By Rebecca Laroche with Hillary Nunn
Since we last posted in 2014, Hillary Nunn and I have been able to meet in Philadelphia and look at the College of Physicians manuscript together. This was an unprecedented convergence, and we are now seeing the manuscript’s and the collaboration’s richness anew. My next two entries will be about an aspect of the book I’d previously overlooked: the devotional materials at the beginning of the Layfield section.
From the back, the order of pages is as follows:
- Page 245, Anne Layfield’s Calligraphic Inscription [right side up],
- Page 243, Recipe in the Downing hand, [right side up] (for a discussion of this intermixture of hands see the discussion from November).
- Page 241, Poem in E. Layfield’s hand [Do-si-do], “Samuel Googe his Diett”
- Then continuing in do-si-do, pages 240–236 are five pages dedicated to the structures and purposes of prayer in a beautiful italic.
Upon this viewing, we have realized that these devotions are written in a less-calligraphic hand of Anne Layfield herself, the only other pages than the transcription that are hers.
Now if we read Anne Layfield’s signature rather than the Downing side as the start of her book, these devotions inaugurate her medical collection, with the dominant hands inserting themselves between her signature and the devotionals. This post considers the commonness of these kinds of inclusions, particularly at the beginning, within recipe books and what we may learn from them.
Many recipe books contain individual prayers or devotions. A simple search of the Wellcome Library catalogue reveals religious texts within volumes owned by Elizabeth Bulkeley, Mary Hodges, and Bridget Parker. More pointedly, I know of two other substantial collections that begin with a prayer or devotional text. At the Wellcome, Lady Frances Catchmay’s lengthy volume begins with “A Prayer to be sayd at all tymes to defend thee from thy Enemyes.” In its content and the repetition of “in the name of Jesus,” one can see the relevance for a book of medical recipes.
Another volume held at the University of Pennsylvania Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Codex 823, does not have an ownership inscription, and its front matter consists of sixteen pages of prayers and devotional materials. These pages include “A Briefe discourse of the / maner and order of the departing /of the Ladye Katherine by one hole night wherin / she dyed in the morning.” The reference seems to be to Lady Catherine Grey, whose death in 1567 has timed the manuscript’s origins in the late Tudor period.
What these devotions are doing in the recipe collections is yet another of many points of speculation in considering historical recipes. They may be a way to spend time meaningfully in particularly tedious recipe-making and/or they may locate the owner’s medical practice within her/his larger devotional work. We should not underestimate, moreover, what they can tell us about the owners and their contexts. In the ways that the Lady Catherine reference allows us to locate an anonymous manuscript in time, Anne Layfield’s devotions and its central text, “The Horologe or Diall of Prayer,” can tell us much about the sequencing and timing of the manuscripts construction. The source for this text and its implications are the subject of our series’s next installment in August.
 University of Pennsylvania Manuscript Catalog, Codex 823. The Digital facsimile may be seen here.
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