chapter  8
26 Pages

Women and Chymistry in Early Modern England: The Manuscript Receipt Book (c. 1616) of Sarah Wigges 1

ByJayne Elisabeth Archer

In the Wellcome Library of the Royal College of Physicians there is a seventeenth-century manuscript receipt book, a stout quarto of just over 400 pages. In many ways, Sarah Wigges's book is entirely characteristic of other manuscript receipt books owned by early modern Englishwomen. Arguing in 1673 for the need for thrift in prospective wives, Richard Allestree draws upon the popular notion that women are 'more apt to waste, than to make Gold'. From Queen Elizabeth, Queen Anna, and Queen Henrietta Maria downwards, early modern Englishwomen were required to be and, perhaps most importantly, show themselves to be good housewives. Women's manuscript receipt books have principally been used as evidence for women as healthcare providers. Anne Stobart has identified a gradual decrease in the use of distillation and in the number of ingredients used in Englishwomen's medicine waters during the seventeenth century.