Beyond Home Remedy: Women, Medicine, and Science

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Portrait of Louise Bourgeois Boursier, midwife to Marie de Médeci. Folger Digital Image 43931.

Beyond Home Remedy: Women, Medicine, and Science one of the Exhibitions at the Folger opened January 21, 2011 and closed on May 14, 2011. The exhibition was curated by Rebecca Laroche with Georgianna Ziegler. Consultation was provided by Steven Turner and Leslie K. Overstreet with the generous loans and contributions of the Smithsonian Institution. Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Winton and Carolyn Blount exhibition fund of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

This exhibition explores women's roles in early modern medicine through the records they left in recipe books, their ownership marks in books by male authorities, and other evidences of their labors as caregivers and healers. While some of the ingredients and methods women used may seem strange to modern sensibilities, the elaborate nature of the recipes women prepared and shared with one another demonstrate the female contribution to early modern medicine and scientific discovery.

Contents of the exhibition

Recipe: To Make Sirrop of Violets

Women in the seventeenth century were not allowed to become members of the College of Physicians (which licensed practitioners in greater London) or the Royal Academy of Science (which included such widely published figures as Robert Boyle). However, evidence shows that women did hold deep knowledge, gained from hands-on experience, in what have now become the fields of anatomy, botany, and chemistry. Even though women were rarely represented as experts and their direct influence was sparsely recorded, the observations they made were in line with those explained by early scientists, and the work they did contributed to the cultural moment in essential ways.

Hannah Woolley's recipe "To make Sirrop of Violets" is one of several recipes in the exhibition for this calming medicine. It was widely used in the early modern period both as a sweet beverage and to ease fevers, coughs, and other inflammations.

Transcription of Recipe: Pick your Violets very clean, and beat them well in a Mortar, then strain them, and to one pint of the juyce take one quarter of a pint of Spring-water; put it into the Mortar with the stamped Violets which you have strained, stamp them together a while, and strain the Water well from them, and mix them with your other juyce; then put it into a long Gally-pot, and to each pint of juyce put in one pound of double Refined Sugar; let it stand close covered for the space of twelve hours; then put in a little quantity of Juyce of Lemmon, that will make it look purely transparent; then set your Gally-pot into a Kettle of seething-water covered, till you find it to be thick enough; then set it by till it is cold, then put it up.

Important to this exhibition is Woolley's addition of lemon to her recipe, ostensibly to cut the sweetness of the tonic. She notes that the juice will change the syrup from an opaque purple and “make it look purely transparent.” This observation mirrors the observations of chemist Robert Boyle, who conducted experiments showing that acids turned deep purple liquids (such as Syrup of Violet and red cabbage water) red—and base (or alkaline) solutions turned the same liquids green. In essence, women were preparing medicines at home with a knowledge of botany, anatomy, and chemistry that equalled that of some of their male counterparts.

Watch a video on the making of this medicine.

Listen to Steven Turner share more insight on Robert Boyle, his experiments, and his influences.

Items included

  • Hannah Woolley. The queen-like closet, or Rich cabinet: stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying and cookery. London: for Richard Lowndes, 1675. Call number: W3284; displayed pp. 106–107.
  • Robert Boyle. Experiments and considerations touching colours. London: for Henry Herringman, 1664. Call number: B3967 and LUNA Digital Image.

Herbal therapy: Galenic Medicines and Nose Herbs

Violets provide an instance in which early modern medicine at once differed from and anticipated current medical practice. Dominant medical thought was derived from the ancient writings of Galen (ca. 130–200 C.E.), who articulated the theory of the four humors. According to this theory, an ill body contained either too much heat or cold and too much dryness or moisture. Medicines thus served to bring the body into balance. As an example, violets were described as “cold and moist”and were therefore used to fight fevers. The sweet scent of violets was also believed to have curative properties, as they belonged to a subset of herbs called “nose-herbs,”a kind of aromatherapy.

Pictured here is a page from Jane Giraud's The Flowers of Shakespeare. Shakespeare and his audience would have been familiar with Galenic theory and understood many of his characters to exemplify one of the four humors. Here, it is the resonance of violets that is depicted:

That strain again, it had a dying fall,
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet south,
That breathes upon the bank of Violets,
Stealing and giving odour.
(Twelfth Night, 1.1.4–6)

These lines from the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, in which the speaker, Duke Orsino, suffers from melancholy, express the comfort associated with the beautiful scent of violets. Significantly, the heroine of the play, and the woman he will marry at its end, is named Viola.

Learn more about violets and other herbs in Shakespeare's Hamlet in this guide.

Listen to Gail Kern Paster explain the theory and importance of bodily humors.

Listen to curator Rebecca Laroche discuss the significance of the herbs Ophelia distributes in Shakespeare's Hamlet and view contemporary images of the plants in this useful color guide.

Items included

  • Jane Giraud. The Flowers of Shakespeare. London: Day & Haghe Lthrs., 1845. Call number: ART Vol. f67; displayed plate 4.
  • Rembert Dodoens. Cruydt-boeck, van Rembertus Dodonaeus; volgens sijne laetste verbeteringe; met biivoegsels achter elck capittel, wt verscheyden cruydtbeschrijvers. Leiden, 1608. Call number: 245- 018f and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Thomas Elyot. The castell of health corrected and in some places augmented, by the firste aucthor thereof, Sir Thomas Elyot Knight. London: Thomas Marshe, 1576. Call number: STC 7652.2 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Francesco Bartolozzi after James Nixon. Ophelia: there's rue for you, and here's some for me. Print, 1833. Call number: ART File S528h1 no.132 (size XS) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Leonhart Fuchs. De historia stirpium commentarii impensis et vigiliis elaborati: adjectis earundem vivis plusquam quingentis imaginibus, nunquam antea ad naturae imitationem artificiosius effictis & expressis. Basel, 1542. Call number: 245- 323f and LUNA Digital Image.

Recipe: "For the overflowing of them" in Jane Dawson's Cookbook

Pages from Dawson's cookbook. Folger Digital Image 43986.

Strong evidence suggests that women often shared their medical knowledge. Some women kept notebooks in which they included recipes from their friends. Sometimes these books were passed down through several generations of women who would add more recipes from their own experience. Other evidence of women’s networks comes from printed recipe books, which often reproduce remedies that had appeared in women’s private recipe books (called “receipt books”in the period). And of course, other women sometimes turned around and copied these printed remedies into their own recipe books. The result was an invaluable accumulation of medical insight and experience.

In Jane Dawson's cookbook many recipes are followed by the name of a woman — Mrs. Warton, Mrs. Pelham, etc. — demonstrating both that Jane Dawson copied or was given these recipes by another woman and that another woman had successfully used the remedy.

In this recipe, transcribed below, Jane Dawson provides a remedy "For the overflowing of them" which refers to either hemorrhage at childbirth or heavy menstruation. At the end of the recipe, she notes the extraordinary success that one Mrs. Warton had with the remedy.

Transcription of Recipe: Take knotgrass & distill i[t] in a cold still & take a pint of that water & mix with it as much bole-armarick in powder as will lye on a shilling & drink it cold 3 or 4 spoonfuls at a time, then for there drink let it be altogether milk & water boyled together, with a little cinnamon there must be 3 pints of water to one of milk lett it stand till it be cold & drink no other drink nor nothing that is hot, put in as much cinamon in powder as bole. Mrs Warton She saved a woma[n]s life with this that was given over for dead.

Learn more about Jane Dawson's cookbook from this audio by curator Rebecca Laroche.

Items included

Midwifery: "To Procure them a Speedy Delivery"

Childbirth was a woman’s affair in early modern England, with most deliveries attended by midwives. Midwives were licensed by church officials and could thus be paid for their practice, which did not give way to that of male doctors until the eighteenth century. Along with the midwife, other women would be present at the birth as well, lending a hand in more difficult situations and giving support to both practitioner and mother. Thus, as mothers, midwives, and helpful neighbors, women collected recipes for all kinds of difficulties and illnesses surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.

The centerpiece of Thomas Chaberlayne's volume on midwifery was written by Louise Bourgeois Boursier (ca. 1563–1636), midwife to the queen of France, Marie de Médicis, and it records basic lessons of midwifery learned through Boursier’s extensive experience. Her accounts of unusual cases and general advice about how to choose a wet-nurse do not prescribe as much as they provide examples. Boursier bequeathed her writings “to her Daughter as a Guide for her.”

Other books on midwifery were written by men for a female readership. In one such volume, Thomas Raynalde tells his female readers that the book is meant for a better understanding of “how every thing cometh to pass within your bodies, in the time of conception, of bearing, and of birth.” Images depict examples of “when the birth cometh not naturally” and the midwife must “do all her diligence and pain ... to turn the birth tenderly with her anointed hands.” Here we see male textual authority in dialogue with the midwife’s experience. The hand authoring the book is male, but the hands facilitating the birth are female.

Items included

  • Thomas Chamberlayne. The complete midwife's practice enlarged, in the most weighty and high concernments of the birth of man. London: for Obadiah Blagrave, 1656. Call number: C99.2 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Helkiah Crooke. Mikrokosmographia. A description of the body of man. London: Thomas and Richard Cotes, 1631. Call number: STC 6063; displayed p. 226.
  • Thomas Raynalde. The birth of man-kinde; otherwise named the womans booke. London: H. Lownes, 1626. Call number: STC 21163 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Elizabeth Cellier. To Dr. —— an answer to his queries, concerning the Colledg of Midwives. [London: s.n., 1688]. Call number: C1663.

Effective Remedies: A Remedy Approved

While we do not recommend that you try any of these recipes at home, there is much testimony to the effectiveness of some of them. Not only were the same or similar recipes found in many different women’s recipe books, they regularly had marginal notations next to them indicating that they were effective. Often recipes were given to someone after having been tested, reflected in the fictional example of the recipes that Shakespeare’s Helen receives from her physician father in All's Well That Ends Well. Other women provide evidence of experimenting in their own practice by writing notes in the margins or revising their own recipes. Recipes may then have undergone further experimentation by those receiving them.

The posthumous publication of A Choice Manuall demonstrates well how a recipe does not die with the person who originates it, and how women’s recipes did not necessarily remain within the female sphere. The book contains “Several experiments made of the Countess of Kents Powder . . . by a Professor of Physic,” thereby recording the continued use of the countess’s powder as it is taken into someone else’s practice. The practitioner adds his experience to the recipe, recording differences of dosage for various ages and an array of additives to suit a variety of ailments.

Some recipes bear the notation “probatum est”—Latin for “It is proved”—or the English version “proved.” Women not only shared recipes, but experimented with them and often noted what worked, or who had success using the remedy.

Items included

  • Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kent. A choice manual, or, Rare and select secrets in physick and chyrurgery: collected, and practised by the Right Honourable, the Countesse of Kent, late deceased. London: for Henry Mortlock, 1682. Call number: K316 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kent. A choice manuall, or, Rare and select secrets in physick and chyrurgery: collected, and practised by the Right Honourable, the Countesse of Kent, late deceased. London: Gartrude Dawson, 1661. Call number: K313B and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Francis Wheatley. Helena and Count Bertram before the King of France. Oil on canvas, 1793. Call number: FPa85 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Grenville Family. Cookery and medicinal recipes of the Granville family. Manuscript, ca. 1640 – ca. 1750. Call number: V.a.430; displayed p.59.
  • Katherine Packer. A book of very good medicines for several diseases wound and sores both new and old. Manuscript, 1639. Call number: V.a.387 and LUNA Digital Image.

Recipe: "An excellent balsame" from Gerard's Herball

When Malvolio appears to be mad in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Fabian, one of Olivia’s servants, declares "take his water to the wisewoman,” saying that she can determine his illness. Fabian’s words refer to poorer, often illiterate, women who provided remedy not for charity but as a means of income. While these women were needed because physician-care was outside the means of individuals like Fabian, physicians and other authorities often censured “irregular”practice, deeming it uncharitable and misguided. They sometimes invoked the law, which allowed women and other unlicensed individuals to practice but only if they received no pay.

In line with this censure were witchcraft pamphlets and trials, in which women were accused of a kind of medical practice that was at once suspect and dangerous. The witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth provide an extreme example of the real fear of witches and the potential havoc they could wreak, as explained here.

An entry on tobacco from John Gerard’s The Herball (1597) discusses “witches” and “couseners” who would use the remedy for profit. That the entry addresses women specifically indicates that women would have owned or had access to Gerard's hefty volume.

Transcription of Recipe: I do make hereof an excellent balsame to cure deepe wounds and punctures, made by some narrowe sharpe pointed weapon which balsame doth bring up the flesh from the bottome very speedily, and also heale simple cuts in the flesh according to the first intention, that is, to glewe or soder the lips of the wound together, not procuring matter or corruption unto it, as is commonly seene in the healing of wounds. The receipt is this, take oile of roses, oile of Saint Johns woort, of either one pint, the leaves of Tabaco stamped small in a stone mortar two pound, Boile them together to the consumption of the juice, straine it and put it to the fire againe, adding thereto of Venice Turpentine two ounces, of olibanum & masticke of either halfe an ounce, in most fine & subtill powder, the which you may at all times make into an unguent or salve by putting thereto waxe and rosin to give unto it a stiffe bodie, which worketh exceeding well in maligne and virulent ulcers, as in woundes and punctures: I sende this jewell unto you women of all sorts, especially to such as cure and helpe the poore and impotent of your countrie without rewarde. But unto the beggarly rabble of witches, charmers, & such like couseners, that regarde more to get money then to helpe for the caritie, I wish these fewe medicines far from their understanding, and from those deceivers whom I wish to bee ignoraunte herein. But curteous gentlewomen, I may not for the malice I do beare unto such, hide any thing from you of such importaunce: and therefore take more that followeth, wherewith I have done very many and good cures, although of small cost, but regarde it not the lesse for that cause.

In order to avoid “sorceries, witchcrafte, and other inconveniencies,” a law was enacted in 1512 against any medical practice not licensed by a body of surgeons or physicians. This law was revised in 1542 under Henry VIII to allow for unlicensed individuals, both male and female, to practice as long as they do so charitably. The reasons given are the obvious: the needs of the poor, the knowledge of “the nature, kind, and operation of certaine herbes, rootes, and waters” held by unlicensed individuals, and the high fees (and greed) of surgeons who were prosecuting them.

Items included

  • Crispijn van de Passe. A garden of flowers, wherein very lively is contained a true and perfect discription of al the flowers contained in these foure followinge bookes. Utrecht: Salomon de Roy, 1615. Call number: STC 19459; displayed p. 88.
  • John Gerard. The herball or Generall historie of plantes. London: John Norton, 1597. Call number: Folio STC 11750 copy 5.
  • John Gerard. The herball or Generall historie of plantes. London: Adam Islip Ioice Norton and Richard Whitakers, 1633. Call number: STC 11751 Copy 2.
  • Heironymous Bock. Hieronymi Tragi, De stirpum, maxime, earum, quae in Germania nostra nascuntur, usitatis nomenclaturis, propriisque differentiis, necque non temperaturis ac facultatibus. Germany?, 1552. Call number: 245- 021q.
  • Thomas Barker. Macbeth and the witches. Oil on canvas, ca. 1830. Call number: FPa5 (aisle 101) and LUNA Digital Image.
  • John Cotta. The triall of witch-craft, shewing the true and right methode of the discovery: with a confutation of erroneous wayes. London: George Purslowe, 1616. Call number: STC 5836; displayed title page.
  • Warrant from the Middlesex Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace for imprisonment of Joane Micholson. Manuscript, ca. 1675?. Call number: X.d.375 (30) and LUNA Digital Image.

Women's Ownership

Mary Man's copy of The secretes of the reverende Maister Alexis of Piemount, 1568. Folger Digital Image 42949.

The many published medical texts owned by women provide evidence of their literacy and of their engagement with medical practices. Examples from the Folger collection represent just a few of the early ownership inscriptions found in medical texts of various purposes and for different audiences. Along with the books printed or otherwise produced mainly for a female audience, women also owned volumes intended for male authorities. While it does not necessarily follow that owning such books meant medical practice, it did mean a level of investment in medical knowledge.

Part herbal, part gardening manual, part picture-book, the Folger’s copy of Paradisus Terrestris [Earthly Paradise], pictured here, provides an interesting example of the place of herbal knowledge in a young woman’s education. An inscription tells us that Lady Elizabeth Franklin, wife of a Parliament member and mother of seventeen children, gave the book to her yet unmarried sister, Anne Purefoy. The page seen above on “the Kitchen Garden” includes the medicinal aspects of many herbs, such as rue, which because of its “many good properties” was known as “Herb of Grace.”

Listen to Elizabeth Patton discuss an important woman behind Thomas Lodge's book, The poor man's talent.

Items included

  • John Parkinson. Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris, or A garden of all sorts of pleasant flowers which our English ayre will permitt to be noursed up: with a kitchen garden of all manner of herbes, rootes, & fruites, for meate or sause used with us, and an orchard of all sorte of fruitbearing trees and shrubbes fit for our land together with the right orderinge planting & preserving of them and their uses & vertues. London: Humfrey Lownes and Robert Young, 1629. Call number: STC 19300 Copy 1 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Girolamo Ruscelli. The secretes of the reverende Maister Alexis of Piemount: contayning excellent remedies agaynste divers dyseases, woundes, and other accidentes, with the maner to make dystillations, parfumes, confitures, dyings, colours, fusions, and meltings. London: Henry Bynneman, 1568. Call number: STC 297 Copy 2 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Thomas Lodge. The poor man's talent. Manuscript, ca. 1623?. Call number: V.a.136 and LUNA Digital Image.

Surgery: Cures for "Deep Wounds"

While surgical procedures were not as extensive or effective as they are today, women were engaged in surgical practice in varying degrees throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Early seventeenth-century diarist Lady Margaret Hoby provides first-hand accounts of her surgical practice, as, for example, when she tended to a deep cut on her servant’s hand. Memoirs and other historical narratives show women tending the wounded during the English Civil War (1642–51). The various wound remedies found throughout women’s recipe books indicate that women were prepared for all kinds of injuries and accidents in their household, including broken bones, toothaches, and other common catastrophes.

This image is from a Latin treatise by Johann Scultetus and it shows the tools of the surgeon’s trade. The treatment of wounds, particularly those following amputation, were treatments in which women such as Lady Anne Halkett and Lucy Hutchinson participated while tending the wounded during the English Civil War. An English edition of this treatise was published in 1674.

Surgery at the time also included the treatment and healing of wounds, and recipes for such things as “To stop bleeding inwardly” and “To stop bleeding in a wound,” as are found in Mary Baumfylde's book, are relatively common. Although the treatments differ—the former calls for a drink and a poultice (a sticky substance applied externally to moisturize and medicate the hurt area), the latter is a poultice only —the similarity in the title and the external application of the poultice tie the two together as related procedures. The internal bleeding, however, lies in the grey area between physic and surgery.

Listen to curator Rebecca Laroche discuss Lady Anne Halkett's accounts of surgery and wounds during the English Civil War.

Items included

  • Johannes Scultetus. Armanentarium chirurgicum. 1655. Call number: RD30.S3 1655 Cage Folio and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Mary Baumfylde. Medicinal and cookery recipes of Mary Baumfylde. Manuscript, 1626 June, 1702–1758. Call number: V.a.456 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Jacques Guillemeau. The Frenche chirurgerye, or all the manualle operations of chirurgerye, with divers, & sundrye figures, and amongst the rest, certayne nuefownde instrumentes, verye necessarye to all the operationes of chirurgerye. Dordrecht: Isaac Canin, 1597 (i.e. 1598). Call number: STC 12498 and LUNA Digital Image.

Women and Science: “What Woman was such a Chymist as Paracelsus?”

Recipes for a Paracelsian salve used in healing wounds appear in several recipe books in the Folger collection. Many women from the period showed awareness of Paracelsian chemistry, an alternative to the ancient theories that otherwise dominated medicine. Paracelsus (1493–1541) was an alchemist and physician who, notably, furthered the use of minerals and more complex chemicals in the making of medicine. Some women recorded that knowledge in recipe books, demonstrating the female understanding of the more complex chemical structure of Paracelsian medicine-making.

Some who knew Aletheia (née Talbot) Howard, Countess of Arundel (d. 1654), named her the author of a book of medical recipes, which bears only the penname Philiatros in the preface, and the Countess’s portrait. Whether or not the Countess compiled the volume, its publication the year after her death with the elaborate engraving certainly connects her with the knowledge it contained. The catalog of “persons of quality and great experience in the art of medicine” from whom the recipes were taken includes forty-four women and fifty-eight men, one of whom is Paracelsus.

Georgianna Ziegler shares some of medical opinions and discoveries of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, in this audio.

Jennifer Munroe explains more about the book Natura exenterata in this audio.

Items included

  • Natura exenterata: or Nature unbowelled by the most exquisite anatomizers of her. London: H. Twiford, 1655. Call number: N241 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. Opera Omnia, medico-chemico-chirur, tribus voluminibus comprehensa. Geneva?, 1658. Call number: R128.6.P2 1658 v.1 Cage and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Margaret Cavendish. The worlds olio, Written by the right honorable, the Lady Margaret Newcastle. London: for J. Martin and J. Allestrye, 1655. Call number: N873 and LUNA Digital Image.

Recipe: Plague Water

Lettice Pudsey's recipe for plage water, ca. 1675. Folger Digital Image 46200.

In distillation, the essence of the plant (or sometimes animal) ingredients was preserved in a water made through a lengthy process. First, the ingredients were steeped (often overnight) in a solvent (often wine). Then the liquid was evaporated over a low fire, and the vapor was captured by an alembic—an apparatus made expressly for the process of distilling. To make waters stronger, another batch of ingredients could be steeped in the distilled herbal water and the process repeated. While various waters were available at the apothecary shop, as a matter of expediency and economy, women held distillation among their many skills and duties.

A great number of recipes called for a "water" among their many ingredients. Angelica water is often found in recipes against the Plague, and rue could be distilled into a water used in some recipes for kidney and gall stones. Preparing a water through distallation took many hours and only produced a single ingredient. This may be one reason why some recipes called for such large quantities: women could prepare a water and store it for later use, when practical.

Lettice Pudsey's recipe for Plague water is one of many recipes against this dreaded disease. This, like many remedies, was more preventative than curative, and gives instructions on when to make it—presumably because the necessary ingredients would be available in early summer.

Transcription of Recipe: The Surfett of plague watter: good aga[i]nst any infectionus; d[is]eases & to drive any thing from the hart; it is to be made in [M]ay or [J]une:

Ta[ke] sage: saladine: rosemary: wormwood: Balme: rosasoles: mugwort: pympernell: scabious: egrimonye: rue: mint: scordium: cardus: Betonye: Dragon: cowslips Flowers: marigolds Flowers: of each a larg[e] han[d]full: tormentell rootes: angelico: alycompane: pyonye: zyduiary: lycorich: of each one o[u]nce: & a Lettel safron: [shred] the herbs well & smale: alltog[e]ther & bru[i]se the roots: steepe them all in a gallon of whit[e] wine: or sake [sack]. Sa[ck] is better: for 2 days & 2 nights: stir[r]ing them once a day: putt them in a earthen pott: & bee sure to stop is close: you may ma[ke] 2 stillfull of th[i]s quantetie if you please: or else one: destill it in a ordinary still: ta[ke] of the first running one pint: of the second running one quart: of the Last one pint: which is the fittest for chillderinge: of the first 2 spoonfull will s[e]rve: of the second 4: of the Last for chilldren: 2 or 3 spoonefull: you may give it at any time: when you see o[c]catione: warme it a Lettel: & sweeten with sugar: when you use it: of with surrip of gilleFlours: or violetts: this is my Lady Shirleys: recipte:

Items included

  • Lettice Pudsey. Cookery book of Lettice Pudsey. Manuscript, ca. 1675. Call number: V.a.450]; displayed fols. 15v–16r and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Hannah Woolley. The compleat servant-maid; or, The young maidens tutor. London: for T. Passinger, 1683. Call number: W3273.8; displayed pp. 42–43 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Penelope Patrick. Receipt book of Penelope Jephson. Manuscript, 1671 and 1674/75. Call number: V.a.396 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Johann Sigismund Elsholtz. The curious distillatory: or The art of distilling coloured liquors, spirits, oyls, &c. from vegitables, animals, minerals and metals. London: J[ohn]. D[arby]., 1677. Call number: 154- 260q; displayed frontispiece.
  • Ambrose Cooper. The complete distiller. London, 1757. Call number: 161- 602q; displayed foldout opp. sig. B1.

Additional items exhibited

The following items are listed chronologically according to the Hamnet catalog.

  • Rembert Dodoens. A niewe herball, or historie of plantes: wherin is contayned the vvhole discourse and perfect description of all sortes of herbes and plantes. London: Henry Loë, 1578. Call number: STC 6984 Copy 2 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • The whole volume of statutes at large, which at anie time heeretofore haue beene extant in print, since Magna Charta, untill the xxix. yeere of the reigne of our most gratious souereigne Ladie Elizabeth by the grace of God, Queene of England, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, &c. With marginall notes, and a table of necessarie use newlie added hereunto. London: [H. Denham and H. Middleton?], 1587. Call number: STC 9316 Copy 1.
  • John Lyly. Mother Bombie. As it was sundrie times plaied by the Children of Powles. London: Thomas Creede, 1598. Call number: STC 17085 Copy 1 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • John Partridge. The treasurie of hidden secrets. Commonlie called, The good-huswiues closet of prouision, for the health of her houshold. London: I. R[oberts], 1600. Call number: STC 19430.
  • Grace Saunderson Castleton. The Lady Grace Castleton’s booke of receipts. Manuscript, 17th century. V.a.600 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Mrs. Corlyon. A booke of such medicines as have been approved by the speciall practize of Mrs. Corlyon. Manuscript, ca. 1606. Call number: V.a.388 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Hugh Plat. Delightes for ladies, to adorn their persons, tables, closets, and distillatories: with beauties, banquets, perfumes and waters. London: H. L[ownes], 1608. Call number: STC 19980 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Sarah Longe. Receipt book of Sarah Longe. Manuscript, ca. 1610. Call number V.a.425 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • John Cotta. A short discoverie of the unobserved dangers of severall sorts of ignorant and unconsiderate practisers of physicke in England. London: [R. Field], 1612. Call number: STC 5833 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Stephen Bradwell. Helps for suddain accidents endangering life. By which those that live farre from physitions or chirurgions may happily preserve the life of a poore friend or neighbour, till such a man may be had to perfect the cure. London: Thomas Purfoot, 1633. Call number: STC 3535 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Gervase Markham. The English house-wife, containing the inward and outward vertues which ought to be in a complete woman. London: Anne Griffin, 1637. Call number: STC 17354.
  • John Parkinson. Theatrum botanicum: The theater of plants. London: Thomas Cotes, 1640. Call number: Folio STC 19302 Copy 2 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Rich Family. Papers of the Rich family. Manuscript, 1485 – ca. 1820 (bulk 1649–1715). Call number: X.d.451 (223) and Guide to the Papers of the Rich Family and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Katherine Brown. Medicinal and cookery recipes. Manuscript, ca. 1650 – ca. 1662. Call number: V.a.397 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • The Queens closet opened: incomparable secrets in physick, chyrurgery, preserving, candying, and cookery; as they were presented unto the Queen by the most experienced persons of our times, many whereof were honoured with her own practise, when she pleased to descend to these more private recreations. London: [R. Wood], 1658. Call number: M98 and LUNA Digital Image.
  • Constance Hall. Cookbook of Constance Hall. Manuscript, 1672. Call number: V.a.20 and LUNA Digital Image.

Supplemental materials

Interactive: Remedy Ingredients

Explore ingredients used by clicking through items in this [1] case.

Image Gallery

View a selection of highlighted images from the exhibition in this Flickr photo album.


Hear insights on a selection of items from the exhibition. Additional audio can be found within the above exhibition material descriptions.

Hannah Woolley at Work

Listen to Amy Tigner share more about Hannah Woolley's work as a writer.

  • Hannah Woolley. The queen-like closet, or Rich cabinet: stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying and cookery. London: for Richard Lowndes, 1675. Call number: W3284; displayed frontisepiece.

"The Reciept of Reason"

Listen to curator Rebecca Laroche discuss how knowledge of the distilling process is evident in one of Shakespeare's most compelling female characters.

  • Sir Hugh Plat. The jewell house of art and nature. Conteining divers rare and profitable inventions, together with sundry new experimentes in the art of husbandry, distillation, and moulding. London: Peter Short, 1594. Call number: STC 19991 Copy 3; displayed p. 147 (mispaginated).


Syrup of Violet is found in many women’s recipe books. See the process of creating this calming and colorful tonic, and learn about the role of the syrup in the color-change indicator tests that are still used in identifying acids and bases.

Women made important contributions to the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. Learn about their role from curator Rebecca Laroche.

Renaissance women provided vital medical care to their families and communities, from performing surgery to delivering babies! Listen to curator Rebecca Laroche share this history.

Suggestions for further reading

Bibliography of readings related to Beyond Home Remedy

The list found via the above hyperlink is not meant to be comprehensive, but is meant to lead the interested reader to some of the many general resources in the area of women, medicine, and science.

Related programs

Talks and Screenings at the Folger