This recipe book was handed
down for several generations in one family before it was
acquired by collector Howard C. Levis and then by the
John Crerar Library. Several family names are inscribed
on the covers, with dates ranging from 1715 to 1897, and
the recipes are written in a number of different hands.
The manuscript documents the history of a family through
its use of a book.
The volume is in a handy
format and contains recipes for household preparations,
cakes, ales, puddings, and meats—for example: “Artificiall
Clarett,” “Aqua mirabilis,” “Inke
for my own use,” “White Mead,” and “Mrs.
Warwicks seed cake.” It includes remedies as well
as recipes, demonstrating that the natural world, especially
botany, bridged the realms of cooking and healing in early
science and medicine.
Levis, an American businessman,
lived for many years in London, where he collected more
than 900 books on the subject of food. Approximately 500
books were purchased by the Crerar in 1940, dating from
the 15th to the 19th centuries and ranging from books
on gourmet foods and culinary history intended for aristocratic
readers to everyday cookbooks.