Following on from our research over the summer, we decided to search for opportunities to share what we have learnt, both about the topic itself and about undergraduate research. During the course of the summer, we received feedback from a number of academics within the field, and found this to be very beneficial in improving our research. We want to be able to repeat this in a professional setting with other undergraduates who have also undertaken research. Gathering outside perspectives and opinions on our research and how we can improve in the future is of significant importance to us.
With this in mind, we decided to apply for the British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR), which will be held at Bournemouth University in April 2017. Our abstract was accepted, meaning that we now have the opportunity to present our research to a larger audience. It also means that we can view the work of other undergraduate researchers, learning from each other and inspiring each other to try new methods of research. Collectively, we both decided that we would like to present our research in the form of a poster. The combination of visual and verbal communication of ideas is gaining prominence. Given that our blog uses photographic evidence of our research, we wanted to be able to display this away from a presentation setting, in which pictures are often fleeting and cannot be focused on. It also means that we will be able to engage with other audiences in a setting where debate is encouraged, but criticism is also constructive.
In addition to this, our abstract from our BCUR application was forwarded to be nominated for Posters in Parliament. By successfully being nominated to attend this event too, we have been given two opportunities to visually and verbally present our research to two diverse audiences. We are looking forward to receiving constructive criticism on our research, which has not yet been shared beyond the confines of the internet. It will be interesting to receive feedback from academics outside of the field of research, as well as observe the methodologies that other undergraduate students have employed. Importantly, we are also looking forward to returning to our research and continuing to develop our ideas.
As we began to reflect on what we have learned from our research, we returned to our initial aims. Our main aim was to make conclusions about the themes of dosage, experimentation and ingredients in eighteenth-century medicine. Over the course of the summer, we have explored the contextual knowledge behind receipt books as well as the research-based issues involved.
When starting the blog, we assumed that printed books were written by the women stated as the author. However, we now realise that receipts were compiled from a number of outside sources. An example of this is Sarah Jackson’s inclusion of receipts from newspapers in her 1754 and 1755 book. The issue of ownership is complex and one which we would like to explore further in the future. Our last trio of posts on encouraging experimentation show the direction we could follow if we were to conduct further research on a compiler’s motives. The question of authorship altered the way we approached our research in more than one way. As well as focusing more on the extent to which circulation took place (i.e. looking more broadly at both male and female examples of compiled medical literature), it might be beneficial to ask certain questions about what being a ‘compiler’ means. We started to apply this tactic in our later posts, asking whether being a ‘compiler’ meant that experimentation was merely part of the receipt. We also questioned who was participating in the experimentation: the author, compiler, or the reader. By doing so, it is easy to see how a theme such as experimentation can expand its dimensions beyond simply the ‘author’s’ intentions.
From our findings on dosage in eighteenth-century receipts, we concluded that receipts gave clear instructions on how to administer as well as the quantity of treatment required. Receipts consistently engaged with Galenic principles by including instructions for cyclical dosages. An example of this can be found in our post on Treating the Bite of a Mad Dog, linked with astrological cycles for dosage. Engaging with medical theories in domestic receipts is a challenging concept which has somewhat dominated our motives when conducting research. The writer / compiler’s desire to conform to contemporary medical principles also relates to the problems of researching literature, including speculation surrounding ‘authorship’. Authors, and particularly compilers, of receipts books were often writers / collectors of both ‘medical’ and ‘domestic’ receipts. This means that, when discussing the attraction offered by medical principles (well-grounded and trusted by readers), we have to remember that the literature was often marketed at readers interested in both domesticity and medicine.
One of our main aims was to understand whether a receipt actively encouraged experimentation and the refinement of female expertise. We have established from various sources that efficacy statements were a common aspect of receipt books from the seventeenth-century onwards (we discussed this in our post on Experimentation and Preventative Medicine). This indicates another issue we faced when researching. In future instances, it would be beneficial to focus on primary and secondary reading from the century beforehand too. We found that, from the seventeenth to eighteenth-century, there was a sense of continuation rather than progression. Despite changing our initial focus from innovation to expertise, we still theorised on the possibility of preventative medicine. We adjusted our motives for research and found that instead of looking for the cause of a disease, domestic receipts were often interested in relieving or preventing further symptoms. This relates to what is noticeably our most significant challenge when researching this topic. We struggled (on more than one occasion) to justify our claims based on the evidence we had. Evidence which supported claims such as ‘these women participated in experimentation’ was much harder to come by than first anticipated. This is what led us to look at more obvious forms of evidence, such as the inclusion of corresponding receipts (Encouraging Experimentation: Sarah Jackson) and the obvious changes between one edition and the next. We have learned that, in future, we should focus more on the evidence rather than the contextual knowledge surrounding our argument. By taking more time to justify our claims, the evidence becomes complimentary to our argument rather than questionable.
An area of domestic receipt books that we found particularly interesting was editions and standardisation (in our post Evaluation of Methodology: Editions and Standardisation). Throughout various posts on our blog we have attempted to draw conclusions about why receipts may have been omitted or included in later editions. In our view, this is clear evidence of experimentation. Increases in standardisation could point to an increasing engagement with experimentation. However, as our research concluded, standardisation could not be traced between editions to find a clear trend.
Choosing to study this subject has benefited us in numerous ways. Besides learning about female medical literature in the mid-eighteenth-century, the knowledge we have gained on how to approach a research project is transferable to all our future studies. Through receiving feedback and revisiting our older pieces, we have learned to approach research from a more analytical perspective. At the same time, publicly displaying what we have learned has aided our ability to discuss research in a more accessible way. Therefore, we have diversified our skills in various elements of research. Most importantly, we believe that the research we have undertaken has encouraged us to pursue similar paths in the future (e.g. postgraduate research).
Both Anne Battam and Sarah Jackson have demonstrated the encouragement of experimentation by including receipts with little or no efficacy statements. As part of printed books, these receipts were likely to be marketed at a public audience. It would be interesting to use manuscripts such as A book of culinary and medicinal recipes in various hands (1767-69) to trace a trend, particularly with manuscripts being predominantly used for personal benefit. Despite this difference between printed and manuscript books, both types of literature face the same problem of challenges to authorship and ownership. The books are compiled from receipts circulated between gentlewomen and homosocial groups, challenging historian Monica Green’s argument that receipt books were the first genre of women’s medical knowledge (1). We could support these claims though, by focusing on experimentation as part of the receipt.
‘Mary Leigh’, the supposed owner / compiler of the manuscript, might have shown her female medical expertise by encouraging the reader to participate in experimentation. If we were to find corresponding receipts with no statement of success, then experimentation is encouraged as part of the receipt because the reader needs to discover the outcome. Efficacy (or success) statements were a continuation from the seventeenth-century, so to find them absent in the manuscript from 1767 would suggest that the reader is in charge of obtaining results.
The manuscript contains two corresponding receipts called A receipt for the bite of a mad dog and Dr Mead’s receipt for the bite of a Mad Dog. Both receipts require a somewhat similar level of knowledge on the anatomical differences of men and women by referring to different dosage administrations. However, the first receipt requires the purchasing of Venice treacle, a significantly costly and complex ingredient (Ingredients and Self-Treatment). At this stage, this appears to be the only obstruction which might cause a reader to consider only experimenting with one receipt. In our previous post (Encouraging Experimentation: Anne Battam), we discussed the hindrances caused to experimentation by expensive ingredients. However, when discussing motives surrounding expenses and ingredients, the nature of a manuscript is more personal compared to that of a printed book. Therefore, ‘Mary Leigh’ might have chosen receipts knowing that she can afford the ingredients involved.
Interestingly though, neither of the two receipts provides a statement of efficacy. This is resonated in our two previous posts, where we suggested that the reader might experiment to discover which receipt provides the best results. Unusual in this instance is the absence of any personal annotations, which were popular in manuscripts where owners had trialled receipts. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to argue that the manuscript, when compared to the printed books, encourages reader participation in experimentation.
Having already acknowledged the likelihood of the transmission of receipts, it is normal to notice the inclusion of a receipt by a doctor. Historian Leigh Whaley gives examples of eminent physicians who published material in the eighteenth-century, for example, Dr William Buchan’s Domestic medicine, or the family physician (1769) (2). Though the example provided is post-1767, it highlights the likelihood of women compiling receipt books by dipping in to material published by physicians (something we discussed in our previous post Evaluation of Methodology: Editions and Standardisation).
Straying slightly from the theme of experimentation, we come to historians Pennell and Leong’s focus on the notions of trustworthiness attached to domestic medicine versus physicians. If compilers wanted to encourage experimentation, then perhaps they did so by giving readers the opportunity to compare domestic medicine with that produced by the physicians. Dr Mead’s receipt for the bite of a Mad Dog might be trialled first by the reader. This is because of its methods (including bloodletting, a Hippocratic technique encouraged by Galen) and descriptions of how to prepare ingredients provide the reader with a detailed and informed medical treatment.
It might also be a chance for readers (and compilers) to experiment with receipts and make comparisons based on which receipt might be perceived as ‘superior’ in knowledge and whether this is reflected in the results. Historian Seth LeJacq argues that receipts by orthodox physicians were included to provide ‘evidence of fruitful interactions with the medical men and interest in their knowledge’ (3). This is reflected in Hannah Glasse’s 1780 edition of her receipt book Art Cookery Made Plain Easy which also includes Dr Mead’s receipt.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London
Credit: Wellcome Library, London
However, compilers and authors of receipts were ‘domestic’ as well as ‘medical’ writers. By including receipts by physicians alongside domestic receipts, they might intend for domestic medicine to become superior post-experimentation. We expect this type of rivalry was not uncommon, with LeJacq stating how ‘in early modern recipe books, these stories often serve to show laypeople beating physicians at their own game’ (4). This means that both physicians’ and authors’ receipts (absent of efficacy statements) faced experimentation by readers not only for desired results, but also possibly through rivalry.
It cannot go unmissed that domestic medicine authors and compilers faced elite class rivalry with physicians. Historian N. D. Jewson explains how ‘in spite of their genteel status and pre-eminence among medical practitioners, physicians did not occupy a place of precedence within the ranks of the upper class. In general, physicians came near the bottom of this hierarchy’ (5). Therefore, if we look back at corresponding receipts, it is possible to suggest that female compilers such as ‘Mary Leigh’ encouraged experimentation as a form of competition.
Overall, there are several components to these corresponding receipts that suggest the encouragement of experimentation took place. Though this manuscript tells us nothing of ‘Mary Leigh’s’ motives, we can expand on the receipts by applying a range of contextual possibilities. A trend can be traced between all three sources (by Sarah Jackson, Anne Battam, and ‘Mary Leigh’) in which no success statements are displayed. Therefore, the reader is encouraged to experiment and identify the most successful medicine. Furthermore, it could be argued (if more evidence was to be gathered) that compilers of domestic receipt books encouraged experimentation as a form of competition and rivalry.
(1) Monica Green in Elaine Leong, Collecting Knowledge for the Family: Recipes, Gender and Practical Knowledge in the Early Modern English Household, Centaurus (2013)
(2) Leigh Whaley, Women and the Practice of Medical Care in Early Modern Europe, 1400-1800, Chapter 8: Motherly Medicine: Domestic Healers and Apothecaries (pp. 150-173), Palgrave Macmillan (2011)
(3) Seth LeJacq, The Bounds of Domestic Healing: Medical Recipes, Storytelling and Surgery in Early Modern England, Social History of Medicine (2013)
(4) LeJacq (2013)
(5) N. D. Jewson, Medical Knowledge and the Patronage System in 18th Century England, Sociology (1974)
Anne Battam’s 1750 The lady’s assistant in the oeconomy of the tablecontains two receipts for the treatment of palsy (involuntary tremors and paralysis). As a female compiler, her choice to include corresponding receipts can be likened to compilers in both the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries, including Sarah Jackson (Encouraging Experimentation: Sarah Jackson). We previously suggested that corresponding receipts are an attempt (by the compiler) to encourage their readers to participate in experimentation. Battam’s book was released in printed editions in 1750 and 1759. Similarly, Jackson’s book was released in printed editions. Therefore, the argument from our previous post is resonated here, in that printed editions of receipt books were largely directed at a wider audience, rather than for personal use. Meanwhile, we should not discount the suggestion that the author or compiler might have also trialled these receipts. It is possible that compilers strategically placed receipts lacking in trial results together to encourage experimentation. With this in mind, we also intend to identify possible reader-based experimentation in Battam’s book, in that a lack of efficacy statements means the reader is unaware of what the results might be. This means that the reader (rather than the author or compiler) might choose to experiment with both receipts to find the most successful outcome.
Battam’s inclusion of two receipts targeting palsy are significantly different in both their methods and ingredients. This leads us to challenge the extent to which these duelling receipts actually encouraged experimentation. As we previously discovered, problems such as the ability to purchase or source certain ingredients might stop the reader being able to produce more than one medicine (Ingredients and Self-Treatment). Battam included An excellent receipt for the palsy, in which the only ingredients are mustard seed, juniper-berries and white wine. These are accompanied by instructions to ‘let it stand three days, shaking it three or four times a day’. Therefore, it would appear that this receipt was directed at a reader as a staple medicine, rather than a desire for perfection or medical expertise. There would be little pressure on the reader with regards to the availability of ingredients and medical ability. In order for this receipt to encourage participation in experimentation, a statement of efficacy must be absent. With this being the case, the receipt gives little insight into the outcome of administering the medicine.
An excellent receipt for the palsy – Reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library (Cookery A/BAT)
Palsy water is an entirely contrasting receipt when compared to its counterpart. The ingredients appear more problematic, particularly with heightened costs and numerous preparation methods. The reader must acquire spirits of wine (fermented and distilled liquor), sage and rosemary (essential oils), and ambergreece (ambergris). The receipt is written with the assumption that the reader can produce spirits of wine through the alchemical process of distillation. Historian Alisha Rankin states how ‘the tacit knowledge of how to do the hand-work provided the true means of turning recipe into remedy’ (1). This would suggest that this receipt is directed at an audience whose intentions would be to refine their medical expertise. Historian Pamela Smith labels this as ‘artisanal epistemology’ (2). This is in contrast to the previous receipt, in which the ingredients and methods suggest a lack of time, availability, or desire for medical expertise.
Ambergreece (or ambergris) is produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Not only is it very rare, it is also extremely expensive. Historians including Patrick Wallis have emphasised the changing role of the apothecary. Wallis argues that ‘apothecaries stocked spirits, chocolates, perfumes and tobacco – they shifted from stocking medicine ingredients to stocking luxury items’ (3). We might find that ambergris is one ingredient to fall under this purview, making the receipt both elaborate and expensive. Therefore, this is another example of the way in which corresponding receipts might not be used to encourage experimentation. By remembering that Battam’s book was released in printed editions, we return to the concept of public versus personal motives. Due to Battam’s printed book being more likely to be used by the public, she might have felt it necessary to include receipts that were practical for both the gentry and the less well-off in society. On the other hand, this receipt (along with the previous one) also lacks an efficacy statement. If the receipt is part of a compiled collection, experimentation becomes part of the receipt rather than something that the author or compiler has participated in. A reader would again be faced with the problem of not knowing the outcome of administering the medicine. If a reader was able to produce either of the two medicines, this might be the key indicator of the encouragement of experimentation.
Palsy water – Reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library (Cookery A/BAT)
If a reader had the ability to produce and/or afford either of the palsy receipts, they might question the efficacy of each remedy. As has been shown, neither of the receipts for palsy provide a statement of efficacy. This is parallel to Sarah Jackson’s receipts, in which we discussed how the absence of efficacy statements might encourage experimentation. Therefore, this issue predominates the reader’s choice as to which receipt to use and shows a clear trend between both female compilers and their strategies. Trial and error plays a significant role in the production of domestic medicines. By disregarding the obvious contrast of availability and knowledge, the two receipts mirror each other; they provide nothing regarding the outcome of administering these medicines. Therefore, we think it is likely that corresponding receipts with no efficacy statements did encourage experimentation.
(1) Alisha Rankin, Becoming an Expert Practitioner: Court Experimentalism and the Medical Skills of Anna of Saxony (1532-1585), Isis (2007)
(2) Alisha Rankin (2007)
(3) Patrick Wallis, Consumption, Retailing, and Medicine in Early-Modern London, Economic History Review (2008)
Studies of female experimentation by the likes of historian Alisha Rankin include the complexity of exchanging knowledge, through ‘letters of medical advice, medicine recipes, recipe collections, practitioners, equipment, ingredients and medication’ (1). This relates to the complicated transmission and circulation of receipts between groups of both females and interestingly also homosocial groups. This means that eighteenth-century female authors and compilers displayed both their own receipts and those they had acquired from elsewhere. Yet, we might question their choice to include more than one receipt for the same illness.
Historian Seth LeJacq states how ‘in some recipes, offers to avoid surgery are often not stated explicitly. With some ailments, surgery hovers as the implicit but seldom-mentioned alternative’ (2). Therefore, this might suggest that the inclusion of more than one receipt is an alternative to further prevent the need to consult a surgeon. However, these female compilers could instead be encouraging the reader to participate in experimentation; they must trial and identify which of the receipts best treats their ailment. Due to the books being compiled rather than written, experimentation becomes part of the receipt. In a post about the role of efficacy statements (Experimentation and Preventative Medicine), we suggested that women chose receipts with statements of success, implying they had previously been experimented on. The receipts in this post are lacking in statements of efficacy, suggesting that the results are unknown until the reader has experimented for themselves. Evidence which particularly supports this comes from Jackson’s and Battam’s printed books. This is because the motives behind a printed edition of a receipt book are more likely to be public as opposed to personal, therefore suggesting that the purpose of the book was to serve as a medical aid for various readers.
Accordingly, we decided to compare Sarah Jackson’s 1755 book, Anne Battam’s 1750 book, and a 1767 manuscript (A book of culinary and medicinal recipes in various hands). Despite the manuscript being titled as ‘anonymous’, there are ownership signatures by ‘Mary Leigh’. However, we might challenge historian Catherine Field’s view that ‘assertion of authorship’ included ‘adding a name on the title page’ (3). This is because the signature is often from a compiler and owner rather than an author – many of the receipts are written in diverse handwriting. It is instead a collection of contributions. Nevertheless, ‘Mary Leigh’ is a female compiler and can be compared to Sarah Jackson and Anne Battam (who also face scepticism as to whether their receipts were their own). By making these comparisons, we hope to find that these corresponding receipts encouraged experimentation.
In Sarah Jackson’s 1755 The director: or, Young woman’s best companion, there are three receipts directed at the obstructions caused by kidney and bladder stones. These are Howe’s Water for the Stone, Another Water for the Stone, and Another for the Stone. To put these receipts into context, historian Raymond Anselment justifies these inclusions, stating that ‘the greater number of entries dealing with stones may reflect the widespread interest in painful bladder and kidney afflictions’ (4). Howe’s contribution includes methods such as distillation and ingredients such as Sassafras, Cow’s milk, white wine and nutmeg. The vast majority of these ingredients might be categorised as plant / animal substances, and are dependent upon the reader’s ability to obtain them.
Similarly, Another Water for the Stone requires plant ingredients such as Scabious Leaves, Pellitory of the Wall Leaves, and Flowers. This coincides with historian Elaine Leong’s argument, highlighting the importance of seasonality because ‘early modern home-based medical practices were tied to the land’ (5). Therefore, this encourages engagement with botany, as historian Jayne Archer states that ‘these receipt books also testify to the wide range of skills required of the housewife, including gardening’ (6). Literature and historiography regarding the seventeenth-century depicts a similar interest in land-based ingredients, suggesting that aristocratic women practicing medicine were already engaged in collecting natural ingredients. It would therefore appear that both these receipts are dependent upon the reader’s ability to acquire the ingredients.
Another Water for the Stone – Reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library (Cookery S/JAC)
Another for the Stone shares contextual similarities with Another Water for the Stone, in that both recommend dosage repetition based on the Galenic astrological cycle within the human body. This being said, Another for the Stone features only non-standardised measurements (i.e. ‘as much as you can easily grasp in your hand’, and ‘the Proportion of a little Finger’). In comparison to the previous receipts (both predominantly standardised), this receipt appears to be aimed at a reader somewhat lacking in expertise of complex medicines. As of yet, this is the most significant hindrance as to whether the reader can participate in experimentation. If they cannot acquire the ingredients required for the first two receipts, then there can be no comparison of the final results.
More thought-provoking though is the variance in efficacy statements. Howe’s Water for the Stone claims to ‘prevent the Fits, and also Breeding of the Stone, if not destroy what is bred already’. Alternatively, Another Water for the Stone vaguely mentions the ‘excellent Virtues’ of the remedy. Notably, Another for the Stone has no efficacy statement. This lack of information on any desired outcome is the marked example of the encouragement of experimentation. The reader must trial in order to judge which receipt is the most efficacious for their needs. This is arguably a structural narrative strategy by Jackson to encourage her readers to discover for themselves the results and fill the gaps where the efficacy statements are missing. In order to do this, the reader could participate in experimenting with the receipts and recording which result was most desirable.
As has previously been stated, Jackson’s receipt books were released in printed edition. Though we cannot know for certain, it is likely that she did not participate in the experimenting and instead left this to her readers. Therefore, her choice to include corresponding receipts without clear displays of their results provides an insight into how female compilers wanted their audience to engage with medical literature.
We intend to find that similar comparisons can be made between corresponding receipts in Anne Battam’s receipt book and the anonymous manuscript. Subsequent entries will be made regarding the encouragement of experimentation by these female authors.
(1) Alisha Rankin, Becoming an Expert Practitioner: Court Experimentalism and the Medical Skills of Anna of Saxony (1532-1585), Isis (2007)
(2) Seth LeJacq, The Bounds of Domestic Healing: Medical Recipes, Storytelling and Surgery in Early Modern England, Social History of Medicine (2013)
(3) Catherine Field, Many Hands Hands: Writing the Self in Early Modern Women’s Recipe Books, Genre and Women’s Life Writing in Early Modern England (ed. Michelle M. Dowd and Julie A. Eckerle) (2007)
(4) Raymond Anselment, The Wantt of Health: An Early Eighteenth Century Self-Portrait of Sickness, Literature and Medicine (1996)
(5) Elaine Leong, Herbals she peruseth: reading medicine in early modern England, Renaissance Studies (2014)
(6) Jayne Archer, Women and Chymistry in Early Modern England: The Manuscript Receipt Book (c.1616) of Sarah Wigges, Gender and Scientific Discourse in Early Modern Europe (ed. K P Long) (2010)
Self-treatment in the eighteenth-century was encouraged by receipt books offering advice on both domestic matters and medicine. Historians such as Mary Fissell, Roy Porter and Elaine Leong have focused on how receipt books allowed freedom from often expensive healthcare providers such as physicians. In our last post (Evaluation of methodology (continued):), we explored how different editions of the same book often had changing numbers of receipts, increasing standardisation, and more reliance on contributions. These conscious decisions by female compilers to alter their compiled literature is indicative of experimentation, something which continued from the seventeenth-century onwards. Therefore, we decided to widen our focus by looking at how ingredients were used and prepared. Self-treatment and the importance of ingredients both come under the purview of domestic matters (such as readers preparing their own food) and medical instances, both of which are intermingled within the same receipt books. We know that the circulation of receipts included written pieces by both men and women. However, a female compiler’s choice to use receipts with interlinking natural and pre-processed ingredients shows the consolidation of female knowledge and stimulated experimentation.
Historian Fissell suggests that receipts were ‘composed of ingredients that early-modern readers would have been able to assemble from a kitchen garden, a trip to a market and/ or an apothecary’s shop’ (2). Receipts often contained a mixture of natural ingredients. These were often easily accessible to those who had means of entry to botanical gardens. Additionally, historian Elaine Leong explains how domestic and medical practices were ‘tied to the land’ (1), suggesting that natural ingredients were also readily available in gardens owned by the gentry. Receipts also contained complex ingredients which could be purchased from apothecaries. This highlights the extent of the disparities between types of ingredients and how they were sourced for use in receipts. Eighteenth-century female compilers such as Sarah Jackson included numerous receipts which utilised both natural and pre-processed ingredients to treat their own illnesses. Jackson’s 1754 The director: or, Young woman’s best companion contained a receipt for The Red Powder famous for Curing of Fevers of all sorts, and Agues. Uncomplicated ingredients such as betony were used alongside chemically processed ingredients like Venice treacle. Writers in the century previous to Jackson such as Nicholas Culpeper attempted to heighten the importance of the herb betony, recommending it as ‘a precious herb, well worth keeping in your house’ (3). The complexity of ingredients in receipts is demonstrated in this example. This is because the use of ingredients such as betony provides the reader with a false perception that the receipt is made up of easily-sourced and well-known ingredients.
Alternatively, Venice Treacle is made up of around sixty-four ingredients, and is a concoction of medicines. Combinations of various chemicals relates to the Paracelsian theory of Hermeticism, in which all matter within the universe was interrelated. This suggests that substances including herbs and chemicals could be combined to create ingredients containing medicinal qualities. Venice Treacle was developed before Paracelsian theories came about, but this rise in the popularity of such principles could have contributed somewhat to its persistent usage as an ingredient in receipts. As the receipt doesn’t include instructions on how to prepare this, we can assume that individuals would have bought it from a local apothecary. Venice treacle was also one of the most expensive items to buy from an apothecary. Work by a plethora of historians on both seventeenth and eighteenth-century receipt books has shown the continuous building of the important tradition of charitable medicine by aristocratic women. It might perhaps be the case that, if these women (alongside other male authors) were not part of the aristocracy, then particularly expensive ingredients would not be as commonplace. We have so far struggled to find any background information on Sarah Jackson as a female compiler. The choice to include expensive receipts might therefore suggest to us that she was a woman of aristocratic status.
When focusing on this particular receipt, differences in instructions between the natural and complex ingredients can be found. For example, straightforward techniques are employed, instructing the reader to ‘steep them in three pints of white wine’ for ingredients which would have been easy to collect (4). In contrast, pre-processed ingredients like Venice Treacle were used in conjunction with more complex methods and standardised measurements. Readers had to add ‘half an ounce’ of Venice Treacle, strain the mixture and leave it to dry in the sun (5). Receipts like this allowed women (and occasionally men) to confidently treat their families because they often contained detailed instructions on how to deal with more complex ingredients.
Elsewhere, a receipt For a pain in the head in Anne Battam’s 1759 The lady’s assistant in the oeconomy of the table, outlines where to buy one of the ingredients rather than how to prepare it. The receipt uses a mixture of oyster shell powder, water and milk to aid the symptoms of a pain in the head. Rather than advising individuals on how to prepare oyster shell powder, the receipt suggests ‘one pound of this powder 6d. at Mr Carter’s in the Hay-market’ (6). Advice on where to buy ingredients makes the receipt less demanding by removing complex processes.
From these two examples we can see that the preparation of ingredients was a complex part of self-treatment in the mid-eighteenth-century. The two receipt books studied act almost as advice manuals telling readers how to prepare ingredients, explaining complex processes, and giving information about where to buy ingredients from.
(1) Elaine Leong, Herbals she peruseth: reading medicine in early modern England, Renaissance Studies (2014)
(2) Mary Fissell, Women in Healing Spaces, The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing (ed. Laura Knoppers) (2009)
(3) Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654)
(4)Sarah Jackson, The director: or, Young woman’s best companion (1754/55)
(5) Jackson, (1754/55)
(6) Anne Battam, The lady’s assistant in the oeconomy of the table: a collection of scarce and valuable receipts (1750/59)
One issue that has predominated our work so far is that we have very little definitive proof of the extent to which these female compilers trialled and experimented. It needs to be acknowledged that outside sources (contemporary to the period) played an influence on the work of these compilers. We know, for example, that Sarah Jackson often combined a number of contributions in her book, particularly from newspapers. There are ways to avoid being conjectural by looking at the ways female expertise was refined through edition alterations and the inclusion of certain receipts. Historian Laura Knoppers refers to Heidi Brayman Heckel’s comment on marginalia, in that ‘it is not only what books do with readers, but what readers do with books’ (1). If we are to believe that Sarah Jackson and Anne Battam were active readers and users of these receipts, then we can apply Heckel’s argument to the diverse changes to editions.
We have previously concentrated on the removal / replacement and introduction of new receipts in Sarah Jackson’s 1754 and 1755 editions in our work on Dosage and the Impact of Age. Alternatively, modifications to more than one receipt book are largely identified through statistical analysis, particularly of standardisation. Both ingredients and dosages were either standardised (e.g. drams, ounces, pints, gallons), or non-standardised (e.g. handfuls, spoonfuls, ‘as much as the glass will hold’ (2)). The use of standardised measurements conveys the refinement of female medical expertise because:
It allows for easier amendments to dosages – medicines can be modified with less chance of serious consequences.
Increased focus is placed on empiricism, experimentation, experience and less reliance upon perception.
Women have the ability to reproduce medicines and maintain consistency; the dosages became universal. This made the probability of the receipt being successful higher because the instructions about administering dosage and quantities of ingredients are clearer and more standardised.
There are some recognisable differences between female compilers Sarah Jackson and Anne Battam regarding changes to standardisation in editions. Despite both women only releasing two editions each, the changes show both the progression and complexity of refining medical expertise. Jackson’s editions are a particularly prominent example of rapid progression. It is harder to argue that we witness conscious decisions to alter receipts in Battam’s book because of her death in 1755 (in-between editions).
Jackson’s editions, released in 1754 and 1755, have an increase from 56 to 62 receipts. In the 1754 edition, 33 contain standardised measurements. In the 1755 edition, 41 contain standardised measurements. This is an increase from 58% to 66%. Therefore, this could be an attempt to make medicine more universal. In particular, the receipt For the Yellow Jaundice states that the size of certain ingredients could be problematic and require modification (e.g. woodlice). This might therefore explain the improvements in the standardisation of both ingredients and dosages in the 1755 edition. Examples of receipts containing standardised measurements include To kill and bring away all Sorts of Worms(pints, ounces), and Brandy Elixir (ounces).
However, this elixir also features the non-standardised measurement of spoonfuls. Notably, Jackson’s 1755 edition witnesses a minor increase from 23 to 25 receipts containing non-standardised measurements. This conflict with the previous statistics somewhat complicates an argument that these women were entirely progressive towards expertise.
Due to Battam’s death in 1755, midway between the publication of the first and second (also last) editions in 1750 and 1759, complications arise regarding standardisation in her compilation. While she may have made some contributions to modifications between 1750 and 1755, she is not entirely responsible for the disparities in standardisation between editions.
In Battam’s 1750 edition, 23 of 25 receipts (92%) contain standardised measurements. In her 1759 edition, 46 of 51 receipts (90%) contain standardised measurements. Hence, there is a very small decline in standardisation despite the increase in receipts included. Additionally, the number of receipts containing non-standardised measurements increased from 8 in 1750 to 14 in 1759. Looking at these figures alone would depict a decline in the importance of encouraging female expertise. However, by using the small amount of information found on Battam’s year of death, we can question the extent to which she is responsible for the collection of receipts included in the second edition. Although it is likely that Battam played a part in editing the second edition, we can’t be sure which receipts were picked by a third party source. This brings our statistical analysis of the receipt books into question. Nevertheless, by comparing the two editions we can suggest a lack of consistency in terms of standardisation across eighteenth-century receipt books.
While it is arguable that Battam had no intention to increase her medical expertise, we cannot disregard the fact that there are a surprising number of additional receipts four years after her death. We should therefore take into account these numerous contributions. In 1750, Battam’s book featured 7 named contributions. In 1759, this number had increased to 16, meaning 31% of the receipts explicitly claimed alternative ownership. Typically, the majority of contributions were made by the gentry, family, or local physicians. The inclusion of receipts from other collections was a staple of eighteenth-century receipt books. Despite only 31% of receipts being explicitly named as contributions we will never know the exact number of receipts that were from alternative sources. This issue becomes even more difficult in Battam’s case due to her death in-between editions. Post-death, Battam obviously could not approve (or disapprove) of certain receipts.
It is therefore evident that changes to editions provide one of the clearest pictures of the conscious decisions made by these female compilers. Arguably, this can be categorised as experimentation; these women actively engaged with and most likely trialled the receipts they included, while making appropriate modifications. However, as these two examples of female compilers show, medical receipts in the eighteenth-century varied from book to book. When looking at printed books, we also face issues of ownership; as we can’t be sure which receipts (if any) were chosen by the compilers. This makes attempts to collect and analyse data challenging as we can only make assumptions about their motives for including certain receipts. The data we collected points to an increase in standardisation in Sarah Jackson’s compilations. Nevertheless, some examples are more complicated than others. Battam’s collection of receipts contrasts noticeably with Jackson’s in our study of attempts to refine medical expertise.
(1) Laura Knoppers, Opening the Queen’s Closet: Henrietta Maria, Elizabeth Cromwell, and the Politics of Cookery, Renaissance Quarterly (2007)
(2) Anne Battam, The lady’s assistant in the oeconomy of the table: a collection of scarce and valuable receipts (1750/59)
By the mid-eighteenth-century, women had already begun to experiment with treatments listed in receipt books. This can be evidenced through the introduction of efficacy statements. From the seventeenth-century onwards, they showed that treatments had been trialled and were successful. Clearly, the importance of emphasising an efficacious result is something which had been recognised as a required aspect of a receipt throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries. One notable way which can be used as evidence of experimentation is the number of different receipts for the same illness contained within one receipt book. Historians such as Raymond Anselment have previously argued that the cure for a mad dog’s bite was ‘an expected part of any collection’ (1). When conducting our own research, we found this to be the case with Anne Battam’s collection of receipts containing two receipts for the cure of a mad dog’s bite. Through a comparative study of experimentation, dosage, standardisation and ingredients, we will reflect on female expertise on domestic medicine in the eighteenth-century.
The 1759 edition of Battam’s compilation contains two receipts: A receipt for the bite of a mad dog and An infallible cure for the bite of a mad dog, brought from Tonquin. Battam’s decision to include two receipts for the same illness can perhaps be explained in line with Alisha Rankin’s argument. She suggests that women ‘made attempts to modify established recipes […] and frequently experimented with new medications’ (2). In this sense, experimentation could be seen as the process of testing new treatments to determine which were the most effective in different circumstances. In both receipts, experimentation can be seen through the N.B.’s at the end of the instructions. In A receipt for the bite of a mad dog, the N.B. reads ‘it is good for cattle, as well as the human species’ (3). By engaging with Galen’s theory that humans and animals have similar anatomical structures, the receipt demonstrates a clear understanding of contemporary principles of medicine. Alternatively, in An infallible cure for the bite of a mad dog, brought from Tonquin the N.B. gives further information on the dosage required as well as an efficacy statement. The statement explains that ‘this medicine has been given to hundreds with success’ (4) which shows that the receipt has been tested. This acts in a similar way as annotations and cross outs (found in many early modern manuscripts); these were a recognised part of eighteenth-century receipt books. Therefore, both receipts present an awareness of the importance of experimentation.
An infallible cure for the bite of a mad dog, brought from Tonquin – Reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library (Cookery A/ BAT)
Not only do both receipts follow the trend of experimentation, they also contain advice about how to alter dosages given. Both receipts advise the reader to repeat the dosage after a thirty-day period. A receipt for the bite of a mad dog suggests the dose should be repeated ‘the next new or full moon after the first’ while An infallible cure for the bite of a mad dog, brought from Tonquin recommends ‘a second dose of the same must be repeated thirty days after’ (5). As discussed in a previous post, this is a common aspect of Galenic principles which were based on cycles within the body. By giving clear instructions about when to give the patient the repeat dosage, the reader could administer the treatment more confidently.
The final point of comparison between the two receipts focuses on standardisation of measurements and ingredients used. From our statistical analysis of Battam’s compilations of receipts, we found a decrease in the number of receipts containing non-standardised measurements from 32% in 1750 to 27% in 1759. This suggests a gradual transition towards more precise measurements, which could be used as evidence of attempts to make receipts more reproducible and therefore more successful. Both receipts for the mad dog’s bite in the 1759 edition of Battam’s collection follow this trend by using standardised measurements. In A receipt for the bite of a mad dog, standardisation is used in relation to pre-processed ingredients with the receipt instructing the individual to use ‘five pints of ale’ (6). This suggests that the receipt has been tested with different quantities to achieve a successful treatment. However, the receipt still uses non-standardised measurements for ‘natural’ ingredients such as the rind of an elder tree, showing a lack of consistency in terms of measurements used. Contrastingly, An infallible cure for the bite of a mad dog, brought from Tonquin uses standardised measurements for pre-processed and natural ingredients. The receipt says to take ‘twenty-four grains of native cinnabar’ and ‘twenty-four grains of factitious cinnabar’ (7). Perhaps this receipt is more concerned with standardisation as it has been contributed to the collection from Tonquin. However, this requires further study.
A comparative study of the two receipts for a mad dog’s bite presents a number of insights into domestic medicine in the mid-eighteenth century. The N.B.’s suggest a number of revisions had been made to the receipts included in the collection and add further information connected to principles of medicine, dosage and efficacy. Equally, repeat dosages ensure that the patient is relieved of their symptoms while standardised measurements led to a reproducible receipt.
(1) Raymond Anselment, The Wantt of Health: An Early Eighteenth-Century Self-Portrait of Sickness, Literature and Medicine (1996)
(2) Alisha Rankin, Becoming an Expert Practitioner: Court Experimentalism and the Medical Skills of Anna of Saxony (1532-1585), Isis (2007)
(3) Anne Battam,The lady’s assistant in the oeconomy of the table: a collection of scarce and valuable receipts(1759)
Having only focused on the administering of medicine, we decided to search for other examples of refined medical expertise. Interestingly, several of the receipts included by female compilers Sarah Jackson and Anne Battam focus on preventative techniques. It is hard to define a category under which this form of medical expertise falls. However, it is likely that mid-eighteenth century women and/or their readers participated in some form of experimentation surrounding preventative medicine. This might appear insignificant when compared with later discoveries of causation. Yet, the continuing use of preventative medicine shows us the prevailing desire to refine medical expertise.
In these instances, receipts containing statements of efficacy (displaying the success of the remedy) are the key identifier of female medical expertise. It is likely that these female compilers chose their receipts based on a number of factors, one being the likelihood of success. Due to these statements of efficacy being our main focus, this relates closest to the category of experimentation. Despite not knowing if these women wrote their own receipts, a statement of efficacy means someone has had to test the receipt and display its results. Perhaps the decision to include receipts containing preventative techniques within their efficacy statements shows their conscious decisions to engage with Galenic principles and move away from relieving symptoms.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth-century, discoveries of the cause of an illness was scarce. Diagnosis was unintended and, instead, a desire to be cured of the symptoms was sought. The analysis of symptoms predominated the field of medicine. Historian N. D. Jewson elaborates on this, explaining how ‘symptoms were not regarded as the secondary signs of internal pathological events, but rather as the disease itself’ (1). It is unsurprising, then, that when contemporary physicians such as Dr Sydenham instructed others to ‘cure the disease, and do naught else’, the obligation of the doctor was to simply cure the symptoms (2). This means that we are unlikely to find many examples of treatments which cure the ailment rather than relieve the symptoms or even attempt to prevent them.
Sarah Jackson includes a receipt that engages with the prevention of symptoms as opposed to relieving them. Despite including receipts by eminent physicians such as Sydenham, Jackson’s The director: or, Young woman’s best companion contains statements of efficacy in which certain symptoms are prevented prior to their occurrence. One example of this Galenic principle is the inclusion of Howe’s Water for the Stone. Under the circumstances in which there is a ‘Fit of the Stone’, the receipt claims that the medicine ‘will prevent the Fits’ (3). Similarly, The Yellow Salve claims to be efficacious in that it will ‘prevent proud Flesh’ (4). In both instances, the analysis of symptoms and preventative techniques are employed by the writer. Nonetheless, it does not yet treat the cause of the ailment (nor identify the cause of discomfort). Therefore, this is an example of Jackson’s involvement in female medical expertise. The likelihood of her having any involvement in the authorship of these receipts is slim. Despite this, she has actively chosen to include receipts that feature efficacy statements (a strong indication of previous experimentation). They are also examples of the successful prevention of symptoms, something which Jackson might have chosen to focus on when displaying receipts with effective results.
Notably, Jackson’s 1755 edition of receipts features one in which the title reads To prevent vomiting after Meat. The purpose of the receipt is clearly to focus upon the reader’s symptoms (as a result of eating meat). Noticeably, preventing the symptoms is not the most significant step away from orthodox medicine (particularly when compared to developments surrounding aetiology). Instead, Jackson perhaps included a receipt which conformed to symptom-based treatment because identifying a cause was (and still is) intensely complex and significantly costly.
Nevertheless, the receipt uses assertive language in its conclusion, which is a shorter version of an efficacy statement. By including yet another receipt proven to be successful at preventing illness, Jackson again becomes involved in medical expertise through experimentation. Not knowing whether she claimed authorship to this receipt does not take away the fact that Jackson has read and identified a receipt that outwardly displays its success as a result of experimenting.
There is a sense of disparity between both Sarah Jackson and Anne Battam in their approach to preventative medicine. Battam’s The lady’s assistant in the oeconomy of the table contains receipts with a more complex and refined approach to preventative medicine. In Battam’s inclusion of Locatelli’s balsam (in the 1750 edition), the efficacy statement maintains that the medicine is ‘good for inward bleeding’ (5). Initially, it can be observed that this receipt is conforming to orthodox medicine by relieving symptoms and following Galenic principles involving preventative medicine.
Additionally, by treating inward bleeding, the balsam treats the cause of further symptoms. The discomfort associated with internal blood loss is being prevented. While this is not identifying the cause of inward bleeding, it is preventing the cause of further illness. This is very similar to Sarah Jackson, in that both women appear to be actively choosing receipts that have been experimented on and their results displayed. Both women engage with female medical expertise not only through distant experimentation, but also through their focus on the medical treatment that was desired at the time. The symptoms associated with each ailment are relieved and prevented, proving that both Jackson and Battam resolved to find receipts that were desirable to their readers.
Furthermore, the inclusion of the receipt To make and use the antiscorbutick juices is the most noteworthy illustration of Battam’s engagement with preventative medicine. The title itself informs us of the purpose of the receipt, antiscorbutic being the adjective for ‘preventing scurvy’. During the 1730s and 1740s, developments were made towards identifying the cause of scurvy. Though it was not yet labelled as a Vitamin-C deficiency, it was argued that the illness was caused by a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables. Consequently, Battam (or her predecessor post-death in 1755) might have chosen to include this receipt in her 1759 edition because of the use of ingredients such as ‘sea-scurvy grass’, ‘horse-radish roots’, and ‘Seville oranges’, all of which conformed to contemporary ideas of the prevention (and aetiology) of scurvy (6). There is no efficacy statement accompanying this receipt, meaning we might doubt whether Battam (or her predecessor) chose a receipt that had previously been experimented on. Having said this, adjectives such as ‘antiscorbutick’ would advertise to the reader that this female compiler might have consciously decided to include a receipt whereby the experimentation is evident in the title.
Overall, both Sarah Jackson and Anne Battam convey female medical expertise through experimentation. The use of efficacy statements requires trialling in order to publish results. It is likely that these women acknowledged the experimentation involved in producing efficacy statements. This means that the receipts would have been perceived as highly reliable and effective in their preventing of symptoms. Circulating the importance of relieving and preventing symptoms was a well-grounded theory by the mid-eighteenth-century. Therefore, these women engaged with medical expertise by both highlighting the importance of experimentation and the outcomes of this, namely preventative medicine.
(1) N. D. Jewson, Medical Knowledge and the Patronage System in 18th Century England, Sociology (1974)
(2) Jewson (1974)
(3) Sarah Jackson, The director: or, Young woman’s best companion (1755)
(4) Jackson (1755)
(5) Anne Battam, The lady’s assistant in the oeconomy of the table: a collection of scarce and valuable receipts (1750/59)
Following on from our last post on Dosage and the Impact of Age, we have decided to focus on alterations of dosage based on gender. Historiographical debates have so far centred around dissection and the limited opportunities for formal education for women. According to N.D Jewson, dissection in the early modern period was ‘widely regarded as an insult to the body’ (1). This means that domestic medical healers, who were often women, would have had limited knowledge about the workings of the body due to a lack of dissection. Further research on women’s lack of knowledge can be found in Doreen Evenden’s work which suggests that it was ‘unthinkable’ for women to attend dissections held by the Barber-Surgeons company (2). This could be because in 1745 the Company of Surgeons became a separate organisation from the Barber-Surgeons. Making the distinction between the two companies more formal could have made it harder for women to access professional medical education due to contemporary ideals about gender roles. Both arguments make alterations of dosage based on gender, such as those found in receipt books compiled by Sarah Jackson (The director: or, Young woman’s best companion published in 1754 & 1755), surprising. These receipt books counter the arguments historians have proposed on formal medical knowledge by giving advice to readers (who were most likely women) about how to alter dosage based on gender without professional medical expertise.
Jackson’s compilation of medical and culinary receipts includes one noticeable medical receipt which mentions altering the dosage based on gender. The receipt For the Yellow-Jaundice is interesting because it recommends altering the amount of ingredients in the treatment based purely on gender. The advice of ‘eleven sows, or Wood- Lice if they be large, (if small, thirteen)’ for a man and ‘nine large Wood-Lice, or eleven small ones’ for a woman shows an understanding of the differences between male and female anatomy. This contrasts Jewson’s argument that there was a lack of understanding about the body (3). By acknowledging that the receipt may need altering for men, it assumes that the reader has basic knowledge about the human anatomy. The inclusion of this receipt could suggest that domestic healers (notably women) were, by the eighteenth-century, becoming more aware of the need to experiment with the quantities of ingredients used in treatments.
Notably, alongside recommendations to change the quantity of ingredients based on gender, the receipt also gives instructions about the size of woodlice needed. If this alteration is read in line with Alisha Rankin’s argument that writing a receipt ‘encompassed the knowledge of all the properties of a remedy’s ingredients’, it seems the Yellow-Jaundice receipt can suggest more about knowledge of dosage and measurements than first appears (4). We could see the inclusion of precise, standardised amounts of ingredients and dosage as evidence of attempting to create an efficacious result. After undertaking a comparative study of the 1754 and 1755 editions of Sarah Jackson’s book, we found an increase in the number of standardised receipts from 58% in 1754 to 62% in 1755. Equally, there was a decrease in the amount of non-standardised measurements used in receipts from 42% in the 1754 edition to 40% in 1755. This illustrates progression to a more standardised set of receipts with measurements such as ounces, drams, grains, pints and quarts becoming more commonly used in the 1755 edition. Despite appearing in both editions of Jackson’s compilation, the receipt doesn’t follow this trend of increasing standardisation. Perhaps this is because the receipt instead gives instructions on the size of ingredients rather than giving a standard measurement. Just like standardised measurements show concerns about the receipt being reproducible, the alteration based on size shows an understanding of the problems the receipt could cause to readers trying to follow the instructions.
The clear instructions given in terms of ingredients can also be found in advice on dosage. The receipt recommends taking the treatment for three days, ‘then forbear three mornings, and then do it for three mornings again’ (5). The cyclical nature of the dosage repetition could be linked with Galenic principles which show a connection between bodily cycles and astrology. Taking a more straightforward approach, we could simply see the cycle of dosage as a way to advise healers to alter the dosage as they see necessary. This links with ideas already covered in Dosage and the Impact of Circumstance.
By looking at alterations in ingredients and dosage based on gender, the receipt For the Yellow-Jaundice shows that formal medical education was not required to administer effective medical treatments. In the receipt books we have chosen to study, Jackson is unique in recommending different dosages based on gender. Even though, as Doreen Evenden states, ‘licensed women were expected to only practice on women’, the receipt shows a basic understanding of how to treat both sexes (6). This could be down to an increase in female participation in medical experimentation.
(1) N. D. Jewson, Medical Knowledge and the Patronage System in 18th Century England, Sociology (1974)
(2) Doreen A Evenden, Gender Differences in the Licensing and Practice of Female and Male Surgeons in Early Modem England, Medical History (1998)
(3) Sarah Jackson, The director: or, Young woman’s best companion (1754)
(4) Alisha Rankin, Becoming an Expert Practitioner: Court Experimentalism and the Medical Skills of Anna of Saxony (1532-1585), Isis (2007)