A Collection of Choise Receipts : manuscript, circa 1680-1700

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Manuscript Location
New York Academy of Medicine, Rare Book Room (folio)
Place of Origin
Date of Composition
1680 - 1700
This late seventeenth century English manuscript is divided into two parts: "A Collection of Choise Receipts" and "A Book of Physical Receipts." Both parts include an index at the end. The book is exceedingly grand. It is written in a beautiful hand, possibly that of a professional scribe, in a leather-bound folio volume with an engraved brass clasp. A second identical copy of this manuscript is said to be held by the Wellcome Library, in London.

The first section contains approximately 390 recipes on 254 numbered pages. Somewhat surprising for such a lavishly produced volume, this section appears to have been copied directly from a household recipe book, for the recipes are not organized with respect to type. They include, for example, three attempts at the same cake. The first two of these attempts, on pages 167 and 175, were evidently judged unsatisfactory but the third, on page 187, a happy success, for the third recipe concludes with the triumphant line, penned in large bold characters: "The receipt is approved of." About half of the recipes in this section of the manuscript are culinary; the remainder concern medicines, perfumes, cosmetics, sweet bags, and household supplies. Approximately 131 of the culinary recipes concern articles for sweets banquets, particularly fruit preserving (39 recipes); wines, liqueurs, and non-medicinal waters and syrups (40 recipes); and cakes and biskets (24 recipes). Recipes for the principal courses of the meal number fifty-four, the largest categories being puddings (10 recipes) and meat, poultry, or fish preparations (16 recipes, including sauces). Recipes for mead, metheglin, ale, beer, and other drinks comprise another 19 recipes. 

While the manuscript seems mostly to date from the late 17th century, several recipes in the first section look forward to the 18th century: "To make Fry'd Cream," "Mrs. Cleave Receipt to make Potatoe Bread" (no indication if the potatoes are sweet or Irish), and "To make gam of cherries." (OED gives 1736 as the first use of the word "jam" in any spelling, though the word in fact appears in a number of late seventeenth century manuscripts.) At least one recipe in the first section was copied from a printed source: "To roast a shoulder of mutton in blood," which appears in The Compleat Cook, published in 1655. The initials "J. H." are written adjacent to at least ten recipes in this section of the manuscript. Many recipes are attributed, some to persons of the nobility.

The second part contains approximately 781 medical recipes written on 214 numbered pages. Various diseases and conditions are addressed, including ague, bleeding, consumption, colic, dropsy, fits, fever, plague, pox, and stone.