The more Rebecca Laroche and I work with the College of Physicians manuscript, the more enmeshed we become with the religious politics of the mid-seventeenth century. Rebecca’s most recent post, on the transcription of the “Horologe” from Lancelot Andrewes’ Private Devotions, not only provides additional evidence for dating the manuscript in the 1640s, it connects the Layfield hand even more securely to the world of the church.
This new context makes our latest discovery even more exciting: we have a new idea of the person behind Hand 2, thanks to a new writing sample from the archives.
Looking for potential “E. Layfield”s while at the Folger Shakespeare Library, I stumbled across the following image of a signature from the State Papers Online.
The L and y immediately caught my eye: our Layfielde, I thought, had those:
But the match isn’t perfect. For one thing, the f is substantially different in this signature, as is the e. And then, of course, there’s the spelling. As much as we know early modern people often used variant spellings of their own names, the new signature’s ei is repeated in another of Edward Layfield’s signatures of the period:
I immediately knew that I needed an expert opinion. Besides, this new signature belonged to Edward Layfield, Archdeacon of Essex, and Edward Layfield, rector of Wakes Colne from 1640 to 1666, had seemed our most likely candidate. The signatures, moreover, carried the date 1660, and our recipe manuscript’s inscription says the book belonged to a Layfield – Anne – in 1640. But the similarities made it well worth pursuing.
I consulted with Heather Wolfe and Sarah Powell at the Folger, and their verdict was a resounding maybe. The idea that the newly-found signatures belonged to the same person as the CPP manuscript’s Hand 2, they told me, was “plausible, but not provable.” They noted that the distinctive h in the letters’ archdeacon does not commonly appear in the CPP manuscript, but they also pointed out that the two new Edward Layfield signatures were different from one another as well, with substantially difference ds. in Layfield. Could Mr. Layfield’s handwriting be changing in his later years?
While this verdict from the experts surely didn’t give permission for the “eureka!” I’d been stifling, it wasn’t a reason to stop this new line of pursuit, either. So we’ll be taking it further, to see what difference it makes if we consider Edward, not Edmund, as behind the Layfield hand. Church politics will most certainly be involved. More of that to come in the next posting.
 Both the Edward Layfield signatures come from The National Archives of the UK, as reproduced in State Papers Online. This first image is For University Promotions or Degrees: Certificate by Edw. Layfield, Archdeacon of Essex, and three others, in favour of the petitioner’s orthodoxy and loyalty (SP 29/9 f.130), and the second is Certificate of Edw. Layfield, Archdeacon of Essex, and two others, in behalf of Rich. Beresford (SP 29/10 f.86).
Since the launch of the Shakespeare’s World crowdsourcing website on December 10, 2015, transcribing receipt book manuscripts has become a highly interesting and fun (some even say “addictive”) project for numerous users, a.k.a. “citizen humanists,” around the world. They come from many walks of life, and many have never studied paleography, but they are keen to contribute and many are gaining new skills, confidence, and knowledge as they make their way through a variety of manuscripts.
to generate transcriptions for the Folger’s online EMMO database, which is planned to launch in early 2017
to identify new words and word variants from manuscripts, which are currently under-represented in the OED, and add them to the dictionary
to serve as an experiment in crowdsourcing for paleography, i.e., letting users transcribe at their own pace — as little as one word or phrase at a time — yet still creating opportunities for thousands of people to try something new and contribute to an important scholarly resource
In November of 2015, the EMMO team examined the current Folger collection and identified 29 digitized manuscripts containing primarily recipes to include in the first batch of images for Shakespeare’s World. Together, these manuscripts amount to approximately 2,200 images and constitute the first of two genres from which users can choose to transcribe when they visit the site (the other starting genre is letters). Additional types of manuscripts will be added in the coming months, and the total volume of material is ~120,000 pages. To date, volunteers have worked on ~2,400 pages.
Some of the receipt books are fairly short, such as V.b.363, a bound manuscript of forty-two pages with entries from multiple hands, and some only have a few pages that have been photographed at this point, such as V.a.425. Others have hundreds of pages in them that have each been digitized, such as V.a.21. All of these receipt books were handwritten in the sixteenth and/or seventeenth centuries. However, few have received much, if any, scholarly attention until fairly recently, with EMROC and other academics starting to delve into these works.
The citizen humanists on Shakespeare’s World are noting that these receipt books consist of recipes for dishes most of us would recognize today like pudding, cakes, or biscuits, as well as perhaps more unusual concoctions like foole or snail water. Transcribers on the site are also finding that the receipt books include a multitude of home remedies for a variety of ailments ranging from insomnia to seizures to indigestion. By viewing the way recipes for food and medicine are situated next to one another in the receipt books, users are discovering that in early modern times, these concepts were quite literally not far apart.
While the therapeutic efficacy of some of these old remedies may seem doubtful to us in the twenty-first century (or just plain gross), they are nonetheless fascinating, not to mention valuable, as historical sources for understanding this period.
We are very grateful to Elaine Leong, Lisa Smith, and Jen Munroe in the EMROC group for being our guest experts on Shakespeare’s World for the receipt books. They are helping to sustain and stimulate some wonderful conversations on the discussion forum known as Talk, which is a great place for experts and volunteers alike to ask questions, report finds, and swap tips for those of us brave enough to try making some of these early modern recipes in the 21st century!
Victoria Van Hyning is the humanities PI of Zooniverse and an early modernist working on English Catholic women’s autobiography in the period when it was illegal to practice Catholicism in England and parts of the British Isles (c.1535–1790s). She will use the Shakespeare’s World data in her research, in order to look for examples of Catholic women’s writing.
Paul Dingman is the Project Manager for Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) at the Folger Shakespeare Library. He earned a PhD in History with a concentration in medieval/early modern Europe and is especially interested in cultural history and the digital humanities. Before returning to school to pursue his doctorate, Paul worked for several years in the field of information technology.
I teach an undergraduate seminar on gender in early modern Britain, and throughout the semester, students learn about the ways that people in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries worked to differentiate women from men. We talk about early modern ideas on the human body: Galen’s four humors, the two-seed versus the one-seed model of conception, and “reversible” reproductive systems. We also talk about the ways that early modern people mapped gender onto the workings of the human brain, ascribing mental acuity to men, and emotional intensity to women. All of these lessons help to show students that gender is a social construct, and that it is historically variable. But the exercise that truly brings these concepts home is one on education. After providing an overview of the topics that were taught to early modern children, I divide the classroom: half learn to write like girls, and half learn to write like boys.
I tell the students that they are going to learn about early modern education and material culture by writing with quill and ink. The students think that they are being given identical materials for this “hands-on” exercise. I distribute goose quills and powdered ink packets (both of which are available for sale via the Colonial Williamsburg website), and I pass out model alphabets from the seventeenth century, so that the students can form their letters in the style used by early modern people. But what they don’t realize is that they have received separate models: one alphabet comes from a guidebook for young boys, and another alphabet comes from a guidebook for young girls.
With their alphabets in hand, the students are then set a task: they are asked to copy a recipe for early modern ink. This receipt, which I transcribed from a commonplace book held at the Folger Shakespeare Library, is entitled “To make Inke Verie Good.” It was created by Anne (Granville) Dewes in the seventeenth century:
Take a quart of snow or raine water and a quart of Beere vinegre, a pound of galls bruised halfe a pound of coperis [protosulphates of copper, iron, and zinc], and 4 ounces of gum bruised; first mix your water and vinegre together, and putt itt into an earthen Jug, (then put in the galls) stirring itt 2 or 3 times a day letting it stand 8 or 9 daies and then put in your coperas and Gumme as you use it straine itt. &c.
As the students mix their ink, shape their quills, and start copying their recipes in “early modern style” handwriting, we talk about the ingredients contained in the recipe, as well as their cost and accessibility to people of both high and low status. We talk about the time and labor that must have been involved in the production of ink. We discuss the ways that ink was used in the home, and the gallons of ink that must have been consumed by early modern print shops. We consider who made ink (both women and men) and who used ink (both women and men). Ink was a ubiquitous part of life for early modern Britons, as essential to communication as are our own smartphones and tablets today.
About fifteen minutes before class ends, I ask the students to compare their transcriptions, and they are always surprised at the differences: half the class has written in one style, and half in another. That’s because in early modern Britain, girls were encouraged to learn “Italic hand,” a style of writing with clearly defined, beautifully sculpted, decorative letters. But boys were taught “Secretary hand,” a flowing, connected style intended for those who, it was implied, wrote with urgency, volume, and haste. Realizing the ramifications of this – that although women and men used the same tools and the same recipes to communicate, early modern men’s words were seen as authoritative, while early modern women’s were viewed as window-dressing – brings our lesson on gender and education to a powerful close.
Interested in early modern ink, or early modern education and handwriting? The Folger Shakespeare Library has some excellent resources:
 Anne (Granville) Dewes, Cookery and Medicinal Recipes, ca. 1640-1750, V.a.430 f. 42, Folger Shakespeare Library. You can access Dewes’ ink recipe via the Folger’s Digital Image Collection: http://luna.folger.edu
The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC has one of the most significant collections of English Renaissance books and manuscripts in the world. Today I am talking with Dr. Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts.
As Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger, you oversee approximately 60,000 manuscripts, with the wide range of sources. What are some of your institutional priorities for the manuscript collection at this time?
Our institutional priorities are two-fold: grow the collection, and continue to make it more accessible.
To that end, our goal is to acquire manuscripts that provide a window into society in early modern England, and beyond that, any manuscript, typescript, or other unpublished item that relates to Shakespeare up to the present day. Before we purchase a manuscript, we always ask ourselves: What is its current or future research value? How does it relate to other manuscripts, books, and visual materials in the collection? Our collection development policy for manuscripts provides further detail.
Accessibility involves every division at the Folger. Conservators regularly stabilize, mend, and conserve manuscripts so that readers can access them and the public can see them in exhibitions. Our Photography and Digital Imaging department adds new images of manuscripts to our digital image database on a weekly basis. Our Acquisitions department makes new acquisitions available as quickly as humanly possible. Our rare materials cataloger, Nadia Seiler, does a great job of describing manuscripts in Hamnet (our catalog) and in our finding aids database. Beyond that, we highlight manuscripts on a regular basis in our research blog, The Collation, and through other social media. Directors of Folger Institute seminars are always encouraged to use manuscripts in their classes, and in general, we talk about them whenever we are given the opportunity!
Congratulations on your IMLS grant for Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO)! Can you give us a project overview and an update on where you’re at now?
Thank you — we were so excited and honored to receive the grant! EMMO is a project to transcribe all of our early modern English manuscripts and make them available in a searchable database alongside digital images and catalog records for each item. They will be keyword searchable, but also searchable by many other categories. A brief overview of EMMO can be found on the Folger’s research blog, The Collation. Of course, EMMO will include transcriptions of all of our receipt books, which we hope will really push research forward in a variety of ways.
We are still in the very early stages of the grant — hiring a project manager, two project paleographers, assessing the needs of our users, and talking to potential partners about software development.
Last month, I interviewed Jen Wolfe of the University of Iowa’s DIY History about crowdsourcing manuscript transcriptions. By comparison, the Folger is taking a more hands-on approach to crowdsourcing. I suppose this is partly because secretary hand can be very difficult to read, but can you talk a bit more about your thoughts on the training and standards required for transcribing?
I love DIY History, and I hope that our crowdsourcing platform is as successful! Our biggest challenge is figuring out a way to get the right manuscripts to the right transcribers. The majority of our early modern manuscripts are written in English secretary hand, which requires training in order to learn how to read accurately. There are plenty of good online paleography tutorials out there; in particular, the ones at Cambridge, the National Archives (UK), Scottish Handwriting, and a new one connected to Oxford’s Bodleian Library. English paleography is also taught at a number of places, including the Folger, the Huntington Library, and University of Virginia’s Rare Book School.
For EMMO, we are thinking about developing some sort of game with different levels–each time you get to a higher level, more manuscripts of increasing difficulty are made available to you to transcribe. Obviously, the number of “citizen humanists” we attract will be smaller than most crowdsourcing projects because of the special skills involved, but we believe that if people are interested, they can learn and contribute. And we’ll provide a simple set of guidelines for making semi-diplomatic transcriptions.
We would LOVE if the readers of this blog would volunteer to share transcriptions with us (partial ones are okay) in whatever form they have, or incorporate transcription into their coursework, or become some of our crowdsourcing superheroes! We will let people know via our research blog and social media when we are ready for crowdsourcers, but feel free to contact me before then if you have transcriptions that are ready to go.
Could you tell us about the scope of the Folger’s collection of recipe books? Are you still collecting in this area?
I just did an advanced search in our catalog, Hamnet, for the form/genre term “Cookbooks” and material type “Manuscript” and got 74 hits. I did another search with the form/genre term “Medical Formularies” and material type “Manuscript” and got 114 hits. Obviously, many of our recipe books have both genre terms attached to their records, but that gives you a rough estimate: over one hundred medical and culinary recipe books, ranging in date from ca. 1550 to ca. 1800.
We acquire a few recipe books every year — they are a big strength of our collection and one that is important for us to grow. They provide such a wide variety of research opportunities.
The microfilm collection is a great way for people to access our recipe books, and I often point people to Elaine’s helpful introduction to it online. It includes 89 recipe books, but we have acquired many others since then so it is no longer complete. Our long-term strategy for EMMO is to digitize and transcribe the entire early modern portion of the manuscript collection, so at some point, users will be able to see and read everything in one place. Here’s a link to the recipe book images currently in our digital image database.
How do recipe books feature in some of your public programming events?