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Advice Books, Manuals and Journals for Women, 1450-1837

Part 6: Sources from the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds

Publisher's Note

Women Advising Women has progressed to become one of our most successful series of publications, offering a wide range of prescriptive material written for women during the period 1450-1837. Part 1 concentrates on Early Women’s Journals, c.1700-1832. Part 2 focuses on advice literature during the period c.1625-1837 with a variety of household manuals including cookery, marriage, child birth and child rearing, letter writing and recreational pursuits. Parts 3 & 4 contain the Lady’s Magazine, 1700-1832 with poetry and prose by women, pen portraits of female role models and fashion news. Part 5 is devoted to women’s writing and advice, 1450-1700 offering sources for the study of medieval and early modern women.

In Part 6 of Women Advising Women we focus on household management and domestic economy for the period c.1600-1800. The titles have been selected from the printed Cookery collection held in the Special Collections at the Brotherton Library, Leeds University. The collection is principally made up of two separate collections. Blanche Leigh, Lady Mayoress of Leeds, made a gift in 1939 of cookery books including historical works published mainly in Britain, but also including foreign publications. In 1962 another major gift was received from John F Preston. This important Cookery collection continues to develop through further gifts, and purchases by the library.

Our publication, which includes over 100 printed works, concentrates primarily on titles published in Britain by women writers. A small selection of male writers has been included to allow a broader understanding of household management and domestic economy during the period. Topics include husbandry, food preparation, recipes, menus, confectionery, gastronomy, health, medicine, household and garden management, and home economics.

Cookery was subject to gradual change from foreign influences: foods from southern Europe and France were introduced by the Romans, and from the Eastern Mediterranean by the Crusaders, the early colonisers of America brought home the potato, and the nabob spices from the east. By the eighteenth century cooks of the southern gentry used recipes of curried pickles from East Asia, or soup made with West Indian Turtle.

Religious and political considerations also affected the types of foods eaten and wines imported. Although by the mid-eighteenth century fish days and fasting days were no longer officially condoned, cookery books still continued to include recipes and menus for these occasions. In the work The Art of Cookery (1747) the author, Hannah Glasse, offers such advice in a section entitled, ‘For a fast-dinner, a number of good dishes, which you may make use of for a table at any other time’.

A large number of books were written for women to advise them on the management of servants; an important aspect of household management. The servant’s directory, or housekeeper’s companion by Hannah Glasse (1760) explains the various duties of the chamber maid, nursery maid, house maid, laundry maid, and scullion or undercook. It also contains directions for keeping accounts with tradesmen, and other areas of household accounting – another important aspect of household management. The housekeeper’s ledger by William Kitchiner (1824) also offers advice, with a plain and easy plan for keeping accurate accounts of housekeeping expenses.

Good husbandry and garden management were essential for quality home-grown foods, and we include a selection of titles written on these subjects. For example, Thomas Tusser’s Five hundreth pointes of good husbandry (1590) explains what corn or grass is proper to be sown, which trees to be planted, and how land is to be improved, whether for wood ground, tillage or pasture. While, in Acetaria. A discourse of sallets (1706) John Evelyn describes the preparation and growing of green leaves and vegetables such as ‘endives, chichory, sellery, sweet-fennel, rampions, Roman, coffe, silefian, cabbages, lob-lettuce, corn-sallet, purflane, cresses, spinach etc’.

Confectionery in the form of fruit jellies and preserves were prepared by the lady of the house and her maids, from produce grown in gardens during the summer months, to provide delicacies for the rest of the year. The art of sugar working from which shoes, keys, slippers etc could be fashioned was also widely practiced. Titles on these subjects include: The experienced English housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald (12th edition, 1769), Mrs Mary Eale’s Receipts by Mary Eales (1718), and A daily exercise for ladies and gentlewomen by John Murrell (1617).

Recipes for health cures were often to be found in cookery books, for example the Receipt Book by Anne W Blencowe (1694) and A collection of above 300 receipts in cookery, physick and surgery by Mary Kettilby (1714). We also include John Hill’s The virtues of honey (3rd edition 1760) writing on the origin and nature of honey, and including recipes for health cures for ailments such as gravel, asthmas, coughs, hoarseness and consumption.

Maria E K Rundell was a popular and influential writer during this period, and we include two of her works. A new system of domestic cookery, formed upon the principles of economy, and adapted to the use of private families (1806) was written from experience for her family, and includes receipts, directions to servants, bills of fayre, family dinners, and a small section on cookery for the poor. The new family receipt book (1810) contains a miscellany of information on topics such as, agriculture, angling, arts, brewing, building, canary birds, cattle, clothes, culinary art etc.

Some other titles in Part 6 include: A choice manual of rare and select secrets in physick and chyrurgery and A true gentlewoman’s delight by Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kent (1653); A book of fruit and flowers, Anon (1653) with introduction and glossary by C Anne Wilson; The British Housewife, Vols 1 & 2 by Martha Bradley (1756, 1760); The country housewife’s garden by W Lawson (1676); The court and kitchen of Elizabeth Cromwell by Elizabeth Cromwell (1664); The compleat housewife, or accomplished gentlewoman’s companion by Eliza Smith (1734); The complete house-keeper and professed cook by Mary Smith (1810); and Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery, Anon (1744).

The broad range of titles offered for study in this collection on household management and domestic economy, c.1600-1800 will be of particular interest to those studying the culinary arts, nutrition, social history, economics and anthropology.

Students will be able to use this material in conjunction with Women and Victorian Values to continue to compare the differing perceptions of women’s status through the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Used in conjunction with Masculinity, 1560-1918 they can compare the type of advice being offered to girls and boys and women and men.

Thanks are due to Chris Sheppard at the Brotherton Library, and C Anne Wilson for their help in the preparation of this microfilm collection. I have found Anne Wilson’s Food and Drink in Britain (Constable and Company Ltd, 1973) particularly helpful in preparing this publisher’s note.



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