Category Archives: First Monday Library Chat

First Monday Library Chat: The Library at the Royal College of Surgeons

Welcome to the final FMLC of 2015! This month, we travel to London and talk to Louise King (Archivist) and Geraldine O’Driscoll (Library & Archives Assistant) at the Royal College of Surgeons. Louise and Geraldine kindly take us a virtual tour of the rich recipe holdings at the RCS and offer us an enticing recipe for macaroons. Interested? If so, read on…

Can you tell us a little more about the archive collections held at the Royal College of Surgeons of England?

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has been creating its own archives since its foundation in 1800. It has also collected archives created by and for surgeons with many pre-dating the College, going back to its predecessor the Company of Surgeons (1745-1800). The institutional archives document the College’s activities and its initiatives to support and develop the surgical profession. Unfortunately the College was hit be a number of incendiary devices in 1941 so there are significant gaps. The other “deposited” archives relate to medicine and surgery from the 16th to the 21st centuries, including personal papers, case notes, diaries and photographs. Our collection policy now focuses on significant advances in surgery and surgeons who have made those advances or played key roles in the work of the College but was previously broader than that.

How does a surgical archive come to have recipe books in their collections and do they get used by researchers?

As with so many other archives, we often don’t know how we come to have the recipe books in our collections. Many of the earlier accessions, including the recipe books, were usually donations from Members and Fellows of the College.

The recipe books are certainly not the only non-surgical items that we have amongst our deposited collections. There are also the attendance books of various social groups such as the Western Friendly Medical Group who met to dine and play cards in the 19th and 20th centuries. We have a volume of letters to and from Rudyard Kipling, some illustrated by Edward Burne-Jones, due to his friendship with a former President of the College.

Due to their purpose, the recipe books are often in very poor condition through repeated handling while in use so we have made a number of them candidates on our Conserve our Collections scheme. Through kind donations we have such items conserved so that they survive for future generations to wonder at the recipes for “the green sickness”, consumption and the King’s Evil amongst others.

Can you give us a few highlights from your collection, or tell us about some lesser known recipes?

Although the archives at the Royal College of Surgeons of England only contain a small collection of recipe books, with the majority dating from the Eighteenth Century, they do contain an amazing variety of food recipes and medicinal and household cures.

We’ll discuss a small selection of these to give you a flavour of the diversity that there is. We have also selected some just because they are fascinating or particular favourites of ours.

Book of “Receipts” (Ref.MS0475)

This is a small bound manuscript from the Seventeenth Century containing a variety of recipes for both ailments and food. Here is an example of a food recipe, beautifully written, for making macaroons.

“To Make makarrunds” from Book of "Receipts" (Ref.MS0475)
“To Make makarrunds” from Book of “Receipts” (Ref.MS0475)


Manuscript Receipts Collected by J Sharp (Ref.MS0517)

This Eighteenth Century volume offers the reader some fascinating recipes including this one for making hair grow on any part of the body with its curious use of dried bees!

“To make hair grow on any part of the body” from Manuscript Receipts Collected by J Sharp (Ref.MS0517)
“To make hair grow on any part of the body” from Manuscript Receipts Collected by J Sharp (Ref.MS0517)

From the same volume comes this household recipe to mend china using the “Chinese Method”.

“The Chinese method of mending china” from Manuscript Receipts Collected by J Sharp (Ref.MS0517)
“The Chinese method of mending china” from Manuscript Receipts Collected by J Sharp (Ref.MS0517)

Receipts, an Eighteenth Century collection (Ref. MS0458)

This is a particularly interesting item which came to us consisting of 12 unbound pages of manuscript. Written in several hands, it includes recipes for making Friars liquid balsam and cures for asthma, cough, convulsions, jaundice and piles. This recipe below, taken from this volume, uses mistletoe as the main ingredient as this was thought to alleviate convulsions.

MS0458  convulsions
“Receipt for convulsions or any sort of fit” from Receipts, an Eighteenth Century collection (Ref. MS0458)

Recipe book of Sydney Humphryes, 1646, (Ref.MS0059)

The volume contains a book of “Receipts” initially compiled by Sydney Humphryes. The recipes include treatments for various conditions including burns, vomiting, the plague, scrofula, as well as fruit waters and hair dyes. Two particular favourites are the ones below; a cure for deafness which uses ants and red worms and one for staunching bleeding which has chimney soot as a vital ingredient!

“For deafness” from Recipe book of Sydney Humphryes (Ref.MS0059)
“For deafness” from Recipe book of Sydney Humphryes (Ref.MS0059)
“To staunch bleeding” from Recipe book of Sydney Humphryes (Ref.MS0059)
“To staunch bleeding” from Recipe book of Sydney Humphryes (Ref.MS0059)


A Collection of choice Receipts Compil’d by Thomas Augustus Freeman, c1779 (Ref. MS0088)

This volume contains many recipes which might still be appropriate today such as using elderflower to make an eye solution and saltwater to clean a wound, as illustrated below in this cure for the bite of a mad dog.

“For the bite of a mad dog” from a Collection of choice Receipts Compil'd by Thomas Augustus Freeman, (Ref. MS0088)
“For the bite of a mad dog” from a Collection of choice Receipts Compil’d by Thomas Augustus Freeman, (Ref. MS0088)


What tips can you offer to help users find recipes via your catalogue or finding aids?

Users can find our catalogue at: A simple search using “recipe” as a search term will produce all the items relevant to this collection. By clicking on the record it is then possible to see fuller details about the item. We were lucky enough to have had a long-term volunteer, who was particularly interested in our recipes, list them in detail. It is now possible to use these lists to search for specific recipes, making the job of a researcher a little easier. We are happy to make these lists available on request. Anyone wanting to see one or more of the recipe books does need to make an appointment by emailing us





First Monday Library Chat: Newberry Library

The Newberry Library is an independent research library in Chicago. Open freely to the public, the library is dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge, especially in the humanities. Today I’m talking with Will Hansen, Director of Reader Services and Curator of Americana.


Can you give us an overview of the Newberry’s collection strengths?

The Newberry is a research library focused on the humanities disciplines; we acquire and preserve a broad array of books, manuscripts, maps, and other materials relating to the civilizations of Europe and the Americas. We focus our collecting on original or primary source materials in a number of core collecting areas, including American history and culture; American Indian and indigenous studies; Chicago and the Midwest; genealogy and local history; the history of the book; maps, travel, and exploration; medieval, Renaissance, and early modern studies; music; and religion. Our collections encompass, in very approximate numbers, 1.5 million books, 5 million items in manuscript and archival collections, and 500,000 maps. More information is available on the Core Collections page of our website.


What online catalogs and digital resources can the Newberry offer to off-site researchers?

The best places to start research in the Newberry’s collections are our online catalog and the Modern Manuscripts and Ephemera page for searching or browsing inventories and abstracts of over 800 collections from the mid-18th to 20th centuries. We also provide a variety of research guides to help readers find material in a wide variety of topics in our collections.

In addition, the Newberry provides many digital resources and publications featuring digitized materials from its collections. These range from large-scale digitization projects to digital versions of exhibitions to interpretive digital humanities projects. Finally, our Digital Collections for the Classroom provide digitized primary sources with contextual materials for use by teachers and students in primary and secondary educational settings.


Our blog readers are interested in historical recipes to learn more about the history of food, magic, art, science and medicine. As the Curator of Americana, can you tell me what relevant materials we could find in your collection?

Cookbooks and related materials have not been a major collecting focus in the Newberry’s history, but many great items have come to us thanks to connections with other collecting interests. The Edward E. Ayer collection, focused on the history and culture of Indians of North and South America, includes a manuscript “Schedule and catalogue of some Indian receipts & cures” compiled by Daniel D. Rogers, a resident of Stillwater, NY, in 1828-1838. It contains 269 American Indian and other recipes and cures.

Menu for Kinsley's (Chicago: 1867). Note the advertisements on the verso, including one for "Burnett's Cocoaine."
Menu for Kinsley’s (Chicago: 1867). Note the advertisements on the verso, including one for “Burnett’s Cocoaine.”

The Newberry also holds some rarities related to Chicago’s culinary history. Of particular note are the 88-page menu and description of Kinsley’s, thought to be the city’s finest restaurant, in 1867; and the only known copy of Isaac A. Pool’s The Cake Baker, published in Chicago in 1857–perhaps the first cookbook published west of Indiana. Both are the only copy located in a search of the WorldCat database. Another great rarity related to Chicago’s printing history is a series of promotional booklets showing the capabilities of R. R. Donnelley and Sons, a Chicago-based printer and publisher, to create high-quality cookbooks in the 1930s.

R. R. Donnelley and Sons, Lemon Pies or Wash Tubs (Chicago: 1934-1938).  Pictured here are promotional materials for Omar Blue Ribbon flour.
R. R. Donnelley and Sons, Lemon Pies or Wash Tubs (Chicago: 1934-1938). Pictured here are promotional materials for Omar Blue Ribbon flour.

Of some tangential interest might be the many items related to livestock, cattle brands, and the like in the Newberry’s Everett D. Graff collection, focused on the westward expansion of the United States.


Are there other collections across the Newberry where our readers might find relevant materials?

There certainly are. Jean S. Gottlieb’s published Checklist of the Newberry Library’s Printed Books in Science, Medicine, Technology, and the Pseudosciences ca. 1460-1750 is a good place to start for an overview of our early, chiefly European, holdings of rare books in these fields. They include some early cookery highlights, such as the 1480 (Cividale) and 1494 (Venice) editions of the first printed cookbook, Platina’s De Honesta Voluptate. The Newberry also holds a number of the major early English cookbooks of the eighteenth century, such as the 1771 second edition of Elizabeth Raffald’s Experienced English Housekeeper.

15th century recipe with handwritten marginalia by Platina
Platina, De Honesta Voluptate (Cividale, Italy: 1480), with marginalia by an early reader.

We also hold a number of early manuscripts that contain medicinal and workshop formulae or recipes, dating back as far as the fourteenth century.   A fifteenth-century Italian manuscript focuses on recipes and instructions for making inks, pigments, glue, and other materials related to book production—part of our great collections for the history of printing and the book. Another charming example is a 1591 English law text, Les Tenures de Monsieur Littleton, reused as a commonplace-book in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including manuscript recipes for glue, pickles, gooseberry vinegar, blacking polish, orange and cowslip wines, red currant jelly, cough syrup for whooping cough, and a tonic for consumption.


If our readers want to go to Chicago to use your materials, does the Newberry offer any fellowships or travel grants they should know about?

The Newberry has an active and robust fellowship program, supporting visits from one month to a full year. Information can be found on our Fellowships page on our website. We are also a new member of the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, which offers its own consortial fellowships.

Access to our collections is free and open to members of the public over 16 years of age with a research interest supported by the collections.


Thanks, Will, for chatting with me! If you have additional questions about the Newberry Library, you can email Will Hansen.

First Monday Library Chat: New York Public Library

Founded in 1895, the New York Public Library (NYPL) is the largest public library system in the US, serving more than 17 million patrons per year. NYPL holds nearly 10,000 archival and manuscript collections, comprising over 50,000 linear feet of material in nearly every format imaginable. Today I am talking with Thomas Lannon, Acting Charles J. Liebman Curator of Manuscripts in the Manuscripts and Archives Division at the NYPL.


Can you give us a broad overview of the scope of recipe books in the NYPL?

This is a difficult question to answer, but I could say the NYPL holds over 80,000 items, which includes over 15,000 cookbooks, over 25,000 menus, plus periodicals, prints, rare books and manuscripts related to culinary studies.

Any broad overview of NYPL’s culinary collections is difficult to prepare and quickly turns into a crowded list. Such a list might include references to standard American cookbooks such as American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796), with its recipes for Indian Pudding and Apple Pie, and the 1824 edition of The Virginia House-wife by Mary Randolph, among the holdings. European cookbooks begin with the 14th century manuscript of the Forme of Curry and also include early printed books such as Platina’s De Honest Volupata et Valetudine (1498), Girolamo Ruscelli’s The Secrets of Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemont (1558), and Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747.) My language skills would be tested to list the continental works of French gastronomists such as Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin and Auguste Escoffier. And I have a hunch the German baroque cake designs in Neues saltzburgisches Koch-Buch (1719) are worth looking into. As the 19th century hit and its insatiable spirit for invention carried the day, The Library collected pioneering works on food technology and professional newsletters on food products, preservation and the manufacturing industry.

Also worth mentioning in an overview is the Whitney Cookery collection, primarily English works, including some of the rarest recipe books held at The Library. A gift from the estate of Helen Hay Whitney, a copy of The Good Hous-wives Treasurie (London, 1588) is among its highlights. I mentioned the Forme of Curry, the earliest English manuscript at The Library, is also from the Whitney Collection. The manuscript, Dissertations on Cookery, by Mary Ellen Meredith, daughter of the Romantic poet Thomas Love Peacock and first wife of the Victorian poet George Meredith is another resource to consider. In sum, there are 17 manuscript recipe books in the Whitney Collection composed between the 14th and 19th centuries and include manuscript receipt collections associated with Joane Yate, Lady Anne Morton, and Hester Denbigh.

Whitney Recipe 13
Whitney #13, Collection of Medical and Cookery Recipes. Inscribed: Mary Bromehead her book given her by Aunt 1761

Additionally, The Library has great resources on alcoholic beverages. The Liebmann collection of American historical documents relating to spirituous liquors boasts 226 manuscript items relative to the production and use of whiskey, rum, and brandy in the United States between 1665 and 1910. We’ve also recently added important new acquisitions documenting the long history of libations in New York City. The Henry Günther material on brewers’ guilds includes the Protokollbuch of the Vereins der Vereinigten Braumeister der Stadt New-York, or minute book of the Master Brewers Association of New York. Through this unique volume we can trace the founding of the German-American beer guild, its constitution, by-laws, meeting minutes, and discover a member list. This should be viewed by anyone interested in the story of lager beer in America.

We’ve also recently added the records of DuVivier and Co., a New York City-based importer and distributor of wine and spirits founded in 1856. DuVivier & Co. were the first to import brands such as Perrier-Jouet, Hennessy, John Walker & Sons, Jameson, Plymouth Gin, Guinness Stout, and Bass Ale into the United States. The DuVivier and Co. records are a large archive, over 75 volumes, and include accounts, operations journals, and salesman books. The operations journals are particularly interesting as they show how DuVivier not only imported alcohol, but created apéritifs in various combinations. Through these journals, researchers will be able discover recipes and formulas for many popular spirits found in fin de siècle New York City barrooms.

Cider Brandy Recipe
“Cider brandy” from Operations Journal, Vol. 38. Duvivier & Co. Records

How are these materials dispersed between different collections across The Library? I know you’re in Manuscripts and Archives, but are there other divisions we should consult within the NYPL?

Indeed, materials related to cookery are spread out over several collections, or locations within The Library. I think this fact is often overlooked and people assume there is some room dedicated to culinary material. Naturally, any library presents a challenge to the curious.

With tools like OCLC WorldCat and ArchiveGrid available freely over the internet, researchers should be able to locate anything held in most libraries. Locally, at NYPL there is a catalog for printed material as well as for unpublished, archival collections. If someone is looking for a specific periodical, it will likely be cataloged and anyone should be capable of locating it. The key to real achievement is to learn how to determine in a catalog record where some item is held, i.e. the item location.

Could you highlight a few recipe-related materials found in the NYPL’s Manuscripts and Archives Division?

I’d like to highlight here a few items which have only recently been made available to research in hopes that new researchers will emerge as a result of this blog post:

The Tolley baking records document the career of the Tolley family in American commercial baking industry. John W. Tolley and his son Albert E. Tolley were prominent bakers during the early part of the 20th century and affiliated with the Continental Baking Company and most importantly with the Ward Baking Company. The Ward Bakery Company had bakeries in several northeastern cities. For example, one of Brooklyn’s largest commercial bakeries was located on Pacific Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. The building was knocked down for the creation for the Barclays Center, but in the 1920s it produced millions of loaves of bread that would roll down their assembly line to feed the roaring suburb.

Tolley Baking Records
Tolley Baking Records

The Tolley baking records include the recipe books of Albert E. Tolley. The recipe for Ward’s Fine Bread is held in his Complete Set of Formulas Used in Eastern Bakeries 1924-1925. This recipe book includes an index of every major product created by the Ward Baking Company and tells the story of the rise of industrial baking in the United States.

With projects like What’s on the Menu?, the NYPL is also at the forefront of digital library initiatives. Do you have any new digital projects that may interest our audience?

With support from the The Polonsky Foundation, The New York Public Library is currently digitizing upwards of 50,000 pages of historic early American manuscript material. The Early American Manuscripts Project will allow students, researchers, and the general public to revisit major political events of the era from new perspectives and to explore currents of everyday social, cultural, and economic life in the colonial, revolutionary, and early national periods. The project will present on-line for the first time high-quality facsimiles of key documents from America’s Founding, including the papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

George Washington's Small Beer Recipe
George Washington’s notebook as a Virginia colonel, “Recipe for Small Beer”


Drawing on the full breadth of The Library’s manuscript collections, we also hope to make widely available less well-known manuscript sources, including business papers of Atlantic merchants, diaries of people ranging from elite New York women to Christian Indian preachers, and organizational records of voluntary associations and philanthropic organizations. Over the next two years, this trove of manuscript sources, previously available only at The Library, will be made freely available through

We’ll be featuring the Manuscript Cookbooks Survey this month. Can you tell me more about the NYPL’s involvement with this project?

The Manuscript Cookbooks Survey is a database of pre-1865 English-language manuscript cookbooks. In compiling this database, the Survey team aims to give culinary historians, food writers, and others enhanced access to these important, fascinating materials, which too often lie neglected in our libraries, historical sites, and other public institutions. I encourage people to use the survey to find cookbooks in libraries and likewise I hope more libraries can include their records in the Survey. The project includes a database that can be browsed by institution and most of NYPL’s manuscript cookbooks can be found there. All credit goes to the team who created the database, including Principal Researcher Stephen Schmidt.  

Cake Recipes
Recipes for cakes from Matilda Livingston Rogers’s cookbook.

I’m sure our readers would love to use your materials! Are there links to digitized resources? What fellowships are available?

The NYPL’s Digital Collections platform features hundreds of the thousands of digital items, including 18,000+ menus that were digitized as part of the What’s on the Menu? project. Researchers can also stay up to date on archival collections which have been digitized.

The Library offers short-term fellowships for scholars interested in accessing material which has not been digitized. The purpose of the fellowships has been to alleviate travel cost and offer support for individuals needing to conduct on-site research in the Library’s special collections. In the last two years we offered additional fellowships for food studies with support from the Pine Tree Foundation.

If you have any questions about the NYPL’s recipe collections, you can email Thomas Lannon at

First Monday Library Chat: Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford

Welcome to the August 2015 edition of the First Monday Library Chat. This month, Sarah Wheale, Head of Rare Books at the Bodleian Library, guides us through the rich recipe-related holdings at the Bodleian and updates us on the exciting changes happening in Oxford.

While all our readers are familiar with the Bodleian and its treasures, many might be surprised at your very rich holdings of manuscript and printed recipe books. Could you tell us a little more and perhaps share one or two gems with our readers? ­­

Recipes occur in many of our collections, whether early or modern, manuscript or printed. They range from our earliest English cookbook from 1381, to Mrs Beeton’s The book of household management (published in parts between 1859 and 1861). The Library holds the papers of Martin Lister who published an edition of the Roman cookbook De arte coquinaria (1705), and wrote about the food habits of the Parisians in his late 17th-century journals. We hold a manuscript containing the recipes used by Ralph Ayres when the cook at New College in the early part of the 18th-century, and the Friedmann-Braun archive contains a handwritten recipe book given by Gertrude to her new daughter-in-law as a wedding present in 1927. There are all sorts of unusual cookbooks from the 19th– and 20th-centuries in the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera which are often aimed at encouraging the use of new gadgets and foodstuffs. As a library of legal deposit we have thousands of British cookery books dating from 1824 onwards, and we are actively collecting pre-1850 cookery and home economics books – and have just purchased a copy of The lady’s assistant in the oeconomy of the table (1759) with a recipe for gingerbread written in at the back.

The majority of our early modern recipes are not culinary at all but for a myriad of other things, including medicines, salves, remedies, cosmetics, magic potions, chemicals, inks, dyes, explosives, inextinguishable fire, and even cleaning products. Often they are described quite briefly in our various online catalogues with tantalizing entries such as “some French recipes for preserving vines against murrain’” (MS Bodley 733).

For historians of science, it is almost impossible to talk about the Bodleian Library without thinking about the Ashmole collection. Could you give us an idea of the scope of the recipe texts within the Ashmole collection?

Elias Ashmole collected books and manuscripts related to many subjects, but particularly chemistry, astrology, astronomy, and kindred topics. The collection contains a few culinary recipes, including a 15th century English manuscript of sauce recipes, but the greater number are medical, magical and alchemical. His manuscripts are full of recipes for elixirs, compounds and tinctures, with the most interesting in the casebooks of Simon Forman and Dr Richard Napier. There are some 80,000 consultations recorded between 1596 and 1634, including many recipes, allowing us to judge their efficacy in some cases.

A digital copy of Willam Black’s A descriptive, analytical, and critical catalogue of the manuscripts bequeathed unto the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole is available via our online catalogue, SOLO.

MSS Ashmole 234, 226, 195, 219, 236, 411
MSS Ashmole 234, 226, 195, 219, 236, 411

I had the pleasure of working in the new Weston Library and was in awe of the new building. It’s been an exciting few years for the Bodleian. Could you tell us a little about the changes and what this means for readers who want to consult manuscripts and other early material?

For our readers it means that operations for special collections are now much more centralized with most of our staff, collections, services and library users all in one place. The landmark exterior of the New Library remains but what were once staff offices, a handful of specialist reading rooms and 11 floors of stack has been entirely transformed.

There is a dedicated special collections library with three reading rooms. There are teaching and seminar spaces, a cafe, the Visiting Scholars Centre and the Centre for Digital Scholarship all onsite. The new state-of-the-art stack houses many of our collections and the gallery and open-stack areas have increased space for reference materials. There are also new spaces for visitors on the ground floor – two exhibition galleries, a café and a shop all set around the wonderfully light and airy Blackwell Hall.

John Cairns, Oxford photographer, Oxford University,
John Cairns, Oxford photographer, Oxford University,

What tips can you offer to help users find recipes via your catalogue or finding aids?

Our printed holdings from all periods are searchable via SOLO.  Not only can you search the Bodleian’s collections but also those of most of the college, departmental and faculty libraries of the University too.  As you might expect with such large holdings the work to add and upgrade our records is an ongoing process so do see our webpage for detailed tips and guidance, particularly if you are working on pre-1920 printed collections as entries in the catalogue can be quite brief.

Manuscripts are catalogued separately and there are a variety of published catalogues and online databases to help researchers navigate the collections. Again there is extensive help online.

The best tip I can give is to encourage everyone to email us and tell us a bit about what you are looking for.

For those of us living afar, could you tell us a little more about how we might be able to consult your holdings via digitization schemes or virtual exhibitions?

We have been digitizing special collections since the 1990s and there are several ways to gain access to our holdings remotely. Digital. Bodleian is the main gateway, and there are thousands of individual images available via Luna We also have some of our exhibitions available online, including our current show, Marks of Genius. SOLO also holds full digital copies of many 19th century printed items created as part of the Google Books projects.

 Finally, can you highlight one or two of your favourite items?

One of my favourite items in the Library is a recipe for a plague cure. It was published by Roger Dixon, an apothecary at the Sign of the Holy Lamb and Ink-bottle in Water Lane, London, during the devastating outbreak in 1665. This small handbill, entitled A directory for the poor, against the plague and infectious diseases gives Dixon’s own recipe for a cordial made from sage, rue, angelica, Virginia Snakeroot and saffron which would “by sweat throw out the malignity of the distemper”.   He adds a further recipe for an ‘outward application’ against the plague, and another for a drink against ‘all malignant feavers’.

John Johnson Collection Patent Medicines 2 (53)
John Johnson Collection Patent Medicines 2 (53)