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They can be noted on the front and back flyleaves of printed volumes, embedded within letters, commonplace books and miscellanies, and collected and organised within bound manuscript notebooks. A study of recipes provides us with a vivid picture of daily activities in the early modern household, and a sense of the diverse tasks carried out by men and women in the homes of the middling and upper sorts. At the same time, the study of recipe collections is also a study of a literary genre.
It is revealing of the way in which similar texts such as commonplace books and miscellanies were compiled, transcribed and disseminated, as well as the interrelationship between manuscript and print. The selection of 89 manuscripts from the Folger Shakespeare Library presented here comprise of a diverse range of texts. The majority of these manuscripts date from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with a small number of entries from the late sixteenth century.
The earlier manuscripts include the commonplace book of John Conybeare MS v. The latter seems to have circulated in multiple copies and may have been based upon a manuscript used in Benedictine monasteries as a guide for charitable medical activities. Most of the notebooks presented here have complex histories, in terms of authorship, compilation methods and contents, making fascinating studies for medical historians, food historians and literary scholars alike.
While a large proportion of the notebooks, especially those which present culinary information, within this selection are associated with female compilers, there are a number of collections which were created and owned by men. Economic circumstances perhaps more delineated who might have collected and created these notebooks.
Putting together one of these collections was certainly an activity which was restricted to particular social circles of men and women who not only were able to read and write and afford the writing materials, but also had the leisure time to collect, record and compile. The instructions to make these medicaments — recipes — were readily available from a variety of sources. As a number of the entries in the Folger collection show, one of the most common ways of recipe exchange was through correspondence. Recipes were often sent as part of a set of epistolary medical consultations between patients and their physicians.
In addition, he told her to take possett drink with white wine and scurvy grass, brookelime and horse radish root. Culinary and medical advice was commonly included in letters between friends and amongst family members. Similarly, manuscript y.
Recipes also feature in well-known networks of correspondence such as the one centred upon Samuel Hartlib. Social occasions proved to be sites for recipe exchange. Archdale Palmer, a gentleman from Leicestershire who compiled a recipe collection dating from the s, gathered recipes from all types of social events. Certain entries in his recipe collection betray the fact that dinner guests would contribute to the collection after the meal. On 16 April , for example, he visited a Dr Bowles and his wife in Oundle and collected recipes for a cordial and two recipes dealing with sore teeth and mouth cankers in children.
Aside from the collection of single recipes, householders may also come by ready-made collection of recipes through personal bequests. These notebooks were often passed within the family from one generation to another and thus were created by multiple owners over a long period of time.
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The notebook of Jane Staveley v. Manuscript v. A final example of this practice is the intriguing inscription on the title-page of manuscript v. While historians have emphasised the bequest of recipe collections down matrilineal lines, that is by no means the only way in which collections changed hands. There are cases of male compilers creating notebooks of practical information for their daughters.
A good example is the two notebooks copied by Sir Peter Temple for his daughter Eleanor which present not only medical and culinary recipes and medical advice as to the efficacy of the drugs.
Folger dissertation seminary
One good example is the collection of Lady Frances Catchmay which has inscribed on the first folio:. In witness that this was her request, I have thereunto sett my hand at the delivery of the sayd bookes. The inscription reveals that the gift of these books to William Catchmay came with the responsibility to disseminate the knowledge contained within. Frances Catchmay does not merely pass her collection to her eldest daughter or son but to all her children, hinting at the high worth she placed upon medical and culinary know how. The act of gathering, selecting and constructing a recipe collection was therefore strongly influenced by personal, social and practical circumstances.
Compilers came into contact with recipes through their family and acquaintances and thus recipes circulated in a somewhat controlled arena. While recipes no doubt passed both above and below stairs and between commercial and lay medical practitioners, the exact recipes which compilers could get their hands on depended on whom they met and what sorts of recipes their acquaintances might possess.
The general mix up of recipes means that it is fairly difficult to separate out these strands when it comes to looking at recipe collections. In line with other compiled texts such as commonplace books and miscellanies, the size and content of manuscript recipe collections varied according to the interests of the creator.
Some collections were handsome folio volumes bound in gilded leather; others were unbound gatherings of quarto papers; others, small octavo notebooks. While a small number of collections were dedicated to either medical or culinary recipes, most of the notebooks contain a mixture of information useful for the everyday running of a household.
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Sixteenth Century Journal Fall Journal of the Northern Renaissance. Spring Sixteenth Century Journal. Folger Shakespeare Library. Keynote Invitation for Jean Howard and Dr. Pamela Smith.
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Shakespeare , 2 sections. British Literature Survey: Medieval to 18th Century Nathan Braccio is a Ph. He received his B. His research focuses on the conflux of geography and identity in 17th and 18th century New England. More information on his research can be found on his webpage nathanbraccio. Contact him at nathan.
Bethany Packard - Andrew W Mellon Foundation Research Fellowship 2009
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