On this page:
“The most treasured things passed down from generation to generation are the family recipes”
Personal documents containing entries relating to common household recipes, remedies and housekeeping tips.
Why they were created
Created to record useful information and instructions relating to the management of a household.
Who might have created them
Created by housekeepers, staff employed by large households, heads of households.
Where you might find them
Usually found with personal records of family members, or amongst other miscellaneous household related records. Commonly found in the following collections:
- Landed families
Period from which they most commonly survive
Commonly created in the early modern period through to the early 19th century.
- Paper, multi-leaf
- Manuscript writing in ink
- Loose sheets bundled together or bound into volumes
- Alternatively, entries might be made into pre-bound blank volumes
- Food and drink recipes
- Ingredients and instructions for making home remedies and medicines
- Recipes for household cleaning products
- Housekeeping tips
- Occasionally, rough accounts for household goods purchased
Things to consider:
- Such items are often compiled over a period of time, even across several generations, therefore one book might contain entries made by more than one individual
- Later edits may be made to earlier entries, as a recipe or method is honed over time, and an analysis of handwriting styles might be necessary to evaluate who might have made any edits and at what period these were made
Further reading in the following areas will help researchers when using these sources:
- Secretary script - early modern examples are commonly written in Secretary or mixed Secretary/Italic hands
- Imperial system for weights and measures, particularly in relation to liquid and dry ingredient measures
- Terms associated with cooking and baking methods
- Historical terms for common chemicals, food ingredients, etc.
Resources at Hull History Centre
Search for further examples of household books using our online catalogue. Try using search terms such as household book, commonplace book, recipe book, housekeepers book, etc.
Alternatively, if you prefer to browse, the file below contains a list of household books held at Hull History Centre. Please note that this list is not comprehensive, but represents key examples of the document type.
The following secondary literature provides examples of research based on household and recipe books:
- Anne Stobart, Household Medicine in Seventeenth-Century England (2016)
- Elizabeth Spiller, Seventeenth-Century English Recipe Books: Cooking, Physic and Chirurgery in the Works of W.M. and Queen Henrietta Maria and of Mary Tillinghast (2008)
- Jack B. Bouchard, 'One British Thing: A Manuscript Recipe Book, ca. 1690-1730' in The Journal of British Studies, vol.59, issue no.2 (2020)
- Elaine Leong, Recipes and Everyday Knowledge – Medicine, Science, and the Household in Early Modern England (2018)
- Michelle DiMeo, Sara Pennell, Reading and Writing Recipe Books, 1550-1800 (2013)