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: 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.

Exploring CPP 10a214: Who is “Me”?

By Hillary Nunn with Rebecca Laroche

In her last post about our work with College of Physicians manuscript 10a214, Rebecca Laroche reported her discovery that the handwriting in the text’s early pages did not match that of a letter at the British library attributed to Calybute Downing .(06/08/2013)[1] The mismatch at first led us to doubt whether the CPP manuscript note “probatum per me Cal. Downing” (24) could point to the mid-17th century divine Calybute Downing (1606–1644) as a compiler. The extreme clarity of the CPP manuscript’s italic hand, however, has raised for us the possibility that a scribe might have been involved in its production, thereby explaining the recipe book’s contrast with the British Library manuscript.

The situation, however, raises a larger question: How confident can we be in identifying who a manuscript’s “me” is? In the case of the CPP’s “probatum per me Cal. Downing,” there initially seemed no reason to doubt that “me” is indeed Downing. But does that mean that Downing had to write “me” on the manuscript page himself?

Other recipe books support the notion that a scribe may have put these words on the page for Downing, adopting his voice. Lady Anne Fanshawe’s book, for example, begins with this explicit note from a scribe: “Mrs: Fanshawes Booke of Receipts… written the eleventh day of December 1651. by Me Joseph Auerie”.[2] This note changes the way readers interpret the collection. When readers turn the page, they see the beginning of a recipe “For Melancholy and heavenes of spiretts,” in Avery’s hand, attributed to “My Mother”; underneath that marginal note appears a second name, “A Fanshawe,” in what seems to be different script (4r).[3]

FanAttrib1
Wellcome Western Manuscript 7113, fol. 4r.
© Wellcome Library

But whose mother? The phrasing suggests that Avery identifies the source from Anne Fanshawe’s viewpoint, or as she had written it down in a previous copy; the “my,” then, is likely Fanshawe’s even though her pen does not touch the paper. That raises the question, however, of who writes “A Fanshaw” as the second attribution. Luckily, page 2r offers an answer through another inscription (in a hand that matches the second attribution) which reads “K: Fanshawe. Given mee by my Mother March th 23. 1678.” In the volume’s opening, then, we have three instances or “me” or “my,” each pointing explicitly to a different person. Most importantly, these pages suggest a method of indicating explicitly who “me” and “my” refer to — within at least this portion of the manuscript.

Yet Fanshawe’s manuscript is not always so explicit. The profusion of unidentified hands certainly contributes to this confusion, but it seems a tendency toward exact copying may be to blame as well. See, for example, Fanshawe manuscript’s “An Oile for a Bruise in ye Eye, or for any other bruise proved by Me of a woman, that had lost her Eye by a bruise, and recovered it againe” (30v).[4]

FanshaweEye
Wellcome Western Manuscript 7113, fol. 30v
© Wellcome Library

The “me” here could certainly be Anne Fanshawe, and the “lady who her lost her eye by a bruise” could be Lady Butler, whose name appears in the margin as an attribution. Then, the note in Katherine Fanshawe’s writing could be indicating that she associates the recipe with her mother.

But it is worth noting that the Townshend family manuscript (Wellcome MS.774), dating between 1636-47, records a very similar recipe, with the same use of “me,” on 88v:[5]

Townshend
Wellcome Western Manuscript MS 774, fol. 88v.
© Wellcome Library

There is no Lady Butler here, and neither Fanshawe appears either. So who is the “me” to whom the recipe is recommended?

The appearance of the same rhetoric in both appearances of the recipe – one certainly recorded by a scribe, and the other in a volume with multiple hands – makes determining this particular “me” a hazardous proposition. Conscientious copying of personal testimony, from a source that seems impossible to determine, thus obscures even more thoroughly the identity of the manuscript’s compiler, burying the “me” in multiple levels of vagary.

The “me” in “probatum per me Cal. Downing” need not involve so many people. Luckily, it is the only instance of pronoun in the opening section of CPP 10a214. The seeming lack of other potential compilers in this section keeps the pool of potential referents narrow, allowing us to continue our investigation into which Calybutes could be involved in the manuscript’s creation.

This is the seventh of a series of monthly posts on this topic.

[1] Other earlier blog entries on this topic appeared on 20/06/2013, 21/05/2013, 09/04/2013, 12/03/2013, 20/2/2013.

[2] Wellcome MS.7113 http://archives.wellcomelibrary.org/recipebooks/MS7113/MS7113_0004.pdf

[3] http://archives.wellcomelibrary.org/recipebooks/MS7113/MS7113_0005.pdf. Elaine Leong blogged about the manuscript’s different compilers, the scribe and Fanshawe among them, on 11/09/2012.

[4] http://archives.wellcomelibrary.org/recipebooks/MS7113/MS7113_0023.pdf

[5] Wellcome MS.774. http://archives.wellcomelibrary.org/recipebooks/MS774/MS774_0088.pdf

Exploring CPP 10a214: The Elusive Compiler

By Rebecca Laroche with Hillary Nunn

Up until now, Hillary Nunn and I have been conducting our explorations (20/06/2013, 21/05/2013, 09/04/2013, 12/03/2013, 20/02/2013) under the working hypothesis that one of the compilers of the College of Physicians manuscript 10a214 was a mid-17th century divine named Calybute Downing (1606–1644).  This hypothesis mainly grew from a simple phrase “probatum per me Cal. Downing” (24) at the end of one of the early recipes in the collection and the inclusion of many recipes attributed to one Elizabeth Downing, the name of Calybute’s mother. There was also a reference to Hackney (20/06/2013), where Downing was once minister.  A recent all-too-brief research trip to London has complicated this hypothesis and raised several questions…

With our working hypothesis in mind, I conducted a preliminary search in the online catalogs for autograph evidence of Calybute Downing and was excited to find that the British Library did indeed hold a letter from the minister to a Mrs Barkley.[1] With only two days for library research, I immediately called up the collection in which it was held–and was thankful to find it available.

Imagine my anticipation of its arrival from the vault.  Imagine my disappointment when neither hand (the signature being different than the body) in the letter, which was an extended assurance of grace from a minister to one of the faithful in doubt, matched the hand of the Downing recipes in the manuscript.

A few scholars of recipes may recognize this disappointment.  Many a mention of historically significant figures are confounded by the presence of secretaries and the accommodation of one collection of recipes into another through copying and gifting.[2]  I have come up with two possibilities (and would welcome other suggestions) that explain these non-matching hands:

  1. The Calybute Downing of the recipes is not the divine, but instead his father of the same name, who would have been married to Elizabeth and who was alive in 1640, the one date in the manuscript.  This hypothesis could mean an earlier compilation, but would face some difficulties in explaining the Hackney reference.
  2. The recipe book and the letter could have been compiled by two different secretaries. The Downing signature in the letter is markedly different than the body, which is a very difficult secretary hand, whereas the recipe book is in an incredibly clear italic.If the Downing recipes were copied out in anticipation of making them a gift for use, their relative legibility would be essential. As a correspondence to be considered closely and slowly, the letter’s cramped hand would not be as much of an issue.

Clearly, as I write this, I am becoming more convinced of the second hypothesis, but:

  • if Calybute Downing was prone to hiring secretaries, in whose hand were the original recipes that the secretary then copied out?
  • was the original manuscript made by Elizabeth herself, or by yet another member of the household?

Given the proximity of some of the entries to print sources (18/10/2012, 21/05/2013), it seems unlikely that all of these were transmitted orally. However, the inclusion of a “by me” in the recipes implies Calybute’s presence, if not in the immediate transcription, at least in one of the earlier written record of the recipes.

Obviously, further research is needed!

[1] British Library Add MS 28558 A-R

 [2] See Elaine Leong’s essay on “starter” manuscripts, “Collecting Knowledge for the Family:  Recipes, Gender, and Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern English Household,” Centaurus 55.2 (May 2013): 81–103.

This is the sixth of a series of monthly posts on this topic.