Maddison Family Receipt Book 1

The recipes for the next five weeks all come from a single source, a manuscript held by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. UPenn Ms. Codex 252 Is also known as the Maddison Family Receipt Book.

According to the catalog entry, the earliest entries in the manuscript are attributed to Martyn Hill. Dates within the manuscript itself include 1663, 1668, and 1673. Ownership inscriptions inside the front cover are dated 1675 and 1710. While this manuscript is later than I often focus, manuscripts like this have become a specific interest of mine.

Manuscript recipe books are a notable source for mead recipes in the 17th and 18th centuries. Fewer such manuscripts exist from the 16th century. Later manuscripts also exist, and persist to the current day; this is demonstrated in most modern kitchens, where pages or cards with hand written recipes from relatives and friends remain a staple. It is very typical for wine and mead recipes to be part of these culinary texts, less frequently they are part of medical sections.

A growing number of such manuscripts are available online, having been scanned by their owners and posted. Many can be found one or a few at a time at historical societies, and academic or public libraries. Other collections are far more significant. Very few of these manuscripts have transcripsions available. Thus, unless a manuscript contains an index (and even then the index may be incomplete), it requires a page by page review to find information of interest.

The first recipe in the UPenn manuscript is mead flavored with ginger and rosemary.

Rosemary from Fuch’s 1542 Herbal, Ginger


This recipe is on the opposite page to a marginal note dated 1688 (but not in the same hand). It seems logical that the recipe in the main text would predate the marginal note.

Hill (17th c.) on p.93[=86] states:

To make Mead

Take eight gallons of water and boyle an houre then let it stand till it be cold, then take your honey and dissolve it in the water, until it be so strong that it will bear an egg: then take 10 egs and beat them shells and alle very well and put to them a handful of the topps of rosemary and when the liquor has boyle a little while very fast, then put your eggs and rosemary into it, and as it boyles scum it very cleane, and when all the scums off let it boyle a pretty while, then slice a pretty deale of ginger and put the liquor to it boyling hot and let it stand till it be cold, then put to it a spoonful of good new yest and let it cool, and when it has stood 4 or 5 dayes bottle it you must straine the ginger from it before you sett it a working.

The recipe is quite particular about the order and method for adding the flavors. The direction to float an egg before it boils “a pretty while” ensures a relative high initial gravity. My first effort at this had an OG of 1.106. It finished with a stronger ginger than rosemary flavor.


Hill, Martyn. 17th c. Recipe Book. MS Codex 252. Retrieved from University of Pennsylvania

Ginger Credit: Susan Slater,_old.jpg

Rosemary Credit: Wellcome Collection L. Fuchs, De historia stirpium commentarii 1542.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.