The historical mead maker relies on the expertise and effort of many to exercise their craft. The links and discussions in the pages on this section present many of the resources I have used and rely upon to execute my work.
Vast amounts of information are available online.
The Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and Google books are well known repositories of scans of books dating back to the invention of the printing press, the internet archive and project Gutenburg generally give full access to books. In Google books, many books that are out of copyright can be read in their entirety, and many that are in copyright can be looked at in part, or searched for keywords to establish how much information of interest may be present. The internet archive is also home to the ‘Wayback Machine’ where untold numbers of web sites have been archived; old, inactive URL’s can often be retrieved using this tool. All of these allow searching of text, although the effectiveness can vary depending on the quality and typography of the sources material. These resources can be specifically searched:
- The Internet Archive https://archive.org/ for books and the Wayback Machine
- Project Gutenburg https://www.gutenberg.org/
- Google Books https://books.google.com/advanced_book_search
Many academic and state libraries have made books and manuscripts available on line. Professionals and hobbyists write and share. All you need are search strings that produce wheat and not chaff, and the time to look. When I find a new site or library with online resources I generally perform a series of searches to see if they have something in addition to the resource I originally came there for.
Add to this: buying books in print through bookstores, obtaining used or out of print books from booksellers (at brick and mortar stores, on book web sites, or other resale web sites), interlibrary loan (most local libraries can obtain books from many other libraries for free or for a modest fee), and subscription services such as Early English Books Online.
Books containing mead information are split among widely divergent subject matters. Roughly in order of most to least total number of recipes in my database, I have found recipes in books on the following general subjects:
- Books on medicine with specific cures are the most prolific source of mead recipes; many of these may have only been intended to be taken in small amounts and not recreationally.
- Herbals focusing on the characteristics and properties of herbs. Many such texts give examples of how herbs are used medicinally, sometimes in mead.
- Books on General Health, which are often for the layman. Many of these are general in nature.
- Books on farming and husbandry, including almanac type books.
- Travelogues / Histories / Natural History.
- Books of Secrets – think of these as household advice columns.
- Houswifery, household
- Bees and beekeeping.
- Brewing and drinking including wine.
- External: archaeology, folklore, etc.
- Laws and regulations
Searching multiple subject areas increases the scope of review. And many of the sources are not in English.
Typically, I will start at a location that has both integrated search tools and a good number of texts. Depending on the tools available a subject search like ‘cookbooks’ or ‘medicine’ or a word search like ‘hydromel’, ‘honey water’ (which in many algorithms looks for the words near each other, like in a recipe), or ‘mead’. These searches need to be in the text language and often in Latin as well. If I am lucky I can sort the results by date published. I typically start looking at titles for something that looks promising.
The core of this is the search for primary sources. That is, documents that originate in the time period of interest. Secondary sources, which derive from the primary sources are initially of interest insofar as they lead to more primary sources, but are also useful for the insights and conclusion they provide. Modern sources that provide information that illuminates various factors (such as studies showing the variation in composition of honies, or a book on the history of the spice trade) are also of interest.
I keep track of the books in an annotated bibliography.
A collection of internet bookmarks provides ready access to additional information.
Recipe information, the core of my search, is collected chronologically in a series of text files. The original text is transcribed and then translated and summarized prior to entry into a database of recipes.
The database collects bibliographic information on each recipes and recipe data including ingredients, as well as summary data on brewing, fermentation, and aging instructions. Recipes are classified by time period, type of source, mead style, and other identifying characteristics. Recipes that are duplicated in multiple sources are noted, to allow focus on unique recipes and sub-recipes.
All of these are always a work in progress.
Last updated March 13, 2018