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Shakespeare & Beyond

Mince pies and mirth: Transcribed 17th-century recipes

Recipe for mirth from the cookbook of L. Cromwell
Recipe for mirth from the cookbook of L. Cromwell

Mince pies and a honey-spiced drink called mirth are just two of hundreds of recipes found in a 17th-century handwritten recipe book once owned by Leticia Cromwell.

Cromwell’s book and two other early modern recipe books in the Folger collection were the focus of a November 7 transcribathon organized by the Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC). Sixteen transcribers at the Folger joined more than 100 contributors from around the world to transcribe these recipes using the Folger’s online transcription tool, Dromio.

One of the recipe books, belonging to Margaret Baker, includes concoctions for gout, scurvy, king’s evil, nose bleeds, perfuming gloves, and more. The other, belonging to Susanna Packe, is a preserver’s paradise: ideal for those who wish to extend the life of their grapes, cherries, ripe apricots, green apricots, lemon peel, raspberries, white pippins, red pippins, orange peel, damsons, walnuts, gooseberries, snails, angelica roots, barberries, and quinces.

Cromwell’s recipe book has a rather unassuming cover, which belies the treasures inside. It has approximately 200 pages of recipes for things such as syrup of violets, French marmalade, and a rich perfume. There is also a recipe for snow, but we thought you might like to try a mince pie with a dose of mirth this holiday season.