Handwritten recipe books, which include recipes for cookery, food preservation, health cures, medicines, household goods, and cosmetics, are a remarkable source that offer a unique window into early modern society and culture. They reveal the construction of contemporary gender roles, networks of women's knowledge, learning, and correspondence, patterns of domestic labor, cultures of healing and scientific experimentation, and the impact of imperial expansion on food, family life, and the domestic sphere. They also offer the opportunity to study the history of women in early modern Europe.
Focusing on recipe books housed at the Wellcome Library in London, this project aims to make these sources more accessible. Here we include transcriptions of recipe books written in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; recreations of historical recipes and reflections about recent scholarship on historic food cultures and foodways; and research essays about early modern cookery, domestic science and medicine, and culinary recipes and recipe books from a variety of perspectives and methodological approaches.
This public history project was researched and created by Wake Forest University students in Professor Stephanie Koscak's course, "Wives, Writers, and Witches: Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe” (HST 323). Knowledge Futures and Digital Initiatives and Scholarly Communication at ZSR Library provided project development support. Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library, the Wake Forest University Department of History, and the Wake Forest University Humanities Institute provided financial support, along with support made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.