There are times when the conservator’s bench can be blessed by an object capable of tickling one’s imagination. That is what happened to me when a single section booklet from a Gift and Deposit collection in the National Records of Scotland materialised on my table: an 18th century recipe book from the papers of the Lindsay Family of Dowhill (NRS, GD254). 

The tantalising little thing was not at its best, showing severe damage caused by a large stain spoiling the book in its very middle. It probably occurred when the object was lying open and was caused by an unknown and possibly runny substance which produced the degradation and fading of the ink making some of the text unreadable; it also weakened the paper which was torn around the central fold area. 

Volume before conservation. Accretions are visible on the paper surface (NRS, GD254/781).
Volume before conservation. Accretions are visible on the paper surface (NRS, GD254/781)

How could I stop my imagination from picturing the scene of an 18th c. kitchen where a cook is looking at her recipe book to prepare a special meal for her masters, when suddenly she accidentally knocks something over the precious bound papers? 

The surface of the paper was showing a whitish accretion which was drawn off and put aside to be analysed. 

Before proceeding with the treatment, I took photographs of every single page under UV light, and that proved to be very useful to the general understanding of the content of the little volume as UV light revealed bits of the text otherwise unreadable. Then the object was cleaned and fully treated, then re-sewn and rebound to make it producible to the public.  

NRS, GD254/781

The same page shown under UV light and at naked eye (NRS, GD254/781)
The same page shown under UV light and at naked eye (NRS, GD254/781)

The accretion sample was analysed by the National Museums of Scotland Conservation department, using Optical Microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy. The material turned out to be cotton wool with salt contamination, so no flour or any other substance you could typically find in a kitchen.  

A bit disappointing, maybe; however nothing can stop me imagining that 18th century kitchen… 

The recipe book after conservation (NRS, GD254/781)
The recipe book after conservation (NRS, GD254/781)

The last page of the recipe book features a whole menu, possibly created for a festive occasion? If you fancied feeling festive by trying out some 18th century recipes, here are a few suggestions:

‘A Broun Pudden’

Ingredients

A Mutchkin of milk
4 Eggs
4 Spoonfuls of flour
2 Ounces of sheared suet
Lights of a lamb 
Currans
Cinnamon
Nutmug
Orange peel
Cordecitron
Brandy
Seck
Sugar 

A mutchkin –  a Scottish unit of measurement of liquids used from the mid 17th century until the late 19th century. It is equivalent to 424 ml. 

Lights of a lamb – Lamb lungs

‘Seck’, a variant of ‘Sack’ – a wine term referring to white fortified wine imported from mainland Spain or the Canary Islands.

Curran – currant 

Nutmug – Nutmeg

Method

“Take a mutchkin of milk and four eggs beaten and four spoonfuls of flour and two ounces of sheared suet, parboyl the lights of a lamb sheared small & some currans & cinnamon nutmug and sugar orange peell and cordecitron cut smal, some brandy mix them altogether and have a cloth dipt in boyling water dust it with flour and put in your pudden and tye it up and put it in boyling water, and let it boyl and hour and a half for sauce take seck and sugar.”

A Ryce Pudden

Ingredients

Half a pound of ryce
5 Mutchkins of milk
10 Eggs
4 Drops of cinnamon
2 Drops of nutmug
4 Ounces of sugar
Half a gill of brandy
4 Ounces of almonds
2 Ounces of butter

Optional

Seck
Sugar

Ryce – Rice

A mutchkin –  a Scottish unit of measurement of liquids used from the mid 17th century until the late 19th century. It is equivalent to 424 ml.

Nutmug – Nutmeg

A Gill – Five fluid ounces or one-fourth of a pint

‘Seck’, a variant of ‘Sack’ – a wine term referring to white fortified wine imported from mainland Spain or the Canary Islands. 

Method

“Take half a pound of Ryce beaten boyl it with five mutchkins of milk or it be thick, put in ten eggs beaten, and four drop of cinnamon and two drop of nutmug four ounce of sugar half a gill of brandy four ounce of almonds and two ounce of butter mix altogether, thicken it on the fire and you may either boyl it or bake it. for sauce take seck and sugar”

Gloria Conti, ACR

National Records of Scotland

One thought on “A Lovely Gift

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