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).
Drugs, be they plant, animal or mineral, were important objects for trade, cure and even spiritual salvation throughout Chinese history even until today. They appear in all sorts of diverse sources, from poems and diaries to scriptures, pharmacopoeias and recipe books. The historical record for the early imperial period (221 BCE – 589 CE) indicates that the majority of health care was provided by religious specialists– Daoists, Buddhists and mediums–and that doctors were in a very small minority.
Knowledge of a particular signature drug could mark a certain group’s identity, forming a means through which they showed their own therapeutic knowledge, while also distinguishing them from other players in the medico-religious marketplace. Knowledge of what drugs did, and access to them, either through physical access in the regions from which came, or through knowledge of how to identify them, could play an important part in religious identity.
Thus, simply having a drug “name” leaves a lot untold. Unifying projects, like state-sponsored pharmacopoeias, as well as modern botanical dictionaries that make equations between traditional Chinese names and modern botanical identities, do a lot to conceal the diverse processes by which drugs circulated in pre-modern China. Substitution, modification and the use of alternate names were common practices in this period (and still are today). The geographic origins of a plant or animal product also had an impact on its efficacy, and also on the fact that it could under different names in different regions.
However, the history of Chinese pharmacology has largely been devoted to tracking changes in different pharmacopoeic editions over time–the editorial staff on each project, increases in quantities of drugs, and development of plant knowledge, such as the identification of new species or sub-species of plants. This approach works within the normative limits of the state-recognized and medically authorised knowledge, but studies outside of this domain are largely limited to anecdotal stories of Daoists revealing isolated recipes, or Buddhists providing healing to the laity. There have been few overall, systematic studies of drug lore in other domains – like the Buddhist or Daoist canons, for example. To what extent does the data in the Daoist canon back up the anecdotal claim that Daoists were the major stake-holders in early drug lore? Which sects, in which periods and times, were most active in drug lore, and were they actively competing with other sects from the same time and places?
At the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Shi-Pei Chen and I are developing a digital solution to help answer such questions. This will better situate early Chinese drug knowledge within the multiple contexts, times and places in which drugs took on new meanings and interpretations. We will expand the study of Chinese drug lore into what has normally been considered “religious” literature, and perform a variety of analyses on digital transcriptions of early materia medica. A detailed description of this project can be found here.
We are considering the following open access repositories for transcribed, digital editions of the Buddhist (see the repository here) and Daoist canons. We will do statistical analysis of the texts in the Daoist and Buddhist canons to establish the frequency of drug terms in the texts, to see how much of the pharmacopoeia figured for these actors. Based on general metadata about those texts (as available/reliable), such as date (or date range) and place of composition, author or sectarian affiliation, we can better analyse the circulation of drug lore across time, space and community. Using GIS place name authority databases (CHGIS, CCTS and DDBC) we will associate historical place names with GIS points. This will enable us to use time-space displays to show the distribution of drug knowledge across time and space (we are considering PLATIN, see sample applications here).
We will then select interesting or important texts for closer study, and use an automated text-marking system, MARKUS, to markup individual texts in detail. We will focus initially on DRUG NAMES, DRUG FUNCTIONS, LOCATION NAMES, and PEOPLE. This will enable us to compare regional associations about drugs in Daoist and Buddhist texts against those in the pharmacopoeic tradition. For example, whether and how recipes vary across texts, whether the same places are identified as centres for drug supply or transcendent use, which drugs or sets of drugs circulated through which communities.
The pilot study is limited to the Six Dynasties period (220-589), a time which had the most formative influence on religious institutions, and the conclusion of which saw the establishment of the first imperial medical academy. In later stages of the project, we hope to invite scholars working in other periods, regions, and languages to collaborate with us. If there is enough interest from the medical history community, perhaps together we could create a research infrastructure to study drugs across the pre-modern world. If you would like to join this venture in its future stages, please contact us!
Stanley-Baker, Michael. 2013, Daoists and Doctors: The Role of Medicine in Six Dynasties Shangqing Daoism PhD Thesis, London: University College London.
I was delighted to see Mrs Corlyon’s recipe book (Wellcome MS.213) as the subject of Jennifer Sherman Roberts’ recent post on this blog. Here, I am going to explore another of Mrs Corlyon’s recipes:
A Gargas or Medecine for the Megreeme in the heade.
Take Sage Rosemary and of Pellitory of Spaine, the rootes of eche of these a like quantity, and boil them in a pinte of Vineger, uppon a chafing dish of coales, untill halfe be consumed, then putt therein two good spoonefulles of Mustard beyng made with good vineger, and so lett it boile a while, And then take a litle of it, as hott as you can suffer and holde it in your mouthe, as you shall feele occasion and then spitt it out, and take more and doe this five or six times every morninge so long as you shall fynde occasion or feele your selfe greeved.
My current book project is a history of migraine from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century (funded by the Wellcome Trust). Having found nearly a hundred different recipes for migraine treatments in published and manuscript remedy collections from the late sixteenth to the mid seventeenth century, I have become fascinated by examples of knowledge transfer from print to manuscript and vice versa.
It seems likely that recipes would often have made this leap. Cheap medical books were common in the seventeenth century, and recipe collections were among the most affordable, costing only a couple of pence. For example, in his Breviary of Helthe (1547) – one of the earliest medical texts to have been published in English, and which went through at least six editions by 1598 – Andrew Boorde recommended that sufferers of ‘megryme’ should avoid eating garlic, ramsons and onions. Similar advice appeared in Philip Barrough’s Method of Phisicke (1583). Sure enough, a few years later we find Mrs Corlyon recommending that sufferers of migraine should ‘forbeare much butter or anything wherin Garlicke, onions, or any leeke be used’.
It is also interesting to note the recipes that did not end up in manuscript collections, suggesting knowledge that remained purely theoretical. Bleeding for migraine was common in print, but did not seem to translate into personal collections. Neither did recipes for migraine reflect a fashion for New World tobacco, nor feature ingredients such as bole armoniac or terra sigillata deriving from classical medical traditions. Many published books contained details of simples (single ingredients, often herbs) but compilers of manuscript recipe collections rarely stuck with one, when several would do.
To return to Corlyon’s recipe: sage, rosemary and pellitory of Spain were considered hot and dry herbs, and therefore good for migraines, as they were supposed to draw out excess phlegmatic and waterish humours from the head (see Anne Stobart’s post on herbal qualities). Sage and rosemary also have a strong aromatic smell, and combined with the pungent vinegar and mustard would have enhanced a sensation of the remedy infusing through the head.
So the rationale behind the recipe seems clear, but can we trace its provenance more precisely? Searching for pellitory of spain in recipe collections from Early English Books Online yields some interesting leads. In 1526, the anonymous A New Book of Medecynes contained a recipe ‘for the mygrayme in the heed’ requiring ‘rote of Pyllatory of Spayne / a half peny weyght of Spygnarde’, to be ground together, boiled in vinegar, mixed with honey and mustard and held in the mouth a spoonful at a time. This recipe was not new even then: it also appears in a fifteenth-century leechbook, with the additional instruction to hold the preparation in the mouth ‘as long as though mayest say two Agnus Dei’. We find a similar recipe in Thomas Vicary’s English Man’s Treasure (1586), this time requiring ‘Pelitorie of Spaine’, ‘Stavisacre’, ginger and cinnamon in a linen bag soaked in vinegar and held in the mouth. I was excited to be able to trace this back further still to a fourteenth-century collection containing a remedy for ‘Þe mygrenen’ requiring ‘peletir of spane and stafsacre in a litil poke’.
Mrs Corlyon’s recipe simply replaces Stavesacre, a poisonous plant of the delphinium family, grown in southern Europe, and Spikenard, an aromatic plant from the Himalayas, with similarly hot and dry herbs (sage and rosemary) that she could more easily obtain or grow herself. It is always difficult to know how ordinary people read books, and the extent to which knowledge on paper was adapted in practice, but tracing recipes such as this shows how practical knowledge could remain ‘current’ even across the space of several centuries.