The Bacon Project

The Transcribers

Transcription of Folger MS V.a.621  began in EMROC classrooms in 2019 with Jennifer Munroe’s students at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and this book served as the “back-up” text in the fifth annual EMROC International Transcribathon after the completion of anonymous manuscript V.b. 400.

Biographical and Contextual Information

As Stephen Schmidt  has well contextualized this collection in his Manuscript Cookbooks Survey, there seems little need to repeat his work here, but we would like highlight two aspects of the text that are highly suggestive for the work of transcribing entire texts  and for seeing those texts in juxtaposition to others.  

For one, the collection combines both culinary and medicinal recipes. These different recipes at first have separate sections, then they come to occupy the same page.  Similarly, a manuscript that is of one hand gives way to many hands.  Also, the manuscript includes many cross-outs.  These practices suggest a book that began as one concerted effort of collection then became more of a collective endeavor.

The second point to be made comes with Lady Bacon’s personal history, summarized by Schmidt here: 

     The long-lived Lady Catherine (1660-1757) was a daughter of Samuel Pepys’s first 
     cousin and patron Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich. The earliest recipes in her
    book likely date from soon after her first marriage to Nicholas Bacon in the 1680s.
    Some of the later receipts are explicitly intended for Lady Catherine or her
    second  husband, Reverend Balthazar Gardeman such as “Doctor Meads
     prescription for Mr Gardemans virtigo” (page 271)  . . .

With such an extensive manuscript spanning not only decades but in that span also crossing between households, changes within the manuscripts would be expected. Yes, we see overt changes such as in hands and organization as indicated above, but it may also be interested if changes in material practice and items collected occur. A new husband brings with him new conditions to be treated (e.g. vertigo). He also carries, however, a difference in statues.  Not of a long and prestigious baronetcy, Reverend Gardeman must have provided much more modest means for Lady Catherine. 


Bacon, Catherine.  Receipt book of Catherine Bacon [manuscript], [ca. 1680s-1739]. V.a.631.

Schmidt, Stephen. “Receipt book of Catherine Bacon, ca. 1680s–1739.” Manuscript
     Cookbook Survey.