hundreds and hundreds of recipes in early modern recipe collections to look for use of a particular material is not easy task. Lucky for me, I’ve had immense help from the communities of two “citizen transcription” projects. The first is the Early Modern Manuscripts Online Collective (EMROC) in which students transcribe and encode manuscript recipe texts in classrooms. The second is Shakespeare’s World, a Zooniverse project creating transcriptions of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s manuscript holdings.

Members of these two projects helped me in different ways. EMROC members collectively produced full-text transcriptions of Johanna St. John and Rebekah Winche’s recipe books. With the “find” function in Word, entries with paper-use were a snap to locate. The community at Shakespeare’s World, on the other hand, has been looking out for and tagging recipes with paper as they work their way through the digital archive. Using the channel #paper, they have created a data set of more than twenty examples of paper-use from ten different manuscript recipe books in just a few months. I am grateful to the members of both these projects for their help.

Clearly, my project is enriched and extended by our collective efforts and my analysis of paper-use in recipes owes much to students on campuses in the USA and Canada and to the energetic community at Shakespeare’s World. With citizen science projects such as Zooniverse (which hosts Shakespeare’s World) our research methodologies are continually changing and expanding. I might have begun my research on recipes in the wooden carrels in Duke Humphrey’s Library but a few years on, the research landscape has definitely shifted.

View of the Bodleian library at oxford in Oxonia Illustrata (Oxford, 1675).

For one thing, with the modernization of the Bodleian, readers now engage with early modern manuscripts in the Weston Library rather than Duke Humphrey’s… But also with digitization projects, many of us now read our manuscripts on our computers rather than at the archive. I miss the musty smell and crackly pages of a seventeenth-century manuscript, but I’m also delighted for new research possibilities offered by new digital tools and thrilled to be part of large communities of fellow citizen scientists.

Of course, this idea of “crowd sourcing” research is not new. Recipe collecting could be considered an early form of citizen science. After all, our historical actors quickly realized that calling on their friends and family was the most effective and quickest way to gather tried and trusted medical and culinary knowledge.

Speaking of collaboration and communities, in my journey to explore paper and recipes I have encountered a number of scholars working on cognate projects. Over the three Tuesdays, I would like to share some our discussions on the theme of paper and recipes with you. Next week, Orietta da Rold offers us rich evidence of paper-use in medical recipes in late medieval England, reminding us that the story I tell for seventeenth-century England was one with a long history. On August 16, in a special post on the Layfield manuscript, Hillary Nunn demonstrates how following the trail of paper brings up unusual questions and unexpected connections. In the final post of the series, Gabriella Szalay introduces us to the work of the eighteenth-century German naturalist Jacob Christian Schäffer (1718-1790) who conducted a series of “paper trials” in a bid identify raw materials (other than linen rags) to make paper.

Together, this series of posts on paper and recipes demonstrates the wealth of questions inspired by looking at an everyday object: paper.

Papering the Household: Paper, Recipes and Technologies in Early Modern England

By Elaine Leong

2016-01-10 13.57.34

Oh how time flies… the days are already getting longer and the market flower stalls have been selling bright yellow daffodils for weeks. 2016, it seems, is almost a quarter over! A few months ago, a group of us kicked off the New Year in style with a workshop titled: ‘Working with Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge’. This is a new working group project that I’m running with my colleagues Christine von Oertzen and Carla Bittel. The project examines the intersections of histories of paper technologies and paperwork, gender history and histories of knowledge. By merging the analytical frameworks of material culture and gender, we aim to reveal how notions of masculinity and femininity became embedded in, and expressed through, uses of paper.

Some of you old timers who’ve read this blog from our launch in 2012 might recall that I have previously written about recipes, note-taking and paper technologies (here, here and here). Indeed, the many ways in which householders used paper tools such as notebooks, slips, tables, cut outs etc. to contain, filter, shift recipe knowledge has long been an interest of mine (for example, see this presentation). More recently, though, I have also become fascinated with how householders used paper to contain, filter and shift materia medica, medicines and foodstuffs during processes of production. That is, I began to wonder not only about paper technologies but also technologies using paper. In my contribution to the ‘Working with Paper’ project, I play with combining these two analytical strands – the narrative on paperwork and paper technologies and the narrative on gender and everyday technologies. In doing so, I hope to investigate the multiple ways in which housewives and household managers used paper ‘technologies’ both in performing quotidian tasks and in codifying practical knowledge. This focus on the materiality of paper, I hope to suggest, offers a new perspective to link the collection and management of knowledge and hands-on practices on the ground.

To further investigate paper use in all sorts of recipes, I turned to the recently transcribed recipe books of Johanna St. John and Rebeckah Winche (click here for more on the transcription process). Using the trusty ‘search and find’ function, I located just over 30 recipes which featured paper in some way. It turns out that paper (of all sorts, more on that in a minute) was widely used in a number of home-based everyday technologies for the production of a wide range of medicines and foodstuffs.

Wellcome MS 4338, fol. 15v.
Wellcome MS 4338, fol. 15v.

One of the most common uses of paper was as a means to apply ointments, salves and so on to the body. For example, in a recipe ‘for a cancer’ by Lady Honeywood in the St. John recipe book, the maker is instructed to take the juice of herbs (featherfew, celandine, rue and smallage), mix it with beanflower and honey and spread it on the softest brown paper. If the cancer sore is already an open sore, then the practitioner should lay the paper next to the sore, changing twice and day and burning the paper afterwards.

Wellcome MS 4338, fol. 18v.
Wellcome MS 4338, fol. 18v.

In another recipe for a “knubb or hardness’ in the breast, the maker is instructed to first dip brown paper in brandy, spread honey on the paper and lay it onto the breast, changing the paper plaster as it were, every day or two. This simple plaster, we’re told will dissolve the lump in a around month.

‘Paper plasters’ were also used in medicines to soothe burns. For example, in Rebekah Winche’s book, a ointment for a burn or scald involves boiling elder tree bark and leaves, plantain leaves, houseleek, olive oil, white wine vinegar, urine and wax and dipping paper or a cloth in this mixture and ‘clapping’ it to the burn. In these cases, recipe makers and medical practitioners play on the fact that paper is both malleable and absorbent; thus making them good carriers to deliver medicines continually to the surface of the body. Here, paper joins other materials such as leather and cloth in this role. Indeed in some recipes, like the burn recipe in the Winche book, paper and cloth were used interchangeably.

Folger MS v.b. 366, fol. 62.
Folger MS v.b. 366, fol. 62.

Analysis of early modern household recipes show that paper was also used in a number of other ways. For example, oiled papers were used to shape, contain and preserve rolls of pills. Cap paper was often used to filter and separate liquid mixtures and to protect glass objects. The more expensive white paper was also used in these everyday technologies; perhaps surprisingly, it was commonly used to dry and preserve fruits and vegetables. In the interest of space (those pesky editors and their word limits!), I can’t talk about all these uses today but I promise to write more on these very soon.

I’m still at the beginning of my research on paper use in everyday household technologies and am enthusiastically collecting examples. So, if you happen to come across any recipes with paper use, please do get in touch. Our friends on the Zooniverse Shakespeare’s World site, have started a channel ‘#paper’ for recipes encountered over there. I can also be reached via comments below or at Thanks so much in advance – I’m super appreciative for all your help!

On Close Reading and Teamwork

Say the word ‘crowdsourcing’ and people automatically think of large-scale projects. Talk about ‘digital humanities’ and we think mining large sources of data. The online world is a vast and busy place. It’s not surprising that the media–and adherents of the ‘slow reading’ movement–regularly fret that the internet is destroying the way we think and read. (See this for just one example.)

Since December, Elaine Leong and I have been team researchers for the citizen science project, Shakespeare’s World, run by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Oxford English Dictionary.  The ‘Talk’ board is an active place, where volunteer transcribers come to ask questions or talk about the letters and recipes that they find. What has intrigued me most about the project is the way in which people engage with the material: deeply and in (dare I say it?) an early modern manner.


Pharmaceutical and Cookery Recipes, ca. 1675 (Folger Shakespeare Library, V.a.21), 261.

For just one example, let me introduce you to the tale of Bunchfussy, which begins with @parsfan’s comment:

‘The second recipe is a guest appearance by another hand, perhaps Mrs Bunchfussy herself, who sounds like a refugee from a Dickens novel.’

That would be delightful! Unfortunately, as I spotted immediately, this was the Mrs Dunch who had been mentioned in several other recipes. But… what WAS that word immediately after her name? Team Bunchfussy’s quest to identify the word reveals a lot about the importance of close reading and teamwork.

L0022575 G. Bartisch, Das ist Augendienst.

L0022575 G. Bartisch, Das ist Augendienst, 1583. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Since I’ve started transcribing recipes online (starting with the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective), the way that I read them has changed. As a busy researcher, I ordinarily would have skipped over a mystery word like this one. In the interests of maximising research time and ploughing through lots of sources, I probably would decide that identifying the word was unimportant. There was already plenty of information: a name, an ailment, a list of ingredients. Missing this word out would not be a problem.

Transcribing online is different, though. The Shakespeare’s World system, which only presents one decontextualized page at a time, forces the transcriber to read closely. The handwriting can be difficult and, without an entire manuscript for reference, the only clues to decode an excerpt are on that page. Every letter, every mark, every word is important. And the transcriber is compelled to linger, focusing on the details and considering the possibilities.

Close reading is usually solitary, but on Shakespeare’s World, it often becomes collaborative. Perplexing examples are posted on Talk by transcribers where we puzzle over them together.

@mutabilitie joked that ‘it looks like “pissy” to me, but I suppose we can safely rule out that reading.’ Except… it did look rather like pissy.

The debate on the page initially focused on whether the first letter was a ‘p’ or an ‘f’, with contributors mustering evidence about letter shapes elsewhere in the recipe.* The general consensus was ‘f’. Perhaps it might be ‘firstly’ or ‘fully’ or even ‘fussy’? @S_Powell reported back that, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), fussy would not have yet been in use. Then @elaineleong suggested ‘fissy’, but didn’t think it made much sense. She also suggested that we were all might be on the wrong track. What if the word belonged to the first recipe line rather than the title and attribution?

Indeed, what if it went with the word directly under it? Fussy smalligs. Fuzzy smallage!!! A quick check of the OED revealed that fuzzy was in use in the seventeenth century. And suddenly we had an answer. It may not have been Bunchfussy, but the second word was indeed fussy after all.

Apium Graveolens. Otto Wilhelm Thome, Flora von Deutschland (1885). Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

An individual researcher might have skipped over a seemingly unimportant word, but ‘fussy’ turned out to provide a surprising amount of information that would have otherwise been missed. The knowledge that fuzzy smallage rather than plain old smallage was included in the recipe is interesting in two ways. First, the fuzziness might indicate its particular stage of growth—perhaps when in flower. That might indicate the timing (late summer) for preparing the recipe. Alternatively, it might be specifying use of the leaves rather than the stalk. Either way, this was a clue that would have been left out of a quick read of the recipe. Second, ‘fussy’ has not yet been listed in the OED as a variant of ‘fuzzy’.

Close reading, perseverance, and teamwork are rewarding. In an age of perpetual busy-ness and fast reading on the web, that the internet can also bring opportunities for slowing down fills me with delight.

*In addition to those named above, thank you to @Hannebambel @Greensleeves @Cuboctahedron for their contributions, which included points of clarification and transcriptions.

A shorter version of this post originally appeared at the collaborative blog shakespearesworldzoo–a blog that is well worth checking out, with more on recipes and early modern letters! Elaine and I also recently gave a talk on this case at a workshop on Citizen Science in Historical Perspective (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 19 February 2016).