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Books for women

Books by women
Suffragette literature
Books compiled by women
Books translated by women
Books for women
Books about women
Biographies of women
On women's education
Owned by women
Illustrated by women
Published by women



A propre new book of cookery declaryng what maner of meates bee best in ceason for all tymes of ye yere and how thei ought to bee dressed and serued at the table bothe for fleshe daies and fisshe daies. With a newe addicion... London: Richard Lant and Richarde Bankes, 1545. Sp. Coll. Hunterian Cm.2.27

This volume begins by "declaring what manner of meates bee best in ceason for all tyme of yeare and how thie ought to be dressed and serued at the table bothe for fleshe daies and fisshe daies." There follows a number of fascinating recipes, including "a disshe full of snow", "pan puffe", "a tarte of borage floures" and "eggs in moneshine". Instructions are also included on how "to make pyes" and "...the order of meates how they must be served at the table with sauces ...".  At the end of the volume there are there are manuscript notes, in several hands. Also throughout the volume there are small manuscript drawings of hands, pointing to favorite recipes. 

Partridge. John. The treasure of hidden secrets. Commonlie called the good huswives closet of provision, for the health of her household. London: Richard Iohnes, 1596. Sp. Coll. Ferguson Ao-f.7

Fist published in 1581 with the title The Treasurie of commodious conceites, and hidden secrets. This small tract contains some cookery recipes, among other things how to make marchpanes, green ginger, ipocras, conserves of all kinds, sweet powders, fumigations, medical recipes for domestic purposes, waters, solvents for grease and other spots in silk, velvet, cloth and a few other curious things.

Title page from A propre new book of cookery 

Markham, Gervase. A way to get wealth: containing sixe principall vocations, or callings, in which every good husband, or house-wife may lawfully employ themselves ... The first five bookes gathered by G.M. The last by Master W[illiam] L[awson] ... The seventh time corrected, and augmented by the author.  London: 1648. Sp Coll Ferguson Ah-a.2 

This volume include instructions on "The natures, ordering, curing, breeding, choice, use and feeding, of all sorts of Cattell and Fowle, fit for the service of man:" and other activities include the cultivation of land and growing fruit, the maintenance of orchards and "best husbanding of bees." One section is dedicated to "The office of the housewife, in Physick, Surgery, extraction of Oiles, Banquets, Cookery, ordering of feast, preserving of wine, conceited Secrets, distillstions, perfumes, ordering of Wooll, Hemp, Flax, dying, use of Dayries, Malting, Brewing, Baking, and the profit of Oates."

Plate depicting 'The womans stoule' from The byrth of mankynde

Roesslin, Eucharius. The byrth of mankynde, otherwyse named the womans booke. London: Tho. Raynald, 1545. Sp. Coll. Ferguson Ah-b.13

This volume is a very early guide to child birth, with sections on, for example, "Of the wombe and his partes" and "Howe a woman with chylde shall bee her selfe, and what remedies be for them that have hard labour."  This copy has the inscription "Katharian Blackwall oweth thie booke."

This is a translation by Thoms Raynalde, of De partu hominis. In "A prologue to women readers", Raynalde states that "consyderynge the manyfolde, dayly and imminent dangerours and parells, the which all manner of theyr labours do sustayne...I thought it should be a very charitable and laudabel dede: and ryght thanfully to be accepted of all honourable and other honest matrones, yf by my paynes this lytell treatyse were made to speak Englysshe." Included in the volume are several diagrams and plates, as illustrated.

Plate depicting the possible position of the child in the womb from The byrth of mankynde

Queen Elizabeths closset of physical secrets. London: 1652 - 1656. Sp. Coll. Ferguson Ag-c.62

This work professes to be "collected by the elaborate paines of four famous physitions, and presented to Queen Elizabeths own hands." This volume contains The child-bearers cabinet, Cures for several diseases, and A treatise concerning the plague and the pox. This was the Osterely Park copy, a stately home in London completed in 1575 for Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange. In the late 1700s it was transformed into a neo-classical villa by Robert Adam.

Wolley, Hannah. The gentelwomans companion; or, A guide to the female sex. London: 1655. Sp. Coll. Ferguson Al-e.22

Hannah Wolley(1623-?) was orphaned and left to her own devices from the age of fourteen. From then until she was seventeen she kept a small school, after which she became a governess and later a stewardess and secretary to a "lady of quality". Wolley married twice and had four sons. After her second husband's death she sold medicines and kept a registry-office and training school for servants. Wolley was the author of seven books, The gentelwomans companion containing everything which she thought of value and importance. These thoughts and opinions were both her own, and those gleaned from other publications, with the volume covering such "domestic arts" as marriage, education and dress.

Title-page of The Ladies Dictionary

The ladies dictionary; being a general entertainment for the fair-sex.
London: 1694. Sp. Coll. BG51-h.13

The author's purpose is ambitious, being no less than an effort to prepare a manual of instruction on every possible subject for women of all classes and conditions. The topics are alphabetically arranged, though with some inconsistency, with allied subject occasionally being grouped together. A large part of the book is concerned with the preservation of beauty and the art of love and, although the importance of learning is recognised, not much space is devoted to this subject. An example of the type of entries in the dictionary can be seen through the definitions of hair. There are several notes for hair such as "Hair of scruf and Dandriff how to clean the head of it" and "Hair how to order and preserve it" continuing "Hair is very necessary Ornament for Adorning the Head, being Comely and Beautiful."

Bradley, Richard. The country housewife and lady's director, in the management of a house and the delights and profits of a farm. London: 1732? Sp Coll S.M. 3039 

This volume has a section for each month and each section is devoted chiefly to one subject, such as fowl, fish, the dairy, wine-making, with appropriate recipes. The author says in his introduction that his chief reason for writing the work was "that I find many useful things about Farms, and in gardens, whose Goodness is so little known that they are seldom reckon'd of any account; such as Mushrooms, Lupines, Brocoly, Morilles, Truffles, Skirrets, Scorzonera, Salsifie, Colerape, Chardones, Boorencole, and many other such like things, which are excellent in their kind, when they are well dress'd, and admired by the greatest Epicures."

Pont, James. The ladyes exercise or the most excellent and perfect forme of preserving fruites. 1652. Manuscript. MS Murray 263

James Pont's manuscript occupies only sixteen leaves. After that recipes have been entered by various other people, at least one of whom must have been Scottish, since it includes a prescription "For singing in the Luggs. Tak ane aple and hourk out of the heart of it..." There is also a signature "Jean Stirling" on the flyleaf, written above a blacksmith's bill.

Beeton, Isabella. Beeton's everyday cookery and housekeeping book. London: 1872. Stack W7-k.23

In 1865 Mrs. Beeton published The dictionary of every-day cookery, a rearrangement in the shortened form of the cookery notes in her Household management.  This little dictionary, in modified form, is the book to which most people refer when they talk about their "Mrs. Beeton". The present work is a re-issue of it, with additions.