I was interviewed by Andy Twigge for BBC Radio Derby today and we discussed a few recipes from our many historical recipe books. I made a couple of things for him to try: one was the gluten-free rice cake which I’ve blogged about before, and the other was Jumbles from Mary Swanwick’s 1740s recipe.
The one I didn’t make, but rather tickled me, was from a seventeenth century book. It’s from the archive of the Gell family of Hopton Hall and like all such home recipe books, it contains a mix of medicinal and cookery recipes. I would strongly recommend that you don’t try this one at home.
Reference no: D258/32/15/1
Here’s my transcription with modernised spelling and punctuation:
Mrs Evelyn’s excellent powder for Convulsion Fits
Take a dozen young moles, flay them, draw them and quarter them, lay them abroad in a dish and dry them in an oven until they will powder. Take elecampane root, cleanse, slit and dry them in an oven to powder. Take red peony roots and Jews ears [a kind of mushroom], powdered after the same manner. Take also a little of the of a healthy woman when it is burnt to powder. Beat them severally and take of each powder a like quantity by weight. Mix them well together and keep them close tied up for use.
Take of it 3 mornings before and after the full and change, in a spoonful of black cherry water as much as will lie on a shilling, fasting, and drink 2 or 3 spoonful of black cherry water after it.
The black cherry water definitely sounds like the best bit! I’m not entirely sure about ‘the full and change’ but I think that is referring to the moon, the full moon often being seen as the culprit for fits of insanity. As for what you should be powdering from a healthy woman, if you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments.
You can hear snippets of my conversation with Andy Twigge by listening to his lunchtime radio programme every day this week at around 2.15pm – or catch up with it on the BBC Radio iPlayer. I’ll post the Jumbles recipe later this week, for those that would like to give it a try. I promise that it’s much more palatable than the recipe above!
These notebooks are a series of medical practice records, covering the 1740s to 1780s. Each entry deals with an individual patient, recording symptoms and treatment. It’s clear that there is more than one style of handwriting in the books, but we believe the later entries to be the work of Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) who moved to Derby in 1783.
They are nominated by our Assistant Conservator, Clare, who repaired them over the course of a year – all 1316 pages! Clare says: “It was an extremely satisfying project to do even if there were occasions when I was still repairing them in my sleep…”
Here’s what was prescribed for Thomas Bamford of Ticknall, who was suffering from cramps:
Two drachms of Gammoniacum To ss. pint of penny royal water. Two spoonfulls occasionally repeated. January the 15th. When the pains return to loose some blood, and then take at one dose a Quarter of a Pint of common Sallad oil, after an hour or two if the pain continues. Take one Pill, and repeat it every hour till the pain ceases or till he has taken four.
At the intervals of his pain he should take one of the 2nd Box Pills every nights.
Small beer posset drink made by mixing equal parts of beer and milk warm, then taking off the Curd and 15 Drops of Laudanum in it every night. Jan[uary] 27th Six powders Rhubarb 15 grs. Ginger. 19. Infusion. z ii Marshmallow root boild to one
This treasure dates from 1676, the year of its author’s death. You might imagine that a book on early modern surgery would be a bit gruesome. You would be right.
It is nominated by Local Studies Librarian, Sue Peach:
“Gaze in fascinated horror at an account of medicine before the era of antibiotics and anaesthetics. No known local connection, but it gives us a glimpse of how Derbyshire folk would have been bled, purged and clystered in the seventeenth century”.
Read more about Richard Wiseman and his work on the History of Surgery website. His entry on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is also very good. Find out how to access the ODNB with your Derbyshire Library card on our website.
This post is from Abi, who has been here all this week on a work experience placement. Thanks Abi!
As part of my history GCSE course is studying Medicine Through Time, on my work experience it was interesting to have a look through old newspapers to see the type of treatments that were used in the past couple of hundred years. It was amazing to see how the types of treatments people used varied over this period of time; A supposed cure for blindness was definitely an interesting one to find.