The Bulkeley Project


The Bulkeley Project was begun in January 2015 when Katrina Rutz, then a senior at the University of Colorado Springs, received a Student-Faculty Research grant with Rebecca Laroche to contextualize and begin transcription on the Wellcome manuscript. During Spring term 2016, students at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in a course on Digital Research Methods in Historical Recipes continued the work of transcription and research around this fascinating manuscript.

Contextual and Bibliographical Information

Wellcome MS 169, Image 3
Wellcome, MS 169, Image 3

Thus, in one of its first pages, the name Elizabeth Bulkeley, or Bulckley christens a manuscript edging towards its four hundredth year (above), Wellcome MS 169. Unfortunately, the identity of Bulkeley remains yet unknown.

What little is known about Bulkeley is through her recipes collection, “A Booke of Hearbes and Receipts.” Hers is a signature of ownership, not of authorship. The manuscript is a volume (7 x 5 in)

of forty leaves bound in modern vellum covers compiled in 1627 (Moorat). The first twenty-three entries of the manuscript significantly sets it apart from other manuscripts of her time (Laroche).

Despite being written with a different hand (Compiler A) than Bulkeley’s, the predominance of the beginning entries is based upon the application of a synthesized version of a larger published volume: John Gerard’s 1597 Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (below) (Laroche).

John Gerard's herbal (1633)
John Gerard’s herbal (1633)

In 1597, Gerard (1545-1612) integrated American plants into his Herball, a great contribution during a time when the discovery of previously unknown plants were being familiarized. The general desire for greater accuracy in publication led Thomas Johnson to revise The Herball, his revision issued in 1633, and again in 1636, since it was so well received. Along with the introduction of American plant species, The Herball contributed newly acquired words to the English language. Gerard’s edition (1597) contributed 1169 words to English and Johnson’s 1633 edition gave English 162 new additions (Tersigni).

Herbals were expected to educate on locations of plants, introducing the concept of geographical variation and distribution to England. A high valued genre, the market for herbals grew with the interest in classical botany that spread to include the new additions of plants from America. Another advancement in the herbal genre was the inclusion of information on garden varieties, a record of European horticultural activity (Elliot).

In the opening entries of “A Booke of Hearbes and Receipts,” the consolidated list of herbs in Compiler A’s hand is almost directly copied from Gerard’s Herball. Evidence of their origins is inherent from the inclusion of each herbal entries’ “temperature” and “virtue”. Even so, the Bulkeley text has disconnected the authoritative source from the manuscript by deleting Gerard’s name entirely. Thereafter, the knowledge written gives agency to Bulckley and her scribe (Laroche).

The appropriation of Gerard’s Herball was not meant to be plagiarism in effect. Instead, the act of copying may disclose the process of learning or the practice of selection (Elliot). The process of selection is a more likely given the surrounding household and economic context and may reflect the owner or compiler’s personal medical knowledge (Laroche).

Later within the manuscript, Bulkeley adds to the herbal entries more herbal and preserve recipes. Later entries are titled by the disease they cure, a distinction from the earlier entries which are titled by ingredient. For example, Folio 24r is the beginning section of her preserve recipes. The page opens with “There are six thinges wch are spetially to be noted in preserving,” on the ingredient sugar (below).

Wellcome MS 169, Image 39
Wellcome MS 169, Image 39

Although the Bulkeley remedy book leaves much to speculation because the name of Compiler A is unknown as well as the biography of Elizabeth Bulkeley, the entries in the manuscript indicates the compiler was someone pointedly interested in the cultivation and usage of herbs (Laroche).

Katrina Rutz, B.A., University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (first composed, May 2015)
(revised) Rebecca Laroche, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (June 2016)


The book of Elizabeth Bulkeley is at the Wellcome Library. It is Wellcome MS 169, where you can see an image of the entire text.

Elliott, Brent. “The World of the Renaissance Herbal.” Renaissance Studies 25.1 (2011): 24-41.

Wiley Online Library. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Web. <>.

Laroche, Rebecca. “Introduction.” Medical Authority and Englishwomen’s Herbal Texts,1550-1650. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009. Print.

Moorat, S.A.J. Elizabeth Bulkeley. 2004. MS 169. London. The Library at Wellcome Collection. Web. <>.

Tersigni, Elisa, and Eduardo Fabbro. “John Gerard’s The Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes (1633).” Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies. Ed. Randall McLeod. Victoria University in the University of Toronto, 20 Sept. 2012. Web. <>.

In the press:

Rebecca Laroche on the entries from Gerard in the Bulkeley Manuscript, Medical Authority and Englishwomen’s Herbal Texts, 1550-1650 (Ashgate Publishing, 2009).

Various posts on the Elizabeth Bulkeley recipe book on the EMROC blog.



2 thoughts on “The Bulkeley Project

  1. Is the transcription of Bulkeley available to other researchers? I am interested in the culinary pages numbered 24 to 33 in the manuscript.

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