Category Archives: Libraries, Archives & Museums

Notes from a Newly Discovered English Recipe Book

By Francesca Vanke

Sir Robert Paston (1631-1683) of Oxnead Hall in Norfolk was known in his own time for his loyal support of Charles II, his magnificent house and kunstkammer collection, his political activities, and for his chymical and alchemical pursuits. His family died out in the early eighteenth century with the premature deaths of his grandsons, and today the Pastons are remembered mostly for the famous letters of an earlier generation. However, some seventeenth century items survive: inventories, documents, artefacts and an enigmatic painting The Paston Treasure in Norwich Castle Museum, which depicts some of Robert’s and his father’s collection. (Figure 1). This is the subject of a current research project between Norwich Castle Museum and the Yale Center for British Art, culminating in a joint exhibition in 2018.

The Paston Treasure, anonymous, Dutch School, c1665, oil on canvas, Norfolk Museums Service
The Paston Treasure, anonymous, Dutch School, c1665, oil on canvas, Norfolk Museums Service

Recently further evidence of Robert Paston’s activities was discovered: his manuscript notebook, probably dating from late 1650s-1670s. This comprises some 250 culinary, medical, alchemical, cosmetic and artistic recipes, fascinating both for their variety, and for their varied cited sources. An FRS elected 1661, Paston’s associates included many of the noted scientists and intellectuals of his day, although his most frequent known correspondent and co-experimenter was Thomas Henshaw (1618-1700) with whom he worked for more than twenty years on the ‘red elixir’, a version of the Philosopher’s Stone.

Many of the medical recipes in Paston’s book were not uncommon and may be found in similar form in contemporary English publications such as An English Huswife or The Queen’s Closet Open’d. Others, such as his cure for The Falling Sickness (Figure 2) appear more unusual.

Robert Paston, Earl of Yarmouth, Recipe Book Containing Medical, Chemical and Household Recipes and Formulas. James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Robert Paston, Earl of Yarmouth, Recipe Book Containing Medical, Chemical and Household Recipes and Formulas. James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Remedies for falling sickness appear regularly in English recipe books. The most frequently cited ingredient in these is peony, a plant with ancient precedents for its curative properties. One of Paston’s recipes also cites peony tincture, but the other involves a distillation of chopped magpies ‘intrails, feathers and all’, an ingredient which does not seem to have a ready precedent in English recipe books.

To use live birds in recipes was not unknown. As Michelle DiMeo has commented previously on this blog  ‘oil of swallows’ as an unguent for joint pains appears in several sources in this period. However, research so far has uncovered the use of magpies or, seemingly interchangeably, swallows, for epilepsy, referred to as Aqua picarum epileptica and Aqua Epilepticae Hirundinum, in only two sources apart from Paston’s book.

There appears no obvious rationale for this use of black and white birds, although the similarities in colouring between swallows and magpies do raise the question whether the use of magpies, traditionally considered as magical birds in many cultures, may have arisen initially as a more readily available alternative to swallows, the elusive and migratory habits of the latter perhaps proving somewhat inconvenient. It may have been believed that the colouring was of more significance than the species, and that any black and white bird would be efficacious.

The use of birds to treat epilepsy seems unrelated to their use for aching joints, and the appearance of this recipe in an English book is intriguing. Both the sources uncovered so far are of French origin. The first is Pharmacopœia Galeno-chymica Catholica published in 1656 by Johan Daniel Horst (1616-1685) which, his sub-title states, is post Renodaeus et Quercetanus, namely, after Jean de Renou (1568 – 1620 ) and Joseph du Chesne (c.1544-1609). In 1676, Thomas Sherley’s Medicinal Councels or Advices, a translation from Theodore de Mayerne’s (1573 – 1655) French original, lists a similar recipe, the source of which he cites as Guillaume Rondelet(1507 – 1566) (pg 140).

Robert Paston’s scientific associates included many with European connections such as Samuel Hartlib (ca. 1600 – 1662), Frederick Clodius (1625 – 1661) and Sir Kenelm Digby (1603 – 1665), whose close links with French alchemists during his long stays in Paris have recently been explored by Lawrence Principe, in “Sir Kenelm Digby and His Alchemical Circle in 1650s Paris: Newly Discovered Manuscripts.Ambix 60 (2013): 3-24. Paston, who was involved in alchemical pursuits from a young age, also met Theodore de Mayerne, and owned a manuscript, Sloane MS 2222, which once belonged to the famous physician, although the extent and nature of their association is not known.

Jean de Renou, Joseph du Chesne and Guillaume Rondelet were closely connected with Mayerne. As Principe has pointed out, (op cit) Digby associated with du Chesne when in Paris. Robert Paston’s citing of this unusual epilepsy recipe therefore maybe further evidence of his continental contacts and influences, either via Digby, or Mayerne himself.

Research into Robert Paston as an alchemist and chymist is new, but on-going, and his connections with Mayerne and others are only beginning to be considered. This falling sickness recipe suggests that further research in this direction would be fruitful. Promising new material is emerging, and the Norwich/Yale research partnership has provided an unprecedented opportunity for an in-depth focus on this little-known English alchemist. Even preliminary research into Paston and his work has positioned him squarely within the fascinating and important group of scientists operating during this most influential mid seventeenth century period.

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Francesca Vanke FSA is Keeper of Art and Curator of Decorative Art at Norwich Castle. She gained her BA in classics from Oxford, and an MA in art conservation and PhD in history from Camberwell College of Art. Her academic speciality is collecting history, but she researches a wide range of related subjects. Her studies have recently included seventeenth century material culture, alchemy and recipes for the research and exhibition project she is working on, together with the Yale Center for British Art and a group of other curators and scholars.

MOOCing about with Ancient Recipes

A while ago, Professor Helen King (Open University) offered Dr Patty Baker (University of Kent) and me the opportunity to be involved in an exciting project: a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on the topic of Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World. We had previously worked together on a pedagogical project (an article on the difficulty of teaching sensitive topics such as the history of abortion), and were prepared for a new collaborative challenge.

Several months down the line, the MOOC is in the final stages of writing. We chose to organise our material in the ‘head-to-toe’ order, which is the structure so often adopted in Greek and Roman medical texts. We cover a huge variety of themes and topics, in what we hope will be an original and informative introduction to ancient medicine.

I was particularly keen to introduce as many recipes as possible into the MOOC material. We did so both in written sections and in video ones. For the film sections, I chose to recreate two ancient recipes: that of a collyrium (an eye remedy) found in Galen’s pharmacological writings and an oxygarum (a recipe supposed to aid digestion) found in Apicius‘ cookery collection.

Filming in the stacks of the National Roman Legion Museum at Caerleon
Filming in the storerooms of the National Roman Legion Museum at Caerleon

The wonderful National Roman Legion Museum at Caerleon (South Wales) was kind enough to host the filming. They provided us with authentic looking Roman pots to put all the ingredients in, as well as a costume – complete with winged-phallus amulet – for me to wear. I believe being in costume greatly helped me feel slightly less nervous.

For nervous, I certainly was. This was only my second experience of filming: the first had taken place a couple of days before, at the Wellcome Library, where we filmed a piece on manuscript herbals. I had not quite realised that filming a cookery piece usually involves several cameras, as multiple takes are not possible (because ingredients are expensive). I therefore had to pretend to be natural in front of the producer (Lizzy Jones) and three cameramen. Let’s just say that I can’t see an alternative career for me as a TV chef…

We started with the collyrium:

White collyrium, for a persistent flow of tears and other afflictions; it is called ‘delicate’: calamine, 16 drachms; white lead, 8 drachms; starch, 4 drachms; gum, 4 drachms; tragacanth gum, 4 drachms; opium, 2 drachms. Take up with rain water. Use with egg. Galen, Compositions of Medicines according to Places 4.8, 12.757 Kühn

Of course, I could use neither white lead nor opium, which are dangerous substances. I substituted the former with zinc, and the latter with a white powder.

Wondering what comes first: the remedy or the egg
Wondering what comes first: the remedy or the egg

As someone who has experience recreating ancient recipes, I knew exactly what to expect: the ingredients mixed together with water would take on a consistency similar to a very thick shaving foam. But, while photos can illustrate this point, they can’t do so as powerfully as a film.

Like so many ancient eye-remedy recipes, this one omits to state that the preparation has to be left to dry, a process which I discovered takes at least 24 hours… Fortunately, I had tried this at home a few days before the filming! Once the preparation is dried, it can be crumbled, and a small amount is then applied to the eye. But to what part of the eye, and how exactly? I knew that the part of the egg to use is the white (I can now add ‘can separate an egg in a highly stressful situation’ to my CV), but I did not know whether to dip my finger in the crumbled remedy first and the egg second, or vice versa. Helen King and I had a quick chat, and decided that the egg came first!

The second recipe I recreated is named after its main ingredient, garum, the famous Roman sauce made with fermented fish. A purist would have prepared some garum in advance, but I simply went to the supermarket to buy some Nam Pla, also known as Thai fish sauce:

Another oxygarum, for digestion: 1 ounce each of pepper, parsley, caraway, lovage; mix with honey. When done add garum and vinegar. Apicius, De re coquinaria 1.37

Feeling a bit like a rabbit in the headlights
Feeling a bit like a rabbit in the headlights

Preparing that recipe was very simple. Instead of using an ounce (a relatively large amount), I used a spoonful of each ingredient. I confidently announced to the camera that Roman medicine was ‘all about proportions’ merrily throwing spoonfuls of ingredients into a mortar. I failed to notice that I had been rather heavy handed with the pepper.

Of course, the crew insisted that I should try some of my wonderful aid to digestion. I obliged – the things that one does! The preparation tasted surprisingly sweet, until – that is – the pepper kicked in. I am sure my face pulling will be much appreciated by the MOOC learners!

I was left with a fishy, fiery taste in the mouth for several hours. Perhaps the Romans were wired differently from me, but I suffered from heartburn for the entire afternoon.

Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World, a Future Learn MOOC, will start on February 6th, 2017. You can read Helen’s thoughts on writing a MOOC here.

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.

First Monday Library Chat: The Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds

Welcome to the March 2016 edition of the First Monday Library Chat. This month we have the great pleasure of traveling to Leeds and talking to Karen Sayers, Assistant Archivist at the University of Leeds.

The Cookery Collection is one of the key collections at the Brotherton Library and was awarded ‘designation status’ in 2005. Could you give us an overview of the collection?

‘The Art of Cookery’ Hannah Glasse, 1755. Cookery A/GLA. Title page of the 5th edition showing the index and the additional recipes in the appendix.
‘The Art of Cookery’ Hannah Glasse, 1755. Cookery A/GLA. Title page of the 5th edition showing the index and the additional recipes in the appendix.

The Cookery Collection is primarily focused on recipes for cooking, but also contains many works on food production, the medicinal use of food and gardening. An outstanding feature of the collection is the presence of various editions of popular texts such as Hannah Glasse’s ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’ and Eliza Acton’s ‘Modern Cookery, in All Its Branches’. These allow the researcher to track innovation and changes in taste and fashion. Glasse’s book was first published in 1747 and appeared in 20 editions in the 18th century. By the time of the fifth edition in 1755 Glasse was appealing to an audience with cosmopolitan tastes! A new appendix contains advice on how ‘to dress a Turtle, the West-India Way’ and ‘how to make India pickle’.

‘The Art of Cookery’ Hannah Glasse, 1755. Cookery A/GLA. Title page of the 5th edition showing the index and the additional recipes in the appendix.
‘A treatise on adulterations of food, and culinary poisons’, Friedrich Accum, 1822. Cookery A/ACC. Title page with a warning quotation from the Bible and an illustration of a snake and skull to reinforce the author’s message.

A Treatise on Adulterations of Food, and Culinary Poisons’ by Friedrich Accum, (1820), is a practical text warning its readers of the dangers that can lurk in food including everyday items such as bread, beer and cheese. Accum was a practicing chemist who wanted to keep dangerous additives out of processed foods and to inform the public. His treatise was controversial as Accum was not afraid to name manufacturers who were adulterating food. However some of his revelations may have put readers off their favourite treats! Accum reveals that white wine can be adulterated with lead to make it clear, and ginger lozenges may contain pipe-clay as a part substitute for sugar.

We also have interesting cookery manuscripts including recipe books compiled by individuals. One 18th century notebook MS 894 signed by Mary Lee and Henry Danvers Hodges has recipes for ‘cake, a good one’ and, less appetisingly, ‘soop meagre’. Mixed in with the recipes are cures for various ailments such as ‘The American Receipt for the Rheumatism’. The recipe, which involves a lot of garlic, ought to be effective as the writer claims that ‘a hundred pounds has been given for it’.

For those of us interested in the history of archives, I wonder, could you tell us a little more about the history of The Cookery Collection?

The Cookery Collection began with a donation of 1,500 printed volumes and some manuscript volumes presented to the library by Blanche Legat Leigh in 1939. The oldest item in her collection is a Babylonian clay tablet of about 2,500 BC inscribed with a list of foods in cuneiform; and the oldest European book is Platina’s ‘De Honesta Voluptate’ in a 1487 edition printed in Venice.

In 1954 the Times Bookshop in London held an exhibition ‘Cookery Books 1500-1954. Some books from the Blanche Legat Leigh collection were on display. This encouraged a private collector, John F. Preston, to donate 600 British volumes published from 1584 to 1861 to Leeds in 1962. These include the first edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

In the 1980s Leeds acquired the Camden Library Cookery Collection. The most notable feature of this collection is its coverage of English cookery books published from 1949 to the mid-1970s. Special Collections acquired the Michael Bateman Collection in 2011. Bateman was a pioneering food journalist who wanted to enhance people’s diets and palates through his writing.

Beer and ale brewing has been a popular topic on our blog of late, I was delighted to see that the Brotherton has a rich collection of texts on the history of brewing. Could you tell us a little more about the Chaston Chapman collection?

Alfred Chaston Chapman (1869-1932) was an analytical and consulting chemist who worked primarily in relation to brewing. He was President of the Institute of Brewing from 1911-1913. His collection of books on the history of brewing was donated to the University of Leeds in 1939. The subjects covered include wine and winemaking, distillation and the distilling industry, drinking customs, ciders and whisky, and legal issues surrounding alcohol.

The brewing collection makes for fascinating reading and contains some entertaining and amusing titles. Of note are ‘The Anatomy of Drunkeness’ a Glaswegian publication from 1840, and ‘The History and Science of Drunkenness’ an illustrated volume published in 1883.

The Chaston Chapman collection is relevant to student social life both past and present, containing an 1835 edition of ‘Oxford Night Caps: Being a Collection of Receipts for Making Various Beverages Used in the University’. An intriguing collection of concoctions, it contains a recipe for Oxford Punch. Among the required ingredients are six glasses of calves-feet jelly, the juice of four oranges and ten lemons, half a pint of white wine, a pint of French brandy and a pint of Jamaica rum.

Can you highlight one or two of your favourite items?

3)‘Pomona: or the Fruit Garden Illustrated’, Batty Langley, 1729. Large Cookery A/LAN. Plate 3, showing the blossom on different varieties of peach trees.
3) ‘Pomona: or the Fruit Garden Illustrated’, Batty Langley, 1729. Large Cookery A/LAN. Plate 3, showing the blossom on different varieties of peach trees.

As a keen gardener one of my favourite items in the collection has to be ‘Pomona: or the Fruit Garden Illustrated’ by the delightfully named Batty Langley. It is full of practical advice for the gardener on the growing of fruit including peaches, cherries, plums and grapes. Langley gives practical advice on pruning and caring for plants and about picking and preserving their fruit. He asserts that cherries ‘are best eaten from the Trees, after a shower of rain’, adding helpfully ‘but most commonly out of spring water after dinner’. Langley has drawn detailed illustrations of the blossom, buds and fruit of various trees.

3)‘Pomona: or the Fruit Garden Illustrated’, Batty Langley, 1729. Large Cookery A/LAN. Plate 24, showing different varieties of plums.
3) ‘Pomona: or the Fruit Garden Illustrated’, Batty Langley, 1729. Large Cookery A/LAN. Plate 24, showing different varieties of plums.

 

What tips can you offer to help users find them via your catalog or finding aids?

The best tip is to access the Cookery Collections Guide on Special Collections’ webpages. This is a good way to gain an overview of the content of the collection. A dedicated search box enables the users to carry out searches within the cookery collections only. The webpage for the collections’ guide provides direct links to some of our major holdings including Cookery Printed Books and the Michael Bateman Archive.

We have also grouped all our Cookery Printed Books and Cookery Manuscripts together in two distinct collections to help researchers to navigate the catalogue. If you want advice or wish to visit Special Collections please email us.