Based on text written by Edward Potten, book historian, with thanks.

This pancake day, you can’t get batter than a 17th century recipe for butter pancakes, from a flipping fabulous new addition to our Cookery Collection.

The newly-acquired manuscript recipe book contains both cookery and medicinal recipes. This living encyclopaedia of useful knowledge was passed from mother to daughter as a cherished heirloom. These sorts of manuscripts not only provide insights into domestic science, but are also valuable social documents, charting the otherwise hidden networks that facilitated the cultural life of women at the time.

The text of the recipe “To make butter pancakes” reads:

To make butter pancakes
Take a quart of cream : 8 eggs : some fine
flower a nutmegg greated : a pound of melted butter
tenn spoonfuls of Sack : beat all these well
togather : the batter must be very thin : soe poure
it into the pan : and thay will fry themselves

The manuscript contains a couple of pancake recipes. “To make butter pancakes” is a cholesterol-boosting concoction containing a quart of cream, 8 eggs and a pound of melted butter. There’s also ten spoonfuls of Sack, a fortified wine. The other is a simpler affair, reflected in its more understated title “a noether pancake”.

Handwritten looping text in ink of another pancake recipe
An excerpt from Anne Hawtrey’s recipe book describing how to make “a noether pancake”

The text of the recipe for “a noether pancake” reads:

a noether pancake
Take a pint of nights Cream : and 2 eggs beton
as much fine flower as will make it batter and
stur it all the while then melt 3 ounceis of butter
& stur into yr batter : Clean yr pan and rud it
with a bitt of butter : but wipe it of again afore
you fry them : for they will fry themselves

This particular recipe book was compiled between 1675 and 1725 by Anne Hawtrey, daughter of Ralph Hawtry of Eastcote House, Ruislip. The recipes are often attributed to named and identifiable individuals, such as Lady North, Sir John Holland or Dr Lower.

Other recipes in the manuscript give instructions on how “to make a Sack Posset” “to make Almon Custerds” and “plum Suger Cakes”. For those with a more savoury tooth, there’s treats such as “nettle Cheese thin” and “buttered rabits or chicklings”.

Drinks and preserves include lemon and cowslip wine, along with a perhaps less appealing recipe for “Snaile Water”, which begins: “Take A Pint of Snails but wash them not for itt takes away Part of their Vertue take also a pint of Earth Worms wash and slitt them…”

Medicinal recipes include one “to cure the bite of a mad dog”, a poultice “to lay to the feet to draw from the head in fevours” and “a very good thing to due the face with after the small pox”. There’s also a “salve to draw out thorns” and “to Cure a speck in ye eye”.

And if the excitement of flipping a pancake is just too much, then “Dr lowers recipe for ye Giddiness in the head” should see you right!

The social lives of contemporary recipe books have been expertly dissected by scholars such as Elaine Leong. A similar example is also discussed in a recent article: The library and commonplace books of Mary Booth of Dunham Massey (1704–1772).

This manuscript recipe book was acquired in February 2023 and is currently being catalogued. It will become part of the Cookery Collection, which has Designated status as one of five outstanding collections of national and international significance held within the Special Collections at the University of Leeds Libraries. The Cookery Collection contains printed and archival material relating to food and cooking that dates from the late 15th century until the present day.

To explore our Special Collections, search our catalogue. Many items are digitised, or you can plan a visit or order digital copies of items.

If you try this recipe, please let us know how it turned out – is it flipping fantastic or did it fall flat?!