Tag Archives: Elizabeth Downing

Exploring CPP 10a214: Close Textual Ties

By Rebecca Laroche with Hillary Nunn

Hillary Nunn’s discoveries about the identification of the Layfield hand of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia (CPP) manuscript with Edward Layfield, Archdeacon of Essex, has had me reconsidering earlier entries in this series having to do with religion and the recipes, in particular the exclusion of the “angel” from Elizabeth Downing’s version of the “Flos Unguentorum, or the Flower of Ointments.” [1]

The Historical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript 10a214, page 1. Personal photo included with permission

In my research I have found that other examples of this recipe appearing throughout the English Civil War era call this ointment “The Angel Salve,” others still the less evocative “Yellow Salve,” but there are only a handful of pre-1700 versions that include an expansion on the origin myth of the salve in which an angel descended on a “religious house” in Germany to exclaim the many virtues of the ointment. The most notable of these expansions is found in Philatros’ Natura Exenterata (1655), [2] a recipe which is likely to come from Anne Dacre Howard (1557/8-1630), a rough contemporary of Elizabeth Downing, mother of Calybute, and this version of the recipe, of the more than thirty recipes I have examined, remains the closest to Elizabeth Downing’s.  This entry looks at these two versions with relation to another pre-Civil War example in an attempt to hone the nature of their connection and to bring another print text into the network of the CPP manuscript.

The third pre-1640 example is from an anonymous text, A booke of soueraigne approued medicines and remedies, first published in 1577. [3] Ultimately, my argument is that the 1577 version is the source text for the Dacre recipe, as it is very close to it in many details. The ways that the Downing example diverges from Soueraigne approued medicines are in line with the Natura text, but then the Downing adds further variances and eliminates expansions, which suggests that the Dacre manuscript is its source, not vice versa.

The first page of A booke of soueraigne approued medicines and remedies (1577)

As I have mentioned before one major difference between the Natura Exenterata and the Downing recipe is where the virtues appear relative to the recipe, where the print text lists the many virtues first before giving the recipe and the manuscript lists them on a page following the recipe.  This is the one way in which the Natura diverges from its source in a significant way in that Approued medicines lists the virtues on the verso of the first folio of the text, just as the Downing version lists the virtues on the recto opposite the recipe. This correspondence and the manuscript’s use of “powder” (found in the 1577 text) rather than “pounded” as transcribed in the Natura Exenterata would suggest that the Downing is closer to the 1577 text, but in interpreting this information, we must remember that there is at least one missing text, the Dacre manuscript from which Natura was derived, and “pounded” suggests a mistranscription in the move into print from the minims of “poudred.”  Similarly, the transposition in making the virtues first may have been a choice of the printer.  The real evidence of the sourcing of the texts is the way that Natura embellishes on the 1577 version, expansions which then are contracted, replicated, or left out by the Downing manuscript.

The most conspicuous of these expansions is the way that Dacre fills in the myth, which in the 1577 version is only “Thys Intret is called Flos vnguentorum for that it is supposed for hys vertues to haue come to knowledge by revelation.” In Natura Exenterata, the context of the revelation is given details in “this intreat is called flos unguentorum, for it cometh of Jesu Christi by an Angell to a house of Religion at the red hill in Almayn, which wrought there many marvails, and never had other medicine but this.”  Also, a phrase from the 1577 “it healeth faster than any other” becomes in Natura “it healeth more in a sevenight then any other in a Month.”  The Downing version includes neither of these, either in their short or long version, which as it would give the Dacre nothing from which to expand, indicates that the Downing is derived from the Dacre. Other changes made in Natura from the earlier print text that appear in Downing imply at least a close relation between the 1640 manuscript version and the manuscript source of the Natura.  In the 1577 version, the ingredient is “Harts talow,” but in Natura it is “Harts suet,” which becomes “Deares suett” in the Downing version. The 1577 “searce it and boyle them all together” becomes in Natura “finely searsed, and boyle them over the fire,” which is then clarified in Downing’s “and being finely searsed, boyle them ouer the fire.” A direction in the anonymous text about making sure that the Camphire and Turpentine be added only when the rest is “cold as blood” or else “all is lost” is found in the list of virtues, which Dacre moves to its rightful place in the recipe, transformed to “no hotter than blood” or else “it marreth all your stuffe,” a move replicated in the Downing, becoming “but blood warme” and “it marres all.” The anonymous text calls the “Flower of Ointments” “one of the purest salues that can be made,” and the Dacre text changes to the “best and most precious salve that can be made,” which Downing shortens to “a most pretious salue.” The combination of the expansions in the Natura and the terse language in the Downing thus suggests that the Dacre has a closer proximity to the 1577 text, and that the Downing recipe is derived from the Dacre.

Of course, as is getting to be the case in this series, there is a third possibility in that alongside the print texts from 1577 and 1655, and the 1640 manuscript and the implied Dacre manuscript source for Natura, we should consider the other implied manuscript, the one from which Calybute Downing copied his mother’s recipes. After all, it may be from Elizabeth Downing’s own receipt that words were mistranscribed, expansions were left out by some and copied faithfully by others, orders were changed, and phrases were clarified and confounded.  We can determine, however, that the Downing and the Dacre recipes have an affinity, one that complicates and nuances the networks in front of us.

[1] The Historical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript 10a214, pp. 1–2.

[2] Philatros, Natura Exenterata, London 1655, p. 332.

[3] Anonymous, A booke of soueraigne approued medicines and remedies, fol. A2r–A2v.






Exploring CPP 10a214: Overlapping Territories

By Rebecca Laroche with Hillary Nunn

In her most recent entry in this series, Hillary Nunn showed through genealogical and geographical research how the Downings and the Layfields had people and places in common.  This month’s entry raises a related aspect of the manuscript construction as a whole and with it the question of whether or not the two compilers knew each other.  At two places in the manuscript, the two compilers, Calybute Downing, the hand seen here,


and E. Layfield, hand here,

 Probatum Anne Layfield

overlap. This overlap begins on page 74, where the Layfield hand first appears in the manuscript (with pointedly a gout recipe) and which is shared with a Downing recipe for a the scurvy.  The pages then alternate between the Downing hand (pages 75 and 77) and the Layfield hand (76 and 78).  The Layfield hand then takes over what had been the Downing portion with 10 pages that include the recipes from Anne Layfield herself. Now there is a lot of room for speculation in our interpretation of this meeting of the hands in the compilation, but it does suggest that some kind of exchange occurred.

As has been mentioned before in this series, the manuscript as a whole exists in do-si-do format, and the reversed document starting from the opposite side (pages 241 – 207) is dominated by the Layfield hand.  But the page before that section (243) holds a recipe for the ague in the Downing hand reversed from the rest of the recipes in the section. The Downing hand appears again (229–27), in the same direction with the other Layfield recipes; this mini-series includes another recipe for the scurvy.

Now whether this overlap indicates anything more than shared scribes is again difficult to determine, but another intersection, the appearance of two attributions, Master Foule and Master Danell, in both in the Downing hand  and the Layfield hand suggests that two compilers occupied the same ground, either literally or socially, at some point in the construction of the manuscript.  In fact the names of Foule and Dauell (sic) first appear in the Downing hand at 74 and 75, respectively, during the transition into the Layfield section.[1]  Foule contributes three more recipes to the Downing collection and one to the Layfield section, while Mr. Danell or Danill is given credit for several recipes between pages 213 and 208. The identities of these two gentlemen may remain another of the College of Physicians’ many mysteries, but the further we articulate the overlapping terrain between the two dominant portions of this manuscript, the more cohesive the story it tells becomes.

[1] The spelling of Danell as Dauell follows the recurrent interchange between u-s and n-s in the Downing hand.

Exploring CPP 10a214: Elizabeth Downing’s Busy Month of May

By Hillary Nunn with Rebecca Laroche

Elizabeth Downing was busy in the month of May. Several of her recipes in the opening section of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia manuscript 10a214 specify that they should be made only during that month, and other recipes in the collection call for “May butter” – unsalted butter made in spring – as a key ingredient. The array of herbal ingredients used in these recipes make it easy to picture them being concocted in a rural location, one with ready access to fields blooming with new Spring growth.

In the manuscript as a whole, only April, May, and June are explicitly designated as months when certain recipes should be prepared, presumably because that is when plant-based ingredients would be freshest. May is by far the busiest, with five recipes specifically designated for preparation that month. The recipe for an ointment for “aches, anguishe or swelling of wounds,” attributed to Hellen Jones and endorsed at its end by Elizabeth Downing, requires that it be “made in may and no time else.”

The Historical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript 10a214, fol. 10
The Historical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript 10a214, fol. 221.

April and June, moreover, are only named once each, and their mention seems designed to even out the workflow during May’s busier days. Downing, for example, offers her probatum to an “excellent Oyntment for the spleene,” which calls for fresh millelot that “groweth a mongst corne, and is to be gotten the latter end of May or Iune.” A cure for an old sore in the manuscript’s second part, meanwhile, suggests making the herb water on which it is based “in the moneth of Aprill or May, for it cannot be made all the year after.”

This recipe for an old sore, however, is the only one in the manuscript’s second section that explicitly associates a recipe with a production date. While the section includes recipes that demand may butter, it conjures few images of the practitioner gathering ingredients, yet alone collecting them from surrounding countryside. Reading the manuscript’s first section, however, we not only can imagine a housewife picking millelot from amongst the corn; we can also picture her in the fields before dawn assembling ingredients to treat a “blasting by lightning or otherwise”:

Take a faire linnen cloth, and in the
month of may in a morning before sunrise
wipe of the dew of the green wheat with
the cloth & wring it out into a basen
and keep it in a glass close stopped …

The first section’s recipes assume that the recipe maker will be near a wheat field, as well as fresh millelot. As Rebecca Laroche pointed out to me earlier, the ointment for “aches, anguishe or swelling of wounds” demands that it maker collect its ingredients – “the youngest bay leaues & wormwood of each halfe a pound” – during “the heate of the day,” suggesting the plants are readily available, growing nearby.

The manuscript’s second section, however, rarely offers such glimpses of the recipe maker outside the house, collecting her raw materials. This only compounds the mystery that Rebecca outlined in her last entry about the manuscript’s area of circulation. Does the collection, she asked, reflect a Middlesex or Essex location? Whether the first and second sections’ different images of the recipe makers at work hint at changes in the owner’s residence or social network remains unclear, but it is yet another aspect to consider in our attempts to place the manuscript.

This is the thirteenth post in a series on this topic.