UNUSUALLY WELL PRESERVED COPY
Closet for Ladies and Gentlevvomen. Or, The Art of preserving, conserving, and candying.
London, Printed by John Hauiland, 1627.
12mo. 96 unnumbered leaves. A-H12. Roman letter, titles in Italic. Title and text within woodcut border, woodcut floriated initials and typographical headpieces. Light age yellowing, quire D lightly browned, woodcut borders at outer margin very fractionally trimmed on a few leaves, title slightly dusty, the odd thumb mark. A good, clean copy, in antique style red morocco, covers bordered with single gilt rule, spine with gilt raised bands, vase tools gilt at centers, green morocco label gilt, combed marble end-papers, all edges gilt.
An unusually well preserved copy of this extremely rare and delightful volume. The first part concentrates on ‘the art of preserving, conserving, and candying’ with additional recipes for syrups and banqueting dishes. The second deals with the medicines and salves needed for a household of the period. Even now the author remains anonymous, not even a set of initials appears in any of the editions, there is no introduction, epistle, dedication or acknowledgement. It is possible the manuscript of ‘A Closet’ was written by a literate woman, intended for her household and personal use. The work was entered into the Stationer’s records in 1602, so it appears that the Elizabethan manuscript may have been acquired and then remained in the printer’s office for years prior to publication. It is possible that a first work on general cookery was intended to precede it, which might explain why the work jumps straight into the recipes with no prefatory material.
The work describes the domestic arts of candies and preserves that well-off ladies, gentlewomen, and housewives of the gentry might be expected to be skilled in during the late-16th until the mid-17th century and does not deal with the day-to-day cookery of a household. It provides the recipes for making those very special banqueting sweets of sugar, pastes, and waters which were thought to be necessary for special occasions and as suitable gifts as well as cosmetics eg for the preservation of a white complexion. Many bibliographies have attributed the ‘Closet’ to Sir Hugh Platt. as the anonymous ‘Closet’ were sometimes bound with Plat’s Delightes, but there seems little reason to suppose Plat wrote the Closet and allowed it to be sold anonymously and not take credit.
The second section is substantial, giving a variety of remedies for medical conditions, diseases, acquired ills like worms and pests, and accidental conditions like broken bones. It also clearly represents another manuscript, probably from a different household. These medical recipes for dealing with burns, piles, worms, collick, sores, toothache, “for the pestilence,” laxatives, menstrual problems, falling sickness, and mad dogges are written in a different style but do contain a few recipes for cookery and perfumes. These include a recipe for making fresh cheese, for the dessert known as snow, and an amusing recipe for King Henry VIII’s perfume. ‘The Closet’ represents perhaps hundreds of similar manuscripts that were once kept and prized by English households which have largely been lost. A good copy of a fascinating and rare work providing much insight into the history of food, drink and cosmetics.
STC, 5436.7 (Recording only 4 other copies B.L., Leeds, Lincoln Cathedral and Folger) Vicaire 183 “Rare et Curieux”. (1618 edition). Bitting (under Plat) 373. Hull, ‘Chaste, Silent and Obedient.’ pp. 39, 40 & 159. Ferguson V p. 44. Not in Oberlé.