EMROC News from the Renaissance Society of America Conference

By Hillary Nunn

The Renaissance Society of American conference this spring showcased a fantastic series of presentations involving EMROC members and their research. Recipes were a real presence during the Chicago meeting, as were digital projects involving domestic texts.

First thing on April 1, The Society for the Study of Early Modern Women sponsored “Mobile Knowledge in Early Modern English Recipes.” Edith Snook (University of New Brunswick) detailed Lady Grace Mildmay’s access to plants – and cures – from the Americas, while and Madeline Bassnett (University of Western Ontario) traced Ann Fanshawe’s collection of Spanish recipes during her years as a diplomat’s wife. Lyn Bennett (Dalhousie University) offered a preview of her book Rhetoric, Medicine, and the Woman Writer, 1600-1700 (forthcoming from Cambridge later this year), detailing the ways that recipes helped women like the Countess of Exeter establish authority within a patriarchal world.

So, in short:

In the session that followed,
“Glimpsing Women’s Experience through Early Modern Recipe Manuscripts,”
Marissa Nicosia (Penn State Abington) helped audiences understand the complexity and appeal of a recipe for Portugal Eggs. After my own discussion of water in EMROC texts, Katie Walker from the University of North Carolina addressed recipe books as satire, concentrating on Cromwell’s allegedly overly homely wife as depicted in a recipe book attributed to – but most likely completely separate from – her household.

Later in the day, Maggie Simon (North Carolina State) offered a fantastic discussion of recipe transcription with the Dromio interface in The Phenomenality of Digital Transcription. In her panels, part of a series entitled New Technologies and Renaissance Studies, Maggie outlined her students’ experiences working with EMROC texts, highlighting the ways that transcription helped her students feel more at home with early modern texts.

Hillary Nunn is Professor of English at the University of Akron.

What is a Recipe?: A Recipes Project Virtual Conversation

The Recipes Project is a DH/HistSTEM blog devoted to the study of recipes from all time periods and places. Our readership and contributors highlight the growing scholarly and popular interest in recipes. Over the five years that the RP has been running, our authors have continued to revisit one key question: what exactly is a recipe?  How do we know one when we see one?  What is their structure? What functions do recipes serve? How are they shared and passed on? Are they a set of instructions, a way of life, or a story? Aspirational or frequently used? Prose, poem, or image? The list could go on!

A doctor on the telephone (which is linked up to a television screen) to a patient whom he can both observe and talk to from a distance; representing possible technological innovations. (D.L. Ghilchip, 1932.) Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

And the question becomes even more complicated when we consider  the ways that social media creates new and innovative formats for conversations about recipes, across disciplines, academic/non-academic boundaries, and the world. At the RP, we’ve found that blogging is a wonderful way for recipes scholars to share their work and interests, but we recognize its limits as static text.

Introducing… the Virtual Conversation

We would like to invite you – whatever your background – to join us in our first Recipes Project Virtual Conversation, which will take place across a series of online events over the course of one month (2 June to 5 July).

Modern Medicine Pamphlets, Recipes (1930s). Credit: Wellcome Library.

The month-long event will be framed by two more traditional panels of speakers. The first, “Repast and Present: Food History Inside and Outside the Academy,” will be convened at the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians in June. The second will be held in the UK in July, and will feature all of the RP’s editors.  We’ll record these two panels and post them online for discussion.

In between these panels, we’ll host a series of virtual events during which we flood social media with images, texts, and conversations about ‘What is a Recipe?’

Are you a visual person who loves Pinterest or Instagram? Or do you prefer the brevity and playfulness of Twitter? Do you use recipes in historical re-enactment, or try to reconstruct historical recipes in the lab? Are you a knitter who uses old patterns? Whether you’re a recipes scholar, or a recipes enthusiast, there is a place for you in our conference.

During the Virtual Conversation, we will be collecting and archiving presentations for a post-event exhibition site.

Types of Presentations

Designs for mince pies from Hannah Bisaker’s recipe book
1692. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

We are open to any form of online presentation on the topic of ‘What is a Recipe?’ You might use Twitter for poems, stories, or essays… Or Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat for photo-essays… Or YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook Live for videos… Or a blog forum… Or you might have another brilliant idea, which we’d love to hear!

Participation is open to ALL, whether you decide to present or to simply join the discussion.

How to Participate

Please register your interest in participating by contacting Recipes Project editors Lisa Smith and Laurence Totelin (historicalrecipes@gmail.com) by 30 April 2017.

In your email, please indicate your activity, medium, and (if any) preferred dates between 2 June and 5 July. In the interests of open participation, we are not vetting abstracts.

But in your application, please be detailed, because this will help us as we organise online activities, find participants, and ensure that we have permission to reproduce work on our exhibition site. Some virtual technical support may also be possible, depending on your needs.

We have reserved two hashtags for the conference: #recipesconf and #recipesproject. Please use these for all presentations and discussions, so participants can be sure to find each other.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Sites of Inspiration

If you’re looking for digital inspiration…

Funding for this conference has been provided by the University of Essex.

God in the Recipe

Written by Jana Jackson

The diverse uses of an early modern woman’s private space in the home, often termed her “closet,” are reflected in the writing she produced. A good Protestant woman, for example, was encouraged to take notes in her Bible and to also keep a commonplace book containing personal religious musings: “[Readers] were also trained to compile their own collections [of religious thoughts] on bound or loose-leaf pages, either following the subject headings of a trusted authority or devising a scheme that met their particular needs” (Sherman 75). These commonplace place books also contained recipes, both culinary and medicinal. In addition, women compiled “receipt books,” to prove their competency in domestic responsibilities. In keeping with the non-bifurcation of religion from quotidian life in the early modern period, some of these receipt books contain references to God, Bible verses, and other religious marginalia in addition to recipes.

Many extant receipt books, of course, contain no sermon notes or other spiritual prose. However, it is not uncommon for God to be included within the medical receipts even in these texts. Frances Catchmay’s manuscript is an excellent example of the frequent occurrence of God within a receipt as an essential ingredient for achieving the promised efficacy. In a receipt to cure the plague, for example, she instructs the reader to drink a “draught”of malmosey & treacle till he leave casting. . .and after give the patient adrawght of bournt malmsey without treacle, & so cast him into asweate, & let him be after kept very warme, & by the grace of god [italics mine] he shall have helpe (22r). Likewise, Mary Granville’s rendition of “Doctor Burges” plague water includes the phrase “under God trusting” to support her assertion that “this never did faile either man woman or child” (41r).

Cookery and medicinal recipes of the Granville family, MS V.a.430 Folger Shakespeare Library

Certainly, the desperate crisis of the descent of bubonic plague on a town makes exhortations to God, even among the non-religious, in the physics of plague waters understandable. Kevin Killeen, in fact, asserts that it was not uncommon for doctors to flee from infestations of the plague, leaving behind less wealthy citizens and, presumably, female domestic practitioners anxiously dispensing their homemade physic (194). Additionally, the plague was often viewed by early modern Protestants as a curse from God in punishment of sin, thus reinforcing the view that healing the disease cures both the body and soul (194). But “God as ingredient” occurs in receipts for less catastrophic (or contagious) diseases as well. For example, Margaret Baker’s receipt titled “For the fallinge downe of the mother” concludes with a claim that “it will help by the grace of god” (57r). These early modern Protestant women frequently acknowledge that without God’s help, physics treating a variety of diseases will fail.

The Receipt Book of Margaret Baker, MS V.a.419. Folger Shakespeare Library

God was, therefore, often thought to be a highly efficacious “ingredient” in early modern physic. A woman was extolled as truly pious if she demonstrated her faith in every aspect of her life, including, of course, the imitation of Christ achieved through healing the sick. Additionally, it contributed to the credibility of the value of the receipt itself. Arguably, male physicians were more likely to incorporate domestic physic into their own medical practices if the contributor was a pious woman who understood her place within the cultural/religious patriarchy.[1] Therefore, “God in the recipe” accomplished two important functions for an early modern Protestant woman: It “proved” her piety, and it lent authority in the male-dominated medical profession to her domestic medical practice.


Jana Jackson is a graduate student at the University of Texas, Arlington

Works Cited

Baker, Margaret. Receipt book of Margaret Baker. MS V.a.619. Folger Shakespeare Library, 1675(?). Web.

Catchmay, Lady Frances. A booke of medicens. MS184A. Wellcome Library, 1625(?). Web.

Grenville Family. Cookery and medicinal recipes of the Granville family. MS V.a.430. Folger Shakespeare Library, c.a. 1640. Web.

Killeen, Kevin. “Powder for Padlocks: The Rhetoric of Thanksgiving and the Politics of Flight in Caroline Plague.” Literature and Popular Culture in Early Modern England. Eds. Matthew Dimmock and Andrew Hadfield. Great Britain: MPG Books Group, 2009. 193-207. Print.

Sherman, William H. Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England. Philadelphia, PA: U of Pennsylvania P, 2008. MLA International Bibliography. Print.

[1] See, for example, Richard Banister’s encomium of Lady Grace Mildmay in his “Letter to the Reader” in A Treatise of One Hundred and Thirteen Diseases of the Eyes by Jacques Guillemeau.

To Make a Selebub

Written by Marissa Nicosia

Reposted from Cooking in the Archives

The day after Christmas I opened my laptop and started transcribing a page of Constance Hall’s recipe book, Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.a.20. I did this every day for twelve days as part of an Early Modern Recipes Online (EMROC) holiday Transcribathon. I transcribed sitting next to my sister-in-law, in the early morning hours before a pre-semester faculty meeting, after yoga, and at the end of a long day of preparation for the Modern Language Association conference. It was nice to pause amidst the festivity, work, and routine to transcribe a few pages of Constance Hall’s book. It’s not that I never complete transcriptions anymore – I transcribe lots of recipes for this site and other related projects – it’s just that I usually skim physical or digital recipe books looking for recipes I’m excited to cook, rather than transcribing everything on a page, fussing over abbreviations, musing about alternate spellings, and puzzling through tricky lines. Transcribing daily reconnected me to my research for this project in a new way, honed my skills, and, of course, added many recipes to my long “to cook” list.

The EMROC blog has a wonderful post with background information about Constance Hall and her manuscript.

Hall’s lovely, calligraphic title page is dated 1672. I decided to try this recipe for “selebub,” or syllabub first because syllabubs were all the rage in the last decades of the seventeenth century when Hall compiled her manuscript. Alyssa’s “Solid Sillibib” post offers an excellent account of this syllabub craze and she includes many transcribed recipes from other manuscripts as examples of the trend. I’m also tipping my hat to Gina Patnaik and Lili Loofbourow whose epic quest to make a birch whisk to stir their syllabub over at The Awl still leaves me in awe.


The Recipe


To make selebubbe
Take 2 quarts of cream and sweet[en]
it and put it in to a bason and squise
in to lemons in to it and on of the p[eel]
put in a quarter of a pint of sack and
put in one drop of oring flower water
take out the lemon whip it with a cl[ean]
whiske and put it in your glasses halfe
this will fill seauen

Our Recipe

Since the recipe notes that it will fill seven syllabub glasses half full (serving seven), I quartered the recipe. These proportions produced a quart of syllabub. I also guessed on the sugar and used sherry for the sack.

2 c cream (1 pint)
1/3 c sugar
half a lemon: peel cut into long strips, then juiced
2 T sherry (for the sack)
1/4 t orange blossom water
Optional: extra grated zest (orange and/or lemon) to serve

Stir together the cream, sugar, lemon juice, sherry, and orange blossom water. Add the lemon peel. Let sit for 1 hour.

Remove the lemon peel. Whisk until a stiff foam forms using a standing mixer, a handheld mixer, or a whisk. Serve in small glasses or bowls.


The Results

The most decadent whipped cream I’ve ever tasted: This is my best effort at describing the syllabub. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It’s slightly boozy, but grounded by the acidity of the lemon and the unavoidable creaminess of the, well, cream.

I want to spoon it over chocolate ice cream. I want to spread it on dense, rich cake. I want to serve it with poached or roasted fruit. Basically, I want to eat it in the least seventeenth-century way possible. I’m not especially interested in sipping or spooning it from a glass. I’m curious to see what happens with the rest of the batch over the weekend.

marissa-7 marissa-8marissa-9

Marissa Nicosia is an Assistant Professor of Renaissance Literature at Penn State University, Abington

What a Year!


princess-leiaWelcome to 2017!  2016, as brutal as it was on our cultural icons, was a productive, exciting year for the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective.  Hundreds of pages were transcribed and vetted by students, members, and paleographers; eight classrooms participated in the work of keying and contextualizing.  The second annual EMROC transcribathon successfully triple-keyed a lengthy and fascinating manuscript, and the first transcribathon of the Early Modern Paleography Society (EMPS) transcribed another.  Undergraduate research assistants and graduate student researchers, old and new, enhanced the team throughout the year.  All brought us within a lightsaber length of fulfilling our goal of 10 manuscripts completed by the end of 2017!

Last year, students across the United States and Great Britain engaged the manuscripts of Margaret Baker, Mistress Corlyon, Elizabeth Bulkeley, Constance Hall and others in fulfilling our “connected classrooms” mission.  Margaret Baker’s fascinating mid-seventeenth- century collection has been worked on by undergraduates at the University of Texas–Arlington, University of Colorado–Colorado Springs, and Pennsylvania State University–Abington in parallel with students at the University of Essex under the guidance of their respective professors Amy Tigner, Rebecca Laroche, Marissa Nicosia, and Lisa Smith. In the spring, undergraduates at North Carolina State worked with Maggie Simon on the eclectic text of Constance Hall; the Honors students at Pacific Lutheran University, under the direction of Nancy Simpson-Younger, and undergraduates at Bennington College, working with Carol Pal, engaged the learned text of Mistress Corlyon. Meanwhile, the challenging secretary hand of Elizabeth Bulkeley was tackled by undergraduates at UCCS and graduate students at UTA, and the Early Modern Paleography Society (EMPS) of the University of North Carolina–Charlotte contributed transcriptions across the EMROC projects.

Last year also witnessed the great success of two transcribathons and other transcription initiatives.  In April, EMPS held its first annual transcribathon and conference, in which recipes were explored in their textual and material valences and a transcription of the anonymous eighteenth-century manuscript Folger W.b.653 was completed. castleton-1 In October, the second annual EMROC transcribathon successfully triple-keyed the Castleton manuscript (Folger V.a.600) and a most exciting connection was discovered between this manuscript and the subject of last year’s event, the Winche manuscript (Folger V.B.366). The husbands of both households joined Parliament in the significant year 1661, Lord Castleton joining the House of Lords, Humphrey Winche, the House of Commons. The comparison of the two manuscripts thus introduces unprecedented research opportunities.  Finally, “Thankful Thanksgiving” and “The Twelve Days of EMROC,” highlighted many gastronomical delights and moved the Constance Hall manuscript nearly to completion.

The progress made through the work of individual undergraduate and graduate researchers in 2016 cannot be underestimated.  The continued crucial work of Julia Jaegle at the Max Planck Institute was fortified by the arrival of University of Leeds history graduate student, Giovanni Pozzetti, in August for a month-long residency at the Institute. Mr. Pozzetti provided valuable help in resolving major technical issues, transcribing difficult handwriting, and vetting triple-keyed pages. Also appreciated are the contributions of Monterey Hall in a summer internship at UCCS in which she composed the introduction to the Baker Project and vetted most of the Winche manuscript. And Jessie Foreman at the University of Essex worked on various EMROC projects with Lisa Smith. Beyond this critical work, EMROC members continue to inform the broader academic community of their research and classroom findings, presenting at the MLA, RSA, Shakespeare Association of America, and the Society for the Social History of Medicine this past year, as well as a very specific conference on manuscript cookbooks at New York University in May (see News and Events for details).

In our first in-person meeting in October of 2015, the steering committee articulated a goal of having ten manuscripts database ready by the end of 2017.  In this year’s meeting, it became clear to us that this goal is certainly attainable. A growing number of classrooms are involved in our exciting work. Rob Wakeman’s courses at the University of South Florida and David Goldstein’s at York University are now joining with four other scheduled classes this spring, and Individual students at PSUA, NCSU, and PCU are undertaking independent research. More classrooms than any other semester will be involved, and EMPS has planned their second transcribathon for the end of March.  As a result, the steering committee has made vetting a focus, hoping to enlist various members and advanced students in the work of bringing these transcriptions to their best possible form. For what makes our goals most realizable is the partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s EMMO project, and as I write this, the EMMO beta has been launched!  screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-8-57-51-pm-copyEMROC steering committee members will be presenting in the May conference celebrating the event. And, in the coming year, we will begin to see EMROC’s manuscripts in their vetted searchable form, the realization of our hard work of this past year, the years before, and the years to come.


By Rebecca Laroche
University of Colorado–Colorado Springs