Rebeckah Winche and The King’s Evil

By Jordan Ivie

Rebeckah Winche’s receipt book (Folger Vb 366) includes three recipes on page 62 that relate to the King’s Evil, one that detects the malady and two that cure it. These recipes consist of many ingredients that seem strange to the modern reader, including the leg of a live toad, turpentine, and worms; the oddest ingredient, however, was “the urine of a man childe he being not aboue 3 years old.” The recipe instructs that 3 spoonfulls of this urine be added to beeswax, turpentine, sheep’s suet, and barley flower, and then the whole concoction is boiled and formed into a plaster to lay on the patient’s sore. Putting aside any consideration of the efficacy of using urine in a remedy, the fact that it is included in a recipe for the King’s Evil says a great deal about early modern conceptions of the masculine body’s healing powers.

A remedy for the King’s Evil is already a recipe that speaks to the period’s faith in masculine curative powers. The King’s Evil, or scrofula, was commonly thought to be curable by the touch of the king (OED); therefore this malady is already charged with preconceptions related to both gender and class: the male ruler is a healer, spreading wellness to the common people. The belief interacts with the notion of using the urine of a man-child, specifically of a child younger than three years old. The ingredient is not related to class or authority, as is the general concept of the King’s Evil, but to age and gender, and perhaps the age restriction relates to purity or cleanliness. Nevertheless the common factor between the King’s touch and the man-child’s urine is gender. Rebekah Winche’s receipt book manifests the time’s preoccupation with gender and healthcare not only in this King’s Evil recipe but also in the one that follows it, which calls for a leg cut from a live frog and tied around the sufferer’s neck. Interestingly, “if it be a boy or man that is greeued then woman must kill the toade but if a girle or woman be ill then a man must kill it.” This recipe, unlike the preceding one, ascribes a degree of healing power to both men and women and highlights the idea that gender is as essential as the ingredients themselves; further, male bodies must aid in the healing of female bodies and female bodies are necessary to heal male bodies.

The presence of three separate recipes on this page show the prevalent fear and perhaps the common occurrence of the King’s Evil in the early modern period, and, while one recipe does give both men and women roles in the healing process, the use of the King’s touch and the urine of a man child as remedies suggest that early moderns put a great deal of faith in the male body’s ability to heal both sexes; somehow, health and vitality are not only inherent in maleness but also transferrable, able to overcome even the most dreaded and debilitating diseases.

Jordan Ivie, Master’s Student at the University of Texas, Arlington and student in Professor Amy Tigner’s graduate class, “Culinary Shakespeare”


Observations about EMROC’s 2015 Transcribathon

By Erin Adwell

EMROC’s interactive Humanities Transcribathon project proved highly engaging and illuminating both sociologically and literarily. During the event, I transcribed three pages of recipes from Rebeckah Winche’s receipt book, while sitting with a group of fellow graduate students at the University of Texas, Arlington. Because most ingredients were familiar, the transcription was relatively straight-forward. The ease by which I transcribed these recipes can be attributed to practicing receipt transcription through Cambridge University’s English Handwriting 1500-1700: An online course. By transcribing alone and in small groups then reviewing the work with classmates, I gained valuable experience with problematic letters, such as Hs and Ws, which helped during the Transcribathon.

While transcribing Winche’s recipes I was finally able to move beyond the letters to begin constructing meaning for the first time. I began paying attention to the content and processes described in the recipes. Although, the ingredients on the pages I transcribed were familiar and consisted primarily flowers like Rosemary, several of my classmates encountered strange ingredients. For example, one classmate transcribed a recipe that included the “urin of a man chile,” which was intended to cure the “King’s Evil.” A simple Google search of “King’s Evil” produced images of large, scabby boils on the skin, so I can understand how desperate people would have been to cure the condition. These recipes help elucidate the harsh reality of life during the seventeenth century.

King's Evil Scrofula

The most memorable of the recipes that I transcribed from Winche’s receipt book was for Agua Mirabilis. Agua Mirabilis is not listed in the OED; however, Merriam-Webster explains that it is a distilled cordial of old pharmacy made of spirits, sage, betony, balm, and other aromatic ingredients. An interesting note precedes the recipe, saying that Richard Marns “makes a water which helps children from Convultions and sends directions with it.” This information provided context for the recipe’s origin and aroused my interest in Winche’s life. I looked up Richard Marns’s name in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, but the search wielded no results, which was disappointing. Following the Transcribathon, my knowledge of Winche’s personal life remains limited to my own inferences. I look forward to reading her fully transcribed recipe book to learn more about her world.

Erin Adwell, Graduate Student, University of Texas, Arlington


Transcribathon: Recaptured, Reflected, and Envisioned

By Vincent Sosko

The group transcribing work done in our conference room several weeks ago was the first such experience for all eight graduate students from the University of Texas, Arlington. Group work was no stranger to us, but never before had we taken part in a textual archeological dig within such an immense group effort. This ‘dig’ is better termed paleography, and our work with this study so far this semester prepared us for the transcribing we would do that day. Over a month or so of transcribing practice has introduced me to another element of scholarly work, given me exposure to new ingredients for cooking and new conventions of writing, and ultimately allowed me to hone my transcription skills into my own personal style of transcribing, albeit the style of a fledgling. It was not until the day of the Transcribathon that I had considered or realized that my peers were developing their own personal transcribing styles as well.

While uncovering the pages of the receipt book of Rebeckah Winche, we did so on an individual basis where each person selected their own pages and set about the act of transcribing. What our work became was anything but individual, as we held an open line of conversation about the unique remedies to bizarre maladies. Jason, Jordan, and Erin offered up the most intriguing recipes, leading Jayson to dub them the “lucky ones” for encountering those grotesque recipes we all love to read (i.e. a remedy calling for “Bearsfoot” and “pigs blader”). We also openly discussed the troubling words, flourishes, and conventions that others may have had a better sense of understanding. The debates that these struggles led to and the suggestions that came from them was where I clearly saw the very personal ways that we see the handwriting and thus the differing styles of transcribing emerged. Where one transcriber was able to see the dual application of the u/v convention that aided another transcriber who might have been flummoxed when encountering this (such as seeing “couer” and misreading cover as cower and therefore being contextually confused), there was a transcriber who had developed a routine to interpret ‘thorns’ that lent itself to others. These differing transcription styles came together to vivify paleography for me, and what we were creating was much more than an in depth collection of transcribed recipes.

This bonding we had over our work on the pages, supported by the bonding over the large variety of snacks available, provided me with a new sense of scholarly work that I have not had much exposure to yet; one in which we receive more joy and intellectual reward in the journey than in the destination. To think that the work we did within our four walls was connected to a worldwide network of the same journey helps me realize now just how the Transcribathon exemplified the potential of scholarship for those who continue in academia.

Vincent Sosko, PhD student, University of Texas, Arlington

The Winche Manuscript: What’s Next?

By Rebecca Laroche

Ninety-three transcribers! 208 pages triple-keyed! Tweets and stewed pigeons, chocolate and perfume, what a marvelous transcribathon we had!  So what’s next?

Collation page currently in beta on Dromio.

Collation page currently in beta on Dromio.

First, comes collation and vetting, as well as an answer to a question that has probably been burning for many of you: “Why so many keyings?” Having three keyings expedites and boosts the vetting process. With three keyings not only can vetters highlight areas that are in disagreement, they can also predict what is likely to be the correct resolution of that dispute.

As the transcription software EMROC is using, Dromio, is still in its beta stages, the vetting mechanism remains a work in progress, but as this mechanism is close to completion, we hope to turn soon to this editing stage.

At the same time collators determine the best possible transcription, they will be adding XML tags within the transcribed text. Those of you who were part of the transcribathon already contributed many of these every time you noted a thorn, a tilde, a place, or a name, etc., but in the time leading up to the transcribathon, members of the steering committee met with the Folger’s Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) team about formulating additional tags specific to recipe books.

Row of new tags added for EMROC

Row of new tags added for EMROC

The list we came up with is the following: diseases (plague, sore throat, etc.), ingredients (rosemary, man’s skull, etc.), processes (boil, distill, dry, etc.), seasonal time (Michaelmas, May, harvest, etc.), quantities (handful, dram, penny’s worth, etc), and efficacy statements (probatum est, saved a life, etc.). As EMROC collators edit the texts, they will insert these recipe-specific tags, allowing us to search within these categories as the database grows.

Finally, as EMROC’s collection grows to include more manuscripts, we want to provide a rich context for understanding its contents. Currently, Elaine Leong is researching and

Rebeckah Winche family from the recipe collection.

Rebeckah Winche family from the recipe collection. Folger MS Vb366.

writing a general contextual essay for the Winche project, which includes general biographical and bibliographical information as well as the groups that have worked on transcription, and we try to do this for each manuscript introduced into the EMROC queue. Subsequent to this general contextual essay, moreover, posts around each project will appear in EMROC’s blog. The vision is something along the lines of the thematic series in the Recipes Project Hillary Nunn and I have been writing around the College of Physicians manuscript ( The writing of these posts does not have to be limited to one or two authors, however. Right now, graduate students at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and the University of Texas, Arlington are working on entries on Winche that will situate individual recipes and illuminate historical details within a larger context. Our hope is that as these posts are entered onto EMROC’s webpage and tagged, they will provide a context for understanding not only the unique manuscript but also the larger recipe database.

So what’s next? The sustained work of the collective. Yes, there are other manuscripts waiting in the wings to be transcribed. As this post hopes to reveal, however, the collective is not just dedicated to transcribing seventeenth-century manuscripts, as much fun as it can be. In creating an “accessible and searchable corpus of recipe books currently in manuscript,” EMROC hopes to create layers of connectivity: among the recipe collections and among the collective’s members. So thank you to all who participated in the transcribathon October 7. You all made it a truly thrilling event. Whether or not you participated in the transcribathon, if you have interest in participating in EMROC’s ongoing efforts, be it in individual or group transcription, vetting and tagging, or contextualization, do send a note to

The Transcribathon in Numbers… and Names

By Lisa Smith

The final counts are in for the Transcribathon.

There were a total of ninety-three transcribers who joined us on October 7, from five countries (Australia, Canada, Germany, U.K., U.S.).

The Winche Manuscript has sixty-five images, which included 208 pages, plus cover pages and interleaves. Transcribers started to work on 313 images and completed a total of 269 images. On average, every page was completely transcribed four times… That surpassed our goal of triple-keying the entire book!

Over the course of the day, there were three transcription sprints. The winner of the first was Rose Hadshar and the winner of the others was Breanne Weber.

Well done, everyone! I’m so pleased to have worked with you. Thank you for participating in our Transcribathon.

Doctor and Mrs Syntax, with a party of friends, experimenting with laughing gas. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Doctor and Mrs Syntax, with a party of friends, experimenting with laughing gas. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

List of Credits

Erin Abell, Katherine Allen, Sam Barcenas, Maria Blumberg, Christ Boettcher, Meghan Brown, Meghan Carafano, Jennifer Caro-Barnes, Jayson Carroll, Daniel Cattell, Jonathan Cey, Melissa Christine Schulteis, Justin Colson, Kim Connor, Maya Cope-Crisford, Nicholas de Courville, Morgan DeKlyen, Paul Dingman, Taryn Dollings, Julie Drew, Alexandre Dube, EMMO, Njaal Frilseth, Kailey Fukushima,  Erin Gallagher Cahoon, Clare Griffin, Rose Hadshar, Monterey Hall, Kayla Hardy-Butler, Amanda Herbert, Jason Hogue, Jordan Ivie, Jana Jackson, Julianna Jaegle, Robin Kello, Helen Kemp, Jenny Kimura, Katja Krause, Casey Kuhajda, Tayra Lanuza, Rebecca Laroche, Deborah Leslie, Lina Malmo, Hope McCarthy, Kat McDonald-Miranda, Brid McGrath, Jake Millar, Adam Mosley, Jennifer Munroe, Allison Needles, Marissa Nicosia, Hillary Nunn, Sally Osborn, Tawny Paul, Sara Pennell, Melissa Perkins, Mitchell Ploskonka, PLUBookin Society, Shelan Porter, Daniel Powell, Emily Rendek, David Rundle, Julianna Schaus, Jacqueline Schoenfeld, Hui Shen, Kim Shrive, Haley Schultz, Margaret Simon, Kailan Sindelar, Alanna Skuse, Lisa Smith, Joul Smith, Vince Sosko, Kalea Steffe, Katie Stephan, Anne Stobart, Caroline Stone, Elizabeth Tevlin, Amy Tigner, Amanda Torres, Raff Viglianti, Alice Violett, Emily Wahl, Julie Wakefield, Terran Warden, Breanne Weber, Abbie Weinberg, Christopher Whittick, Ann Elizabeth Wiener, Lizzy Williamson, Rachel Winchcombe, Heather Wolfe, Ada Wong

Note: There are two notable absences from the list of transcribers: Elaine Leong and Erin Spinney. Although they were not transcribing, they were working behind the scenes to keep everyone on track!