Receipt book of Catherine Bacon, ca. 1680s - ca. 1739

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Manuscript Location
Folger Shakespeare Library, Manuscripts
Holding Library Call No.
Manuscript Cookbooks Survey Database ID#
Place of Origin
Date of Composition
ca. 1680s-ca. 1739
Lady Catherine's receipt book is in two parts. The front of the book contains 337 numbered pages (pages 284-324 are blank) of medical and culinary recipes, as well as separate medical and culinary indexes on pages 330-337. The back of the book comprises 22 written pages of medical recipes, written from back to front and upside-down in relation to the front. The book is in a number of different hands. The sources of many of the recipes are credited.

The culinary recipes are concentrated on pages 35-89, pages 101-108, and pages 188 to 249, although there are additional culinary recipes scattered throughout. The recipes comprise a wide range of preparations, including  meat and fish dishes, ham cures (three on page 233), vegetables, puddings, pickles, fruit preserves, dessert jellies and creams, little dessert cakes, plum and seed cakes, cheeses, possets, wines, and beers.  There are a number of interesting recipes. "To make a transendant Cake" (page 53) is a large yeast-raised currant cake of unusual richness that perhaps tasted something like a modern scone. "My Lord's way to Bake Hare" (page 58) is essentially hare rillettes. "To butter eggs with oranges" (page 228) is scrambled egg yolks with orange juice and a little sugar and ambergris. It can be served hot on sippets [toast] or cold without sippets, in the latter guise possibly as a dessert. There are ragoos (fancy stews finished with mushrooms, capers, pistachios, or other tidbits) of goose, turkey, pig, lamb, tench, veal loin, tripe, and calves' or sheeps' feet on pages 242-243. The ragoo sauces are variously thickened with egg yolks, as was typical in the seventeenth century, or with flour, as was typical in the eighteenth century, marking these recipes as transitional between two distinct culinary periods. A recipe for potted beef on page 202 is dated 1703; one for oatmeal flummery molded in cups on page 230 is dated 1710; and one for "Lemon Tourt" [tart] on page 266 is dated 1717.

The medical recipes address a variety of maladies and complaints, including plague, headaches, sores, convulsions, female infertility, and breast cancer. There are also recipes for perfumes.

The long-lived Lady Catherine (1660-1757) was a daughter of Samuel Pepys's first cousin and patron Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich. The earliest recipes in her book likely date from soon after her first marriage to Nicholas Bacon in the 1680s. Some of the later receipts are explicitly intended for Lady Catherine or her second husband, Reverend Balthazar Gardeman, such as "Doctor Meads prescription for Mr Gardemans virtigo" (page 271) and "Doctor Hays Receipt for the eyes given to Mrs Bacon anno 1721" (page 273).

The latest dated recipe in the book is "Anno 1738-9 Evening Post against the small-Pox to prevent infection" (page 281).