Tag Archives: Anne Layfield

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.

Exploring CPP 10a214: The Layfield Hand

By Rebecca Laroche with Hillary Nunn

Since March 2013, Hillary Nunn and I have been using this forum to test out our various theories about one mid-seventeenth-century manuscript held at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia owned by Anne Layfield and dated 1640. So far, we’ve closely examined recipes from the first part of the book (pages 1 through 72), which were written in a clear humanist italic and reportedly compiled by a “Cal. Downing” (06/08/13).Hillary Nunn’s last post pointed to the other dominant hand in the collection, which I will describe further.

We first see the hand in the title of the document, “Medicinae Liber” (“Book of Medicines”) which appears on the front page of the Downing portion. Reading through that section, this handwriting does not appear again until page 74.

The Downing and title-writing hand (hereafter Hand 2) exchange a few pages, then at 79, Hand 2 takes over.It is at this point we catch a glimpse of how this hand connects with the manuscript owner Anne Layfield.On page 79, the recipe is titled “An admirable receite to make a water that /will cure any old sore, giuen to my deare wife /by the Lady Ashborneham as a great treasure/ tryed by her Ladyships sister who got both great /creditt, & rewards for cures done with it”

2012-10-15 DearWifeCpp[1] and another “The rare water to cure all soares made /by my Deare wife” (82).  The attribution of the next recipe for a balsam does not appear in its title, as it is long (6 lines of script), but rather at the end of the directions as “Probatum by Mistress / Anne Layfielde”: [2]

Probatum Anne LayfieldNow the surmise that Anne Layfield is the owner of the recipe book and the same “dear wife” of the previous recipes comes through a close analysis of another part of the collection (pages 207 to 241), almost all of which exists in Hand 2 and is upside down (because of a do-si-do compilation) relative to the Downing portion.

In this section, the compiler, the doting husband of the recipe from page 79, indicates his social network and his medical concerns. As with Calybute Downing, this compiler also ascribes recipes to himself with a “probatum per me” (223), but only with the calligraphic initials ESL:

ESLThe elongated descender of the L, similar to that in “Anne Layfielde,” shows the connection between the attributions, and suggests that Anne Layfield and the “deare wife” may be one and the same. A London marriage recorded between an Edmond Layfield and an Ann King in October of 1640 (the year of the manuscript) affirms this theory. [1]

Other evidence that the “ESL” in question is named Edmund Layfield lies latent in Hillary Nunn’s post in which she reported that the death of George Wilmer (possible husband of the Mistress Wilmer of Bowe in the attribution) was witnessed by Edmund Layfield of St. Leonard-of-Bromley.

This preacher was also the author of two sermons printed in the 1630s, the first of which had as a dedicatee another widow Wilmer of Bowe [2], and the second named an Elizabeth Toppesfield, daughter of Susan Ferrers and wife of William Toppesfield, Esquire. [3]  Testimony to this same social connection can be found in the section compiled by Hand 2, as it contains “Mistris Toppisfields Diett drinke” (231).  Remembering Calybute Downing’s Hackney appointment, we begin to uncover the circulation of recipes within a network of Protestants inhabiting the London area in the 1630s and 1640s. That this network, in the previous generation, may have included Catholics and, in the next decade, may have held both Parliamentarians and Royalists is the subject of our further analysis and research.

All images appear courtesy of The Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

[1] familysearch.org. (Accessed 01/02/2104).
[2] Edmund Layfielde, The Mappe of Mans Mortality and Vanity (London, 1630).
[3] Edmund Layfielde, The Sovles Solace (London, 1633).

Exploring CPP 10a214: Sweet Bags and Dames

By Rebecca Laroche with Hillary Nunn

In my last entry (06/08/2013), I related the short tale of my British Library disappointment. On the upside, in not finding conclusive evidence toward the identity of the compiler of the marvelous manuscript at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, I only had to read a letter and determine the difference of hands, which was but a matter of minutes.I was left to pursue another link to the Layfield manuscript, one that was, perhaps more fruitful, if only slightly more conclusive.

At page 55 of the Downing half of the manuscript appears the following recipe:

To dry roses to put in sweete baggs

Take the best damask rose leaues
sifted clean and lett them lye ii houres
after a broade upon a table then take
orace, storax and Beniamin beaten
to powder, of each a like quantity then
take a wide mouthed glasse & therein cast
a layer of roses & a layer of powder
crush them down hard and sett them in
the hott sunne till they be dry & crisp, so
take them out & put them in your bagge
probatum per Dnam Yeluerton

The British Library contains an extensive manuscript of more than 1300 recipes (yes, I did count) owned by one Margaret Yelverton (BL Add MS 28237). On its 186th leaf, the manuscript records various recipes for sweet bags, pomanders, and the like.  None of the recipes for sweet bags is exactly as recorded in the Layfield manuscript. One, however, “To make sweete baggs for Linnin” (fol. 186r) has several of the same ingredients and seems to be a more developed version of the Philadelphia one, but adding a few more perfumes and using an alembic to dry out the flowers rather than relying on the sun.

What does this convergence tells us?

  • Elizabeth Downing’s position as a medical practitioner/recipe collector (12/03/2013) was paralleled by that of her contemporary Margaret Yelverton, as well as by that of their contemporary, the Countess of Exeter (09/04/2013).
  • The purpose of the sweet bags, though not described in the Philadelphia manuscript, was to perfume linens.
  • The recipe from the Layfield manuscript is for a more refined sweet bag, as another in the Yelverton manuscript “To make sweet baggs with little cost” (fol. 186r) does not have the more expensive storax and benjamin, but rather the more common cloves and cinnamon.

In turn, however, the Philadelphia manuscript tells us little about of “Dnam Yelverton,” as it is not clear if “Dame” in the manuscript refers to an actual lady or to a housewife. Four other attributions hold the title, three other times thus spelled.  We cannot even be sure if the Yelverton recipe came directly from the source or through a third party (though third parties are noted elsewhere in the manuscript). What the manuscript does reveal is an extensive early seventeenth-century network of women of varying status and capabilities.