Learn how to find digital versions of 75 domestic recipe manuscripts from the Wellcome Library collections.

 

The Wellcome Library holds an unrivalled collection of domestic recipe manuscripts, with over 270 16th- to 19th-century volumes. Seventy-five volumes are available online in PDF format.

Recipe manuscripts are used in research on diverse topics including: 

  • food history
  • domestic medicine in the medical marketplace
  • recipes as scientific experimentation
  • women as medical practitioners
  • experimental archaeology
  • herbal practice
  • recipe manuscripts and print culture
  • local, national and global economic frameworks
  • recipes as autobiography.

What’s available online?

All of the 17th century volumes, including some that span the 18th century, are available in PDF format. These volumes contain over 20 000 pages of recipes.

The original manuscripts may still be consulted in the Library. Explore the subject guides for our domestic medicine and receipt books.

Browsing the recipes

The easiest way to find all of the digital versions is to browse the complete list of digital manuscripts in the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.

Finding digital recipe books in the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue

Using the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue:

  1. Enter the phrase recipe books project in the Any Text field.
  2. Enter the word item in the Level field.
  3. Select the number next to each title to see the catalogue record. You can view the PDF from the record
To find a specific manuscript by manuscript number

Using the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue:

  1. Enter a reference number, e.g. ms.1127, in the Reference field. This displays individual page openings for the manuscript.
  2. Select the number next to each manuscript piece to see the catalogue record. You can view the PDF from the record.

Searching the texts

You can look for a specific recipe, disease, symptom or affected body part by searching the recipe titles by keyword, or the whole texts by subject.

The manuscripts have been indexed by recipe title and subject. Individual recipe ingredients have not been indexed.

Since the recipe titles tend to be brief, you are likely to find a combination of keyword and subject searches most effective.

To search recipe titles by keyword

Using the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue:

  1. Enter your search word or phrase, plus the phrase recipe books project in the Any Text field. For example: piles recipe books project.
  2. Scroll down to the Word Options section. Choose And from the options.
  3. Select Search.
  4. To view the recipes in your results list, click on the number next to each entry to view the PDF version.

As the recipe titles have been indexed exactly as written, use an asterisk in your search term to find variant spellings. For example, 'suppositor*' will find recipe titles including 'suppositories' and 'suppository'.

To search by subject

The subject terms are drawn from a combination of Medical Subject Headings and Library of Congress Subject Headings.

The authorised subject terms are not always intuitive. For example, searching on the term 'piles' in the 'Subject' field brings up no results.

You can use the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue to find the authorised term for your search subject:

  1. From the search screen, select the Subject link.
  2. In the pop-up box, enter your term and Lookup.
  3. The catalogue will show the authorised term, for example 'hemorrhoids' for 'haemorrhoids' or 'piles'.  
  4. Select USE, then Term to enter the subject term in your search form.
  5. Then select Search.

Contact an archivist

To contact an archivist, email archs+mss@wellcome.ac.uk or phone +44 (0)20 7611 8899 during Library opening hours.