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The Collation

This week the Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures team turned their collective attention to Hannah Woolley (or Wolley), a British woman writer who was among the first women in early modern Britain to earn a living by her writing. She wrote across various genres during her life, providing readers with instructions on how to cook, how to perform household tasks, and how to manage employees. She also offered classes on domestic training out of her home, promising in her written works that anyone who wanted to master these skills could learn them from the source (for a reasonable fee, of course).

Hannah Woolley, A Guide to Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maids, 1668, W3278.5

Over #WoolleyWeek, our BFT team dug into Woolley’s works and learned a lot about her life. On Monday, we hosted a Woolley Quiz Bowl and are proud to announce that the winner is Amy Kenny! She answered seven out of nine questions correctly (especially the really hard ones) and she’ll be receiving a collection of our famous Folger Library red pencils. Congratulations, Amy! (Answers to the Quiz Bowl questions can be found in this Twitter thread.)

On Tuesday, we had a panel discussion about Woolley with Heather Wolfe, David Goldstein, Sara Pennell, and Elisa Tersigni. We are so grateful to The Recipes Project for hosting this event with us on their Facebook Live feed.

One of the big reveals of this panel discussion was that the Folger holds a unique copy (as far as we know, the only surviving one in the world) of one of Woolley’s books: A Guide to Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maids, (London, 1668, Folger W3278.5). This book is almost never included in the Woolley canon, so it’s a big (re)discovery. (For more on this text and its importance, David Goldstein has written a post about it: give it a read!)

Wednesday we took a trip to the Folger’s conservation lab to look at all of the Woolley editions (both those by Woolley, and those attributed to her) held in the Folger’s collections. We learned a lot about the construction and care of Woolley’s books over hundreds of years. Check out our photo essay.

A fruitful trip to the conservation lab with the BFT team. (Photo by Jonathan MacDonald)

And on Thursday, we followed in the best Hannah Woolley tradition by dispensing advice to our readers. Read and learn all of our favorite bits of #WoolleyWisdom, and add your own, too.

Some of our #WoolleyWisdom from A Guide to Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maids (London, 1668) W3278.5

And today, on our last day of what has been a memorable #WoolleyWeek, we’re pleased to bring you this blog post, with some thoughts and reflections from the team:

David Goldstein
Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures
Project Co-Director

The unique structure of Before ‘Farm to Table’ makes possible not only a certain kind of collaborative work, but—more importantly—a space for such work to breathe. It creates opportunities for several scholars, each with a different sort of expertise, to pass around thoughts and ideas, not just once but on a regular basis, so that the questions that each scholar’s research generates can change through constant and productive conversation. Our Facebook live conversation is a sort of snapshot of these ongoing conversations, which we hope and expect will extend past the boundaries of the team members to a larger community that is interested in the study of recipes, cooking, medicine, authorship, gender, women’s writing, literature, the history of social transformations, and book history. Ultimately, our conversations around Hannah Woolley direct our attention to why we care about books and ideas and history in the first place. One finds something exciting, that speaks across time and between people. And then one wants to tell others about it, to say, “Look at this! Let’s think about it together.”

Jennifer Egloff
Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures

Spring 2019 Semester-Long Fellow

When I first learned about the Before ‘Farm to Table’ project, I considered the fact that it aimed to be collaborative to be one of its most intriguing aspects. During Woolley week, I have been very excited to see that collaboration in action.

Our Tuesday conversation centered on the Folger’s own history with A Guide to Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maids, which was both productive and enlightening. As someone who has visited many archives, and utilized seemingly countless rare materials without thinking too much about how they arrived in their present place, Heather [Wolfe]’s discussion of the text’s acquisition history was illuminating. This made me realize how important it is to consider the history of all material objects. In the case of early modern printed texts, we should think about not just who wrote it, printed it, and may have read it, but also why any particular document may have survived, how it ended up at a particular archive, and how that may influence who analyzes it, and under what circumstances.

It is very interesting to think about why the curators acquired the text in 1990. As we discussed, they must have considered it valuable for some reason, likely related to the fact that it was the only extant copy with that title. The fact that this text is now considered to be additionally significant (because it’s almost never included in the Woolley canon) now highlights a historiographical evolution that has been taking place over the past few decades.

As Heather explained, this text has been in the catalogue since its acquisition, but it really came onto everyone’s radar when the BFT team started working on Woolley together and began to explore the book’s importance; the text was also featured in the First Chefs exhibit. This is noteworthy, because if it had not been for the Before ‘Farm to Table’ project, who knows how much longer this text would have stayed “hidden.”

Of course, the text of A Guide to Ladies itself is significant, because it expands Woolley’s canon and—as my colleagues so eloquently discussed—helps to take Woolley out of the historiographical box she is sometimes put into, while simultaneously opening many opportunities for new types of analysis—including the cutting-edge DH analysis of attributions.

I am sure that we are all excited to discover what other “hidden gems” will be discovered at the Folger in the future.

Sara Pennell
Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures
Spring 2019 Semester-Long Fellow

Getting to know A Guide to Ladies, as a “missing piece” of a life of Hannah Woolley/Wolley I am in the process of writing, has been revelatory. For a small and relatively short book, it punches well above its weight, and provides us with insights into Woolley’s life—albeit in the form of self-publicity for a specific public end—that both corroborate what we already know, but also supply details previously unknown to us. The book takes her from being a “cookery book writer” (a designation which seems to be key in setting her beyond the pale in most discussions of literary writing by women) to being an advocate for young women’s education beyond the simply ornamental. In this she pre-dates Bathsua Makin and Mary Astell by some years. Indeed, it is the first practically-framed, rather than morally-freighted, conduct book for young women written by a woman in English.

As a self-proclaimed “experiment,” A Guide to Ladies shows Woolley to have been constantly thinking about how to develop her writing and her audiences, which should make us pay more attention, too. Biographies of non-elite, working women like Woolley are few and far between for the seventeenth century (I know, as I have counted them in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography!); as a counterpoint to the diet of queens, princesses, and “wayward women” jostling on the shelves, writing Woolley’s life is, it seems to me, more urgently needed than ever. ​

Elisa Tersigni
Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures
Digital Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Our discussions over the week led to some cross-pollination and a new avenue of research regarding the readership of Hannah Woolley’s texts. After Tuesday’s discussion of the editorial and authorship issues of Woolley’s texts and the Wednesday’s discussion of ownership marks, I did some digging into who previously owned copies of Woolley’s works.

The Folger Shakespeare Library has two copies of Woolley’s works with ownership marks: the Folger copy of A Guide to Ladies (1668) is signed “Mary Baker / Her Book January the 23 1727” and the Folger copy of The Accomplished Ladies Delight (1684) has multiple ownership marks, including a difficult-to-read signature of a woman (it is also signed “Her Book 1721/2”); an anonymous bookplate; a signature by a man (“George Barlow His book given to him by [His Mo]ther”), and the armorial bookplate of William Keale Haseltine. A cursory search for Mary Baker and George Barlow did not turn up anything of note, but a search for William Keale Haseltine revealed that he was a 19th century collector of fishing and angling books. His library must have been recently broken up and sold because there are copies of his books in several library and bookseller catalogues.

While this is a small sampling of ownership’s marks in just two copies of Woolley’s works, I wondered why her earlier work (which Woolley says is her own) had a woman’s ownership mark and no particular evidence of male readership and her later work (which she says is ventriloquized by her male editors) had multiple men’s ownership marks. Were her male editors changing her texts, including adding “secrets and experiments in the art of angling,” to make them more appealing to men? We’ll need more research and many more discussions before we can answer this research question, which is just one that has emerged out of our fruitful discussions.

Ownership marks in A Guide to Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maids (London, 1668) W3278.5

Heather Wolfe
Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures
Project Co-Director

Where do we go from here? Some important strands that would be great to tease out more: I was struck by Sara [Pennell]’s comment on Tuesday afternoon that Woolley’s books continued to appear on secondhand lists in the eighteenth-century. Some of our ownership marks are eighteenth-century. Her popularity on both the primary and secondary markets, and the fact that consumers felt that books published a half-century earlier were still relevant, is an important aspect of her legacy.

And then there is the “author portrait” (a subject of ongoing investigation), and the possibility, as Sara also observed, that the recycled copperplate of Sarah Gilly, likely based on a painting of Gilly’s sister-in-law, is meant not to depict Woolley, but a generic gentlewoman, imitating Robert Codrington’s The second part of Youths behavior (London, 1664). That makes so much sense to me…  But then the portrait eventually becomes associated with Woolley because of the convention of frontispiece author portraits!

Although A Guide to Ladies is the first book to contain this image, ultimately it helps us to learn more about Woolley’s life and less about what she looked like!

Comparing the portraits in Woolley’s A Guide to Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maids (London, 1668) (W3278.5) and Robert Codrington’s The second part of Youths behavior… (London, 1664) (from EBBO).

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