17th Century Cookbook Scans from the Wellcome Library in London

The Wellcome Library in London announced that they've digitized and uploaded PDFs of its entire collection of 17th century cookbooks, aka "receipt (recipe) books." A quick glance at a few cookbooks reveals lovely hand-written (and somewhat difficult to read) recipes, with olde english spellings and, as expected, obscure names for ingredients and difficult to parse techniques. We love it.

How long until some industrious blogger picks one of these cookbooks and starts to blog their way through it? We give it a week or two.

We haven't had much time to peruse the entirety of the collection, but here's a recipe for Plague Water from A booke of divers receipts c. 1660-c.1750., a collection of mostly "waters" — Plague Water appears to be some sort of herb-infused double-distilled alcoholic beverage.

Gastronomica tells us more:

In April of 1665, a pandemic that came to be known as the Great Plague struck London. By August it had spread to other English towns and cities, and by the end of the year it had claimed a hundred thousand lives. The terror of the disease gave rise to desperate attempts at cures and preventions, including a concoction called "plague-water."... Chambers Cyclopedia of 1727 noted that among the learned, plague-water was known as aqua epidemica.

Plague Water

Take of each 1 handful:

Angelica - Calandine
Balme - Calamint
Dragons - Pennyroyall
Hehterferv - Woodsorrell
Burnett - Saxifrage
Buglofs - Plantaine
Burrage - Agrimony
Sage - Scordium
Rue fumitory
Scabeos - Rosasolis
Cardus - Marigold Flowers
Rosemary 2 good handfulls


Seeds, of each 2 ounces:
Sm. Fennell

Let the hearbs be minced the seeds and roots bruised and made fit for distillation and Put them in your still with a sufficient quanity of fair of water and draw from it 2 gallons and keep it in a glass. Then take the same quantity of hearbs roots and seeds before mentioned. Let them likewise be prepared adding thereunto mithridate and venice. Treacle 4 ounces put them all in your still with 4 gallons and one quart of the best brandy or Spirit of wine and about 2 gallons of faire and so distill the next morning and draw from this likewise 2 gallons. Then mix these distillations together (which in all make foure gallons) and so dulcifie it with a pound of white sugar to every gallon and so clean it and keep it for use.

[via @cookedbooks]

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