6. A Response to: Writing for Women at the beginning of the Seventeenth Century: Sir Hugh Platt's Delightes for Ladies by Doina-Cristina Rusu
Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas
HISTORY OF IDEAS
- Section 0
: Notes - 0
0 Dutch School , 17 th century, Trouble Comes to the Alchem,isFtisher Collection, Chemical Heritage Foundation, photograph by Will Brown
by Malcolm Thick
c b n a
Volume 4 Issue 8
Section 1: Editorials
1. Introduction to the special issue on “Gastronomy and Rev
olution” (M. Albertone – L. Frobert – E. Pasini)
Section 2: Articles. Special Issue: Gastronomy and
2. Nourrir les enfants, nourrir le peuple. L’alimentation entre
identité nationale, lutte politique et action révolutionnaire.
Commentaire au séminaire sur “Gastronomie et Révolution”
3. Wheat versus Maize. Civilizing Dietary Strategies and
Early Mexican Republicanism (S. Bak-Geller Corona)
4. Food and the Futurist ‘Revolution’. A Note (R. Ibba –
5. Food and Cooking in Revolutionary and Soviet Russia
Section 3: Notes
6. A Response to Doina-Cristina Rusu (M. Thick)
Section 4: Reviews
7. A Matter of Method: British Aristotelianism and the New
Science. Essay Review (F.G. Sacco)
8. Book Reviews (S. Gino, R. Gronda)
Section 5: News & Notices
9. Activities of the GISI | Les activités du GISI (2015)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Writing for Women at the Beginning of the Seventeenth
Century. Sir Hugh Platt’s Delightes for Ladies by
A short response to Doina-Cristina Rusu’s article on Sir Hugh Plat pointing out
that the editorial process she described when moving recipes between two of his
published works also occured between his manuscripts and books. Also, there is no
evidence that Plat was much regarded during his lifetime but his work was much
admired in the second half of the seventeenth century.
1 simplification, removal of philosophical matter, and speculation, from
Doina-Cristina Rusu has well documented Sir Hugh Plat’s process of
recipes originally published Thine Jewell House , which he then republished in
Delightes for Ladies and her explanation for these changes is convincing. She
details several examples, reproducing in full the recipes for cakes made with
parsnip flour from botThhe Jewell House andDelightes for Ladies , showing that
a query abouthow to turn dried parsnips into flour is omitted from the recipe
in the latter book. As she points out, the originals of many of these recipes can
be found in Plat’s surviving notebooks in the British Library and the parsnip
cake recipe is included there. Here is a full transcription:
+ 31 C A new kinde of bread wherof to make moste pleasant cakes.
[inserted- qre of stammpinge these rootes, iff so they will bee made into a paste to
mak cakes of./ per T.Gas.]
C Slice greate and Sweete parsnipp rootes into thinn slices after you have washed and
scraped them, then drie them & beate them into fine powder and searce them (qre iff
they will not grinde), then put either 2 parts wheate flower to i parte therof, or i parte
to one, & yt will make very dainty bread, this I didd both Invente and prove in Cakes
and as I remember after the first proportion of one to one./qre of dried pompions./ qre of
dried chestnutts./ skirret rootes, & the cakes of almonds after the oyle is expressed will
mak excellent bread per olde Cropt./
[side margin- qre what the seedes of pompions wolde doo in any vict¹uall.]
The process of stripping recipes of speculation and ideas for further research
when reproducing them in print can be seen, in this example, to be not only a
feature of Plat’s writing for women, but also an editorial process when
transferring material from notebooks to the printed page. Print inevitably involves
tidying up. It would have been possible for Plat to include all his queries in the
printed text oThfe Jewell House but that would have added numerous notes to
the recipe along the lines of:
1. Is ‘stamping’ into a paste better or easier than drying slices and beating
into powder? A close friend, Thomas Gascoine suggests this.
2. Can the dried slices bgeround into powder?
3. Which ratio of parsnip to flour is best, 2:1 or 1:1?
4. Can similar flour be made from- dried pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, dried skirret roots, chestnuts?
5. Cropton, (a friend), suggests the residue of almonds after pressing for oil might be used to make such cakes, is this viable?
Plat includes only query 2 Thine Jewell House version. Publishing all these
queries would have confused the reader and would not have inspired confidence
in the author. Another reason, which would apply to both the books cited, is that
¹ British LibraryS,loane Mss, 2210, f45.
Plat may well havresolved the questions in the manuscript before the recipes
were published. All this does not however, destroy Dr. Rusu’s argument. I agree
with her that the removal in particular of alchemical and philosophical matter
from recipes transferred froThme Jewell House to Delightes for Ladies shows
that Plat was editing his text for a female readership.
2 Plat’s work was appreciated in his own lifetime and Dr. Rusu’s assertion:
I would add one small criticism of an excellent article: I do not believe
“Platt was a well-known writer in his time and a source for later natural
philosophers (…) The Jewell House of Art and Nature , Platt’s masterpiece, was one of
the most widespread books of secrets in England in the early modern period”
is inaccurate. He himself acknowledges his failure in the introductory poem
toDelightes for Ladies . After a brief summary of his publications he laments: “I
write to all but scarcely one beleeves”. Only one of his books had more than one
edition during his lifetimDee,lightes for Ladies , and this book remained
popular in the half century after his death. Ironically, as Dr. Rusu argues, this was a
book to delight and amuse, and was almost devoid of serious scientific enquiry.
The 1593 edition ofThe Jewell House rarely appears at auction today and very
few libraries worldwide have copies, indicating the print-run was small. Plat’s
work attracted little attention in his lifetime—the most he received in print was
as an object of scorn in Sir John HaringtoAnN’sew Discourse of a Stale Subject
Called The Metamorphosis of Ajax .¹ Plat was much more appreciated as a natu
ral scientist in the second half of the seventeenth cenThteuJreyw. el House was
republished in 1653 and in the same year appeared the second edition of his
gardening book which was further reprinted in the seventeenth century. In the
¹ Elizabeth Story Donno edS.i,r John Harington’s A New Discourse of a Stale Subject Called The
Metamorphosis of Ajax (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962), 165-172.
A response to Doina-Cristina Rusu
1650s several correspondents of Samuel Hartlib commend Plat’s work and he
continued to attract attention from early members of the Royal Society.
Moreover, there were squabbles over the ownership of his surviving papers which
were believed to contain valuable alchemical se¹crets.