Temporality in John Dauntesey’s Recipe book (1652-1683)

by Melissa Schultheis

In May and June of this year, I had the opportunity to research recipe books and midwifery manuals at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. One manuscript, inscribed “John Dauntesey 1652,” contains several manuscript copies of printed medical texts, including information on gynecology and alchemy, along with numerous English and Latin recipes in nearly half a dozen hands. While I had anticipated focusing much of my attention on its gynecological recipes, I became fascinated by MSS 2/0070-01’s treatment of time.

The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript MSS 2/0070-01 (Signature Page), Photo included with permission.
The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript MSS 2/0070-01 (Signature Page), Photo included with permission.

Mastering time to manipulate the material world was a significant component of seventeenth-century recipes when treating and preserving the body, as Wendy Wall has recently considered and as Rachel Rich has discussed in terms of the Victorian kitchen. Recorded in John Dauntesey’s (1629-1693) Recipe Book, an unidentified scribe advises, “Also note that the houres of the planete be different to them of the Clock for the houres of the Clocks be alwais equall of 60 minute” (fol. 9r). That recipes often speak in time—the time to pick particular herbs, the time and duration to perform a step, the time to ingest food or medicament for the body, etc.—is not surprising, yet what I find fascinating here is the scribe’s awareness that recipes employ and distort different types of time: one natural and one artificial in order to preserve the natural world and the human body. To preserve is “to protect or save from (injury, sickness, or any undesirable eventuality)” (“Preserve”). Consequently, to participate in food preservation through recipe writing is to obviate undesirable contamination as to slow entropy and prolong the time that a product can askew the natural growth of bacteria, fungi, or other microorganisms. However, in early modern recipes, food is not the only object being preserved. Understood through Galen’s humoral theory, recipes exist to preserve, sustain, and prolong human life. Controlling Nature’s and human-made temporalities, then, becomes a means of both making recipes and treating the body.

The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript MSS 2/0070-01, Personal photo included with permission
The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript MSS 2/0070-01, Personal photo included with permission

I’m also interested in MSS 2/0070-01’s own temporality, what it may suggest about early modern medical practice, and how changes in medical practice effected the period’s perception of the body. Compiled from the mid- to late-seventeenth century, Dauntesey’s Recipe book is situated in a time when renouncing Galenic medicine and turning to alternative medical practices became increasingly common. Shortly after the above discussion of clock and planetary time, the manuscript turns to a section titled “12 Celestiall signes,” an almanac that describes the humors and character traits of those born in each month, again reminding us that much of early medicine depended on reading time (fol. 10v).[1] The section incorporates many terms and phrases associated with Galenic medicine: “hot and drie cholericke nature,” “cold & dry and . . . Melencholy meridionall,” “Sanguine of Complexion hot & moist,” “cold moist & waterie fegmatuke of Complexion” (fol 10v, 111r, 112v). Understanding this almanac would have been instrumental, presumably, when choosing and creating recipes to balance the humors and restore bodies to good health. However, after recording only one month, the almanac is interrupted. A second scribe turns to transcribing “An hundred and fourteene Experiments and cures of Phillip Theophrastus Paracelsus” before the first scribe continues the almanac over one hundred pages later (fol. 11r).[2]

The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript MSS 2/0070-01 (fol. 11r), Photo included with permission.
The Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript MSS 2/0070-01 (fol. 11r), Photo included with permission.

Of course, my literary heart fluttered to see two of the century’s most influential medical theories interrupting each other, and as I continue to study issues of chronology, genealogy, and geography present in MSS 2/0070-01, I hope to be able to address the following types of questions: Can MSS 2/0070-01 be used to understand the ideological shift from humoral theory to Paracelsus’ hermetical views? How is the ideological shift manifest in the period’s recipe writing? And what effects did the change in focus from balancing humors to treating symptoms have on the early modern period’s perception of the body?




Melissa is an MA candidate in English at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Her research interests are in early modern English literature, the history of medicine, ecocriticism, and feminist and queer studies. You can follow her on Twitter @MelSchultheis and @Engl3000Omeka.

[1] For more information on early modern astrology and medicine, see Lauren Kassell’s chapter “Astronomy, Magic, and the Mathematical Practitioners of London” in Medicine and Magic in Elizabethan London; for more on almanacs, see Bernard Capp’s English Almanacs, 1500-1800: Astrology and the Popular Press.

[2] Theophrastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541), also known as Paracelsus, was a physician and alchemist known for his rejection of many sixteenth-century medical traditions and his contributions to what we now call toxicology. For more information on Paracelsus’ thoughts on medicine, theology, and occultism see Charles Webster’s Paracelsus: Medicine, Magic, and Mission at the End of Time.

Exploring CPP 10a214: The Place of Devotion

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.
The Historical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript 10a214, fol. 238. Personal photo included with permission.
The Historical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Manuscript 10a214, fol. 238. Personal photo included with permission.

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.

Wellcome Library MS 184a, Digital Image 3.
Wellcome Library MS 184a, Digital Image 3.

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.[1]

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.

[1] University of Pennsylvania Manuscript Catalog, Codex 823. The Digital facsimile may be seen here.

Exploring CPP 10a214: The Downings of Massachusetts Bay

By Hillary Nunn with Rebecca Laroche

The Herrman Moll Map (or the “Post Map”), Map of New England and the adjacent colonies, c. 1729.
The Herrman Moll Map (or the “Post Map”), Map of New England and the adjacent colonies, c. 1729.  Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

No one from the Downing family was at the first Massachusetts Bay Thanksgiving in 1621. It’s interesting to note, though, that the Downings – a family that Rebecca Laroche and I have been mapping into a thoroughly English network of recipe writers – made important contributions to the development of the New England colony. The family’s arrival in North America offers us tantalizing new angles for exploring our recipe manuscript – one that resides at The College of Physicians in Philadelphia, but whose authors all seem to have called England home.

The Downings missed the first Thanksgiving dinner by almost twenty years, arriving in Boston in August of 1628. Emanuel Downing – born in 1585 to Calybute Downing and Elizabeth Wingfield – was a member of the Inner Temple in London; his second wife was Lucy Winthrop, sister of the Massachusetts Bay governor John Winthrop. According to Charles Wentworth Upham, Downing and his brother-in-law “went together, with their whole heart, into the plan of building up the colony.” [1]

Downing bought a farm in Salem, and he remained in the colony until securing an appointment in Scotland in 1655. His son George became the first tutor at Harvard, ventured to the Caribbean, and later returned to England to become a wealthy financier and diplomat, obtaining a baronetcy in the process.[2] At least two of Emanuel and Lucy’s children, however, remained firmly embedded in the New England colony, marrying into the local Gardner family;[3] in fact, Anne Downing Gardner took as her second husband Simon Bradstreet, whose first wife had been the poet Anne Bradstreet.[4]

Emanuel’s Salem farmhouse, meanwhile, continued to be called Downing House; it gained a degree of infamy during the following decades, when its new resident, John Proctor, was tried and hanged for witchcraft.

The American connection forged by this branch of the Downing family offers no easy explanations for the CPP manuscript’s travels. The recipe book, after all, seems to have moved out of the direct Downing line and into the Layfield family’s possession. We have no evidence (yet) whether Anne Layfield ever left England, but her descendants may have. Perhaps they bestowed the manuscript on an American cousin?

A newspaper clipping, dated 1739, wedged inside the manuscript suggests that the book remained a household reference source well into the next century. Unfortunately, the clipping offers no indication of the newspaper’s name or city of origin, nor do the listed ingredients betray any particular local flavor.

But how did the manuscript end up in Philadelphia? The CPP records offer no hints regarding the book’s journey from England to the United States. Nor do the recipes in the book itself suggest any drastic change in location. And, even if we could trace the manuscript’s journey from the Layfield family to a distant relation from Emanuel Downing’s New England line, that would not explain the book’s move from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania. We can only hope that further research on the Western half of the Atlantic brings us further clues to the manuscript’s travels.

[1] Charles Wentworth Upham, Salem Witchcraft; with an Account of Salem Village, 45. [http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/Uph1Wit?div_id=d1e9960, accessed 13 Nov 2014]

[2] Jonathan Scott, ‘Downing, Sir George, first baronet (1623–1684)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/7981, accessed 13 Nov 2014]

[3] Upham, 45

[4] Francis J. Bremer, ‘Bradstreet, Simon (bap. 1604, d. 1697)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37215, accessed 13 Nov 2014]