Acton, Grace

  • Acton, Grace, fl.1621.
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Acton, Grace. Public Domain Mark. Source: Wellcome Collection.

About this work


Collection of cookery and medical receipts.

Inserted is an 8vo. sheet (paper) containing a priced list of food and drink, probably for a village feast. Among the items are: 6 swans for 15/-, II gallons of red wine for 9/2, and 200 eggs for I/6. This is written by the same hand as that of the MS. itself. The upper cover is lettered 'Herbes to season, herbes to cure'. Inside the upper cover in red ink 'Grace Acton, May 1621'.

Research by social historian of food culture Ivan Day suggests that MS.1 is not a genuine receipt collection but a fake constructed sometime in the 19th- or early 20th-century using elements from a 17th-century notebook.

The handwriting appears to be a pastiche script rather than a genuine hand of the period, and while the medicinal recipe ingredients largely reflect genuine pre-modern remedy ingredients, they are all somewhat outlandish, suggesting that the author has either selected genuine recipes for bizarre effect, or has conflated unusual ingredients into fake remedies. Notably, however, the cough remedy on p.4 contains the anachronistic ingredient glycerine, a chemical compound not discovered until 1779 by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele.

As regards the culinary recipes, the author has included medieval dishes such as 'leche lumbarde', 'egredouce', 'flampoynts', 'cockatrice', 'urchynnes', and 'mawmene', most of which would have seemed archaic and unfamiliar by 1621 when the manuscript purports to have been collated. The bill of fare for a three course meal on p.5 is typical for a high status English meal of the 14th or 15th century, with extant recipes for all of these dishes in 14th and 15th century manuscripts.

Ivan Day suggests that the author's source material is likely to have been a transcription of medieval cookery manuscript Arundel Collection, N.344. p. 27-445 in the Library of the Royal Society. The manuscript was published by the Society of Antiquaries in A Collection of Ordinances and Regulations (London 1790), and republished the following year by Richard Warner in Antiquitates Culinariae (London 1791). For example, the bill of fare on p.5 lists the novelty dish normally known as a 'cockentryce' as 'cockagris', a spelling unique to the Arundel manuscript.

Read Ivan Day's full article on Wellcome MS.1 in Food History Jottings (7 March 2012).



Physical description

1 volume 5 ll. 8vo. 171/2 x 91/2 cm. On vellum, vellum covers.

Acquisition note

Purchased 1931.

Location of duplicates

This recipe book has been digitised and images are linked to the catalogue record. In addition, a microfilm copy is held as AMS/MF/232.

Finding aids

Database description transcribed from S.A.J. Moorat, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1962-1973).


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Accession number

  • 75096