GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Classified Knowledge
Captions are drawn from exhibition descriptions by Naomi Hume, a graduate student in art history.
IMAGE:  Classified Knowledge

Family recipes

John Martin. Book of Receipts, a manuscript in several hands [between 1718 and 1720]. Howard C. Levis Collection.

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.

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