The Winche Project

Folger v.b. 366, front flyleaf.


The Winche manuscript was entirely transcribed (tripled-keyed) during our October 2015 transcribathon. The event took place at the Universities of Akron, Essex, Texas (Arlington) and Saskatchewan, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Huntington Library, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and elsewhere on planet earth! For a list of transcribers, go here. Since the transcribathon, a lot vetting and editing of the transcriptions has occurred through a summer undergraduate research grant from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs held by Monterey Hall.

Contextual and Biographical Information

The Winche manuscript is a folio-sized leather-bound notebook. A number of ownership notes connect the book to Rebeckah Winch (d. 1713), wife of Sir Humphrey Winch of Hawnes, Bedfordshire and Harlyeford, Buckinghamshire. Sir Humphrey, hailing from a legal family, was a member of parliament in the 1660s-80s. Rebeckah herself comes from a medical family. Her father, Martin Browne (c. 1590-1655) was an active medical practitioner in early modern London and appears in the Annals of both the London College of Physicians and the Barber-Surgeons. In the 1620s, Browne was brought in front of the College of Physicians repeated for dispensing and selling medicines. Browne was an important figure within the College of Barber-Surgeons. Not only was he a warden in 1640 and 1645 and Master in 1653, but he also donated one of the four “loving cups” in the possession of the Company. While in his dispute with Robert Fludd, he claims that he had been a doctor’s servant and later learned surgery under Peter Chamberlen; his will, which mentions the bequests of his surgical instruments and his medical books suggests that he was fairly well-read in contemporary medicine. The mentioned books included “fower books of phisick and of Chirurgery namelie Ambrose Parrey and Rondeletius and Aqua Sendens his mannuall operations and Tangaltius and others Authers all bound up in one volume…[and] the works of Hypocrates, Galen, Celsus, Paulus Agenta, ffernebens Senertus his Chirurgery” (Young, 546-7). Further research on Rebeckah Winche’s recipe book will enable us to gain further understanding into transfer of medical skills and knowledge from father to daughter. It might also enlighten our understanding of what it might mean to be “doctors’ daughter” in mid-seventeenth century London.

Internal evidence suggests that the Winches spent considerable time in London, unsurprisingly, near Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The book, mostly written in what presumably is Rebeckah’s hand, presents around 160 medical and culinary recipes. At the outset, Rebeckah attempted to organize her collection by grouping similar recipes together. Thus, she has a section for distilled waters, one for medicinal powders, another for preserving vegetables and fruit and a section for culinary recipes. However, as with many of her contemporaries, as her collecting practices progressed, these initially clearly delineated boundaries gradually dissolved. Her early attempts at categorizing medicinal and culinary knowledge can still be traced in the table of contents placed at the beginning of the volume. Rather helpfully, Rebeckah also offers future readers a table of common abbreviations for units of measurement such as a grain, a scruple, a pound etc.

Folger MS v.b.366, page 2.

Like keepers of many other such books, the Winches combined recipe knowledge with snippets of family history, and a detailed list of birth, baptisms and deaths is presented at the back of the book. Organized chronologically, the writer – most probably Rebeckah – begins the account by noting the death of her own parents and father-in-law and continues to list the births (and sadly, often deaths) of her children and grandchildren. Rebeckah seems to have remained on very close terms with her younger surviving daughter Rebeckah who married a member of parliament Sir Thomas Lawley. Many of the younger Rebeckah’s 13 children were born in her parents’ house but, alas, few survived into adulthood. The elder Rebeckah poignantly writes of her grandson Humphrey’s death:

he died the 4 of October 1682 to the unspeakable
greef of all that knew him, after he had liud 9
years in the innocencs of a childe but with the Judgment
& uertues of a man: he lies bureid in the ualt at
Aldermason. (Folger MS v.b. 366, 206)

The Winche notebook contains many of the common recipes circulating in the period including Lady Hewet’s water (2), the Countess of Kent’s Powder (31), Gascon’s Powder (32) and Lucatello’s Balsam (42). It also has a number of notable recipes including one for pancakes, requiring a pound of cream and a pound of butter, and a series of interesting “tests” and cures for the Kings Evil. Fascinatingly, it contains an early recipe for chocolate (123), which instructs makers to mix and grind toasted cacao nuts, ground cinnamon, Spanish Peper, sugar, vanilla, musk and ambergris together, shape into your desired form and then age for three months before eating (click here for the entire recipe). To learn more about some of our favorite recipes from the book go here to read some of blog posts students from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and the University of Texas, Arlington.

This text is now searchable in the LUNA Folger Manuscripts Transcriptions Collection.

Elaine Leong, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.


The book of Rebekah Winche is in the Folger Shakespeare Library. It is MS v.b. 366.  You can find images of the manuscript here.

For more on Martin Browne (particular his disputes with Fludd), see Margaret Pelling, Medical Conflicts in Early Modern London. Patronage, Physicians and Irregular Practitioners 1550-1640 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. A database accompanies the monograph:

Margaret Pelling and Frances White, ‘BROWNE, Martin,’ in Physicians and Irregular Medical Practitioners in London 1550-1640 Database (London: Centre for Metropolitan History, 2004). The biographies on the male members of the Winche family can be found in the History of Parliament Project (individual bios are hyperlinked above).

Martin Browne also appears in Sidney Young, The Annals of the Barber-Surgeons of London (London, 1890).

In the Press

The Winche manuscript is featured in a number of blog posts on the EMROC blog.

6 thoughts on “The Winche Project

  1. “click for here for the entire recipe” – will you be posting the link? It sounds interesting!

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