By Michael Powell-Davies
A Choice Manual, or, Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chirurgery was a hugely popular collection of medical and culinary recipes, ‘collected and practised by the Right Honourable the Countess of Kent’, Elizabeth Grey (1581-1651). First published by the compiler ‘W. J.’ in 1653, two years after Grey’s death, the book was repeatedly updated and republished throughout the latter half of the seventeenth century, with a final 22nd edition published in 1726. Although published as a single work, the volumes are divided into two parts, the first containing the manual of medical recipes, and the second containing ‘A True Gentlewoman’s Delight’, which contained the culinary recipes and was preceded by its own title page.
This copy of the eighteenth edition of the book, published in 1682, contains evidence of female ownership in the form of two inscriptions made by Anne Howe and Maria Burton.
Anne Howe’s inscription appears on the back of the title page and reads: ‘Anne Howe her booke given her by the Right hon[oura]ble Lady Howe her mother Aprile the 17 1617’. As this book was first published in 1653, Howe perhaps received this book in 1716 or 1717.
The recto of the copy’s second flyleaf bears the inscription: ‘Maria Burton July the 8: 1835’.
Source: British Library, 7462.a.31. Photographs by Michael Powell-Davies, reproduced with permission.
One thought on “Elizabeth Grey, Countess of Kent, A Choice Manual, or, Rare and Select Secrets in Physick and Chirurgery (1682)”
Our thanks to Michael Powell-Davies for
excellent information on the popular medical
receipt-book of Elizabeth Talbot Grey,
Countess of Kent. I enjoyed delving into this
important medical sub-genre of women’s writings
in the 1970s, and found that the original compiler
and editorial overseer of the Countess’s small “Manual”,
one “W.J.”, was very probably William Jar of the Countess’s
household (see Mulvihill, “Feminine Portraiture, 1660-1714”, Part I,
Chapter 2, illus., PhD diss., Wis., 1982). Also the author frontis in
the Countess’s book was the work of engraver John Chantry.
For contemporary references to the popularity of the Countess
of Kent’s remedies, see amusing verse on the green-sickness
by Rochester and (c1682) “Ephelia”. //