Dr. Burges’s Plague Water

By Jana Jackson

For early modern pious women, the religious obligation to be healers and competent housewives catalyzed the compilation of extensive medical receipt books during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Accordingly, recipes considered to be particularly essential to domestic medical practices were shared over and over. Though the communal nature of recipes certainly allowed for editing and refinement to improve efficacy as the recipes passed from hand to hand, the essential stability of ingredients, amounts, and directions for administration is remarkable even among recipes that were handed down generationally. Dr. Burges’s recipe for plague water, for example, can be found in Mary Granville’s book of recipes (1641), in Lady Katherine Ranelagh’s receipt book (17th century), in Charlotte Johnstone, Dowager Marchioness of Annandale’s receipt book (c.1725), and in Eliza Smith’s published The Compleat Housewife (1741), (41r, 5v, 99r, 237), among others.

From Folger V.a. 430, Granville Family Receipt book

A comparison of this popular recipe in these four texts reveals their similarity in ingredients and amounts, even though the approximate dates of these texts span almost a century.

Granville (1640) Ranelagh (1615-1691) Johnstone (1725) Smith (1741)
3 pints malmsey 3 pints malmsey or muscadine 3 pints malmsey or muscadine 3 pints muscadine
Handful of rue Handful of rue Handful of rue Handful of rue
Handful of sage Handful of sage Handful of sage Handful of sage
1 pennyworth long pepper 1 pennyworth long pepper 1 pennyworth long pepper 2 pennyworth long pepper
½ oz ginger ½ oz ginger ½ oz ginger ½ oz ginger
¼ oz nutmeg ¼ oz nutmeg ¼ oz nutmeg ½ oz nutmeg
4 pennyworth  mithridate —- ¼ oz mithridate
2 pennyworth London treacle 4 pennyworth treacle ¼ oz Venice treacle
¼ pint angelica water ¼ pint angelica water ¼ pint angelica water ¼ pint angelica water
1 oz angelica root
1 oz zedoary root
½ oz Virginia snake-root

Though malmsey as the principal ingredient transitioned to muscadine over the course of a century, most of the herbal ingredients, both by kind and by amount, are consistent: rue, sage, long pepper, ginger, and nutmeg.[i] Smith’s addition of three varieties of root is the most significant variation to the recipe. Interestingly, Eliza Smith claims on the title page that her receipt book is “[a] collection of above Two Hundred Family Receipts of Medicines. . .never before made publick.” By 1741, however, Dr. Burges’s plague water recipe had been making the rounds among household practitioners for at least 100 years. Perhaps this claim compelled her to add the additional ingredients so that the recipe would be considered original. Regardless, the remarkable similarity among the four versions of Dr. Burges’s recipe, in both written and printed texts, attests to domestic medical practitioners’ concern for accuracy even if, as in the case of the bubonic plague, the efficacy of the physic was more of a hope than a reality.

From Wellcome MS 3087 Charlotte Van Lore Johnstone, Dowager Marchioness of Annadale

 

[i] Malmsey wine originated from the Mediterranean (see OED “malmsey”). Muscadine was a “wine made from muscat or similar grapes” that was a product of France and Italy during the seventeenth century (see OED “muscadine”). Both were “sweet wines” and therefore might be used interchangeably in physic during the period (see Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, 638).

Works Cited:

Smith, Eliza. The Compleat Housewife, Or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion. London: J. Pemberton, 1741. Google Books Online. Web.

Manuscripts:

BL Sloane MS 1367

Lady Katherine Ranelagh

Lady Rennelagh’s choise receipts (17th century).

Folger V.a. 430

Granville Family

Cookery and medicinal recipes of the Granville family (c.1640).

 

Wellcome MS 3087

Charlotte Van Lore Johnstone, Dowager Marchioness of Annandale

Receipt-book (c. 1725).

 

Jana Jackson is a recent MA from the University of Texas, Arlington

Teaching Transcription and Recipes at a Liberal Arts College

In a new undergraduate course at Bowdoin College about health and healing in the early modern Iberian world, we dedicated a unit of our semester to studying recipes from the period, as curative and culinary, considering questions such as access to ingredients, location of preparations and intended makers and recipients. We began our unit with introductory materials from selections from Carolyn Nadeau’s Food Matters (2016) and Michael Soloman’s Fictions of Well Being (2010). We then spent a class session in Special Collections for some hands-on work. Although we did not have any examples of Iberian recipe books on hand, the college is fortunate to possess a 1662 copy of The queens closet opened: incomparable secrets in physick, chyrurgery, preserving and candying, allowing students to handle the palm-sized edition of this widely popular 17th-century English recipe book, commenting on the materiality of the book, the contents of the recipes and connections with cabinets of curiosity as well as the gendering of medical practices.[1] In anticipation for this visit, students also spent time with the virtual paleography tutorial preparing them for their first encounters in transcription during this visit.

Bowdoin’s resourceful librarian Marieke Van Der Steenhoven curated a selection of manuscripts in English, offering a variety of hands and examples of types of documents with early material from the collection. Some of the documents included a French-to-English translation of Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713); A 1772 court notice for the trial of Ansell Nickerson who was “charged with the crime of murder, committed upon the High Seas”; A revolutionary war letter from Jacob Gerrish to L. Jewett dated November 23, 1778 regarding troop provisions and movement around the Boston area; and a 1727 land deed for the township of North Yarmouth, Maine. Along with our hands-on help, students consulted tips on transcription using selections from this guide.

Thanks to advice from colleagues in EMROC, I learned about the Granville manuscript as a source of information that would allow us to think about recipe circulation in the Iberian context, while also demonstrating ties between England and Spain and the global circulation of ingredients and preparations. The goal of the class was to introduce students to the history and content of this particular recipe collection, but also to provide space for some hands-on practice with digital transcription.

Here is one of the recipes, “receta para agua de ambar” or recipe for amber water, from the Granville MS, fol. 106r.

Below are some student responses to the transcription experience:

Francesca-Beth Haines: “From transcribing the two recipes I chose, I found that although the transcription was, at times, quite difficult and perplexing, it was very satisfying to figure out the word or words that were actually written… I learned to be patient and open-minded through this process. This was an eye-opening experience where I participated in something I never thought I would, and I was able to gain additional respect to those who perform these transcriptions because they can be very arduous.”

Hannah Zuklie: “Transcribing today was especially interesting because each recipe reminded me of the Lentils (Carolyn Nadeau) reading we did earlier in the semester, and it made clear that the Granvilles had access to privileged foods like steak, not to mention chocolate from the Americas.”

Cordelia Stewart: “Transcribing with DROMIO was an incredibly rewarding experience. While the process of transcribing requires patience and persistence, the omnipresent knowledge that every word decoded contributes towards a huge project of sharing is super fulfilling. It was a particularly empowering exercise as a Spanish-speaking female to work on transcribing recipes from historic Spanish-speaking females.”

Grace Mallett: “I learned the importance of understanding the context of the time period in which the manuscripts were written. With this background knowledge, illegible words will be much more clear and transcription is much more seamless. Furthermore, I feel like this experience truly allowed me to sense the history of the manuscripts. Seeing the original text / paper was very powerful and made my experience feel extremely authentic.”

Tessa Westfall: “I had so much fun decoding and transcribing the Early Modern recipes! It felt like I was a real detective, uncovering what people hundreds of years ago were interested in. It was so remarkable to me that even though the textual expression looked so different, the recipes I was working on could easily be found in a contemporary cookbook. The whole experience was a very exciting coalescence of past and present, old and new, and I felt really lucky to have contributed to the project.”

Catherine Call:  really liked the transcription class. It was fun, and like a puzzle. It reminded me of a religion class I took last year when we read excerpts from the Dead Sea scrolls and looked at the actual pieces they came from– this exercise (and looking at how tiny and faint the Dead Sea “scrolls” were) reminded me of how much work goes into making information available.

Sabrina Albanese: I really enjoyed transcribing the recipes. It thought it was interesting to know that we are able to be part of something bigger than ourselves and actually help out others studying recipes. It was like a puzzle trying to figure out what the writing was saying but it was fun!

Diego Villamarin: I appreciated having a class in Special Collections and Archives prior to the digital transcription. Getting the hands on experience with a peer reminded me the goal of our work. Also, working in a group allowed us to cover a larger span of the paper, since we covered each other’s weaknesses and we had the second pair of eyes to check over our transcription of the text. The individual work with EMROC in the library computer lab offered a hands-on experience that had a more immediate contribution since our transcriptions were sent immediately and were awaiting more transcriptions in order to ensure accuracy. Working in the presence of our peers certainly gave the feeling and rush of taking part in a “transcribe-a-thon”. With your and Marieke’s help, a lot of the common mistakes and hurdles were overcome. The experience gave me a new appreciation for the work that is done to make the papers and texts that I read legible and accessible.

[1] For a compelling introduction to this recipe book, see Opening the Queen’s Closet: Henrietta Maria, Elizabeth Cromell, and the Politics of Cookery (Laura Luner Knoppers, Renaissance Quarterly 60.2 2007)

Margaret Boyle is an Associate Professor in the Romance Languages and Literature Department, Bowdoin College.

Jamming Out with Rosemary

By Samuel Fatzinger

As I was transcribing a recipe manuscript by Elizabeth Bulckley, “A Booke of Hearbes and Receipts,” (compiled in 1627, Wellcome Library) I came across a page title “The Vertues of Rosemary.” While apparently Rosemary can perform many medical miracles, what really piqued my interest was a brief sentence at the bottom of the page (12r):

Also rosemarie comforteth the braine

the memory, the inward senses, & restoreth

speech to them that are posessed with adumbe

paulsie, espetially the conserue made of this.

What did this mean, a conserve of this? A conserve of rosemary, certainly. But made out of what? A conserve, distinctly form other forms of preserving food, usually contains pieces of fruit (presumably because many fruits, especially their rinds or skins, contain pectin, which works as a congealing agent when it is prepared), and rosemary is certainly not a fruit. 

The idea of a rosemary conserve brings something into question that I find very interesting about early modern recipes. Recipes are generally written in the imperative, but in the case of early modern recipes, many recipes direct the reader to perform tasks that have an implied understanding such as: still, make it up, candy it. These directions point toward an understanding within cooking culture at the time that was taken for granted. Unlike modern recipes that direct the user to use certain temperatures when cooking in the oven, early modern recipes might suggest an oven that is quick, slow, or covered. At other times, heat directions find common ground, such as place on a slow fire (in modern terms, low to medium heat). Measurement directions work on the same principal. A recipe might direct the user to add a quantity of product according to a handful or spoonful. We still use a similar application in modern recipes, but at other times a recipe might direct the user to add a “quantity.” Recipes, then as much as today, fall in that valley between exact science and intuition (baking is usually the exception).

So, some boundaries in cooking are porous, either by default or understanding. There are some cooking practices on the other hand that are strictly differentiated, like that of conserves, preserves, waters, and syrups. This makes sense given the times. Lacking convenient modern preservation methods, early modern cooking required many differing forms of preserving foods. Having differing methods for preserving foods based on strict methods worked for both varying an otherwise limited degree of flavor profiles, as well as allowing similar cultural groups to share recipes and cooking methods with a knowledge of what the preparation and outcome of that recipe was supposed to be (see: implied understandings).

This difference between the strict and porous boundary is exactly why I became curious about a rosemary conserve. So I decided to make it, and some variations too. For the rosemary conserve, I made a rosemary water that reduced by about half (it was very pungent), and then made a syrup out of some of that water by adding sugar in a 1-to-1 ratio and then let it reduce by about a third. The result had the consistency of honey, but with a rich rosemary aroma and flavor (the needles were strained before adding the sugar). I also made a conserve out of grapefruit and cranberries (it’s about that time of year) that was based on two recipes for making a conserve of barberries (a mid-17th century recipe from Nicholas Webster and an anonymous early 18th century recipe, both from the Folger Library) and a conserve of strawberries and lemon rind. To both I added the rosemary water instead of plain water in order to give it flavor. These jellied much better, certainly due to the addition of pectin from the citrus fruits. But I still cannot figure out why Bulckley would assume that a rosemary conserve, without giving its recipe, is not a strange thing – that by mentioning it, the reader would know not only what it is, but how to create it. A thorough search of the Folger and Wellcome of a rosemary conserve were fruitless (please let me know if you find something otherwise!).

You might be thinking that it would be easy to simply add powdered pectin to a rosemary solution similar to what I concocted, but powdered pectin wasn’t isolated (much less distributed) until the mid-19th century. I’m still not sure what Bulckley meant, but (see video below) I was more than happy to explore the idea in my own kitchen.

 

Samuel Fatzinger is a former restaurant cook and current MA candidate, University of Texas, Arlington

Transcribathon Banquet Update

We have good news from the Folger Shakespeare Library:  they received a grant that is now funding paleographer Sarah Powell to do the vetting of the recipe manuscripts.  So we are free in our Transcribathon to concentrate on transcribing three manuscripts: Baker V.a. 619; Cromwell V.a. 8; and Packe V.a. 215.  We welcome you to join us in transcribing recipes on Tuesday November 7, from 9 a.m. EST.

You can begin by going to: transcribe.folger.edu and sign in using your name.

Please click on TRANSCRIBE, then on EMROC, and then on TRANSCRIBATHON.  From there you can choose one of the three manuscripts (Baker, Cromwell, and Packe) and click on a page.  You can begin typing in the box provided.  If you need help learning to use dromio, please click on this link.

We hope that you will also tweet about your experience and tell us any interesting find or puzzling conundrum you discover, using #EMROCtranscribes.

Tell your friends and join us at the banquet!

Transcribathon Banquet

 

Please join us virtually for our 3rd annual online Transcribathon on Tuesday, November 7, where we will have a number of texts available for transcription.

In the past two Transcribathons, we have worked only on one text, Rebeckah Winche (Folger V.b.366) and then Lady Castleton (Folger V.a.600)—respectively—from start to finish. This year we are going to take a different approach: to complete several texts. Our goal is to have 10 completed texts this year, that is 10 triple-transcribed and vetted early modern recipe books that can be downloaded in a searchable pdf. We currently have a number of texts that are either partially transcribed or fully transcribed but not completely vetted.  So, in working to complete these texts we will be offering a banquet of possibilities for those interested in learning more about early modern recipes and paleography.

In terms of transcription, we will begin with the L. Cromwell recipe book (Folger V.a.8), which is one third done, and then when it is finished we will move onto Margaret Baker manuscript (Folger Va619), which is approximately two thirds transcribed.


To make an Apple pudding. Cromwell Manuscript, Folger V.a.8, F37.

For advanced paleographers interested in learning the art of vetting, we will also be offering a number of texts to be vetted, first then Mary Cruso (Folger X.d.24) then Lady Castleton, and finally the recipe manuscript written by Lettice Pudsey (Folger V.a. 450).  We are, in short, offering a kind of smorgasbord of transcribing—or a “choose your own adventure” in early modern paleography with a mix of 21st century coding.

Please save the date, November 7, and stayed tuned for more information soon.   We hope you will join us.

Amy L. Tigner, University of Texas, Arlington