Tag: Recipes

More Medical Recipes from Thomas Scattergood’s Diaries

Thomas Scattergood copied a number of recipes into one of his later diaries, one that dates from just after the turn of the 19th century. As he notes on one page, he took many of these recipes from “the Countess of Kent.” The “Countess of Kent” was Elizabeth Grey. Shortly after she died in 1561, her medical recipes were collected together into a book published in two versions:

  • A choice manual of rare and select secrets in physick and chyrurgery collected and practised by the Right Honorable, the Countesse of Kent, late deceased ; as also most exquisite ways of preserving, conserving, candying, &c. (London, 1653)
  • A choice manuall, or rare and select secrets in physick and chyrurgery collected, and practised by the Right Honourable, the Countesse of Kent, late deceased. Whereto are added several experiments of the virtues of gascon pouder, and lapis contra yarvam, by a professor of physick. As also most exquisite waies of preserving, conserving, candying, &c. (London, 1653).

The Countess of Kent’s recipes were clearly popular. Expanded versions of the book were published at least nine times before the end of the century, 1654, 1659, 1661, 1663, 1664, 1667, 1671, 1683, and 1687. More than a century later her recipes were still circulating such that Scattergood could copy them.

The Countess of Kent’s A choice manual of rare and select secrets in physic was a popular recipe book in the latter 17th century.
The Countess of Kent’s A choice manual of rare and select secrets in physic was a popular recipe book in the latter 17th century.

He copied four plague recipes directly from the Countess of Kent:

Plague
Take 1 lb of green walnuts 1/2 an Ounce of Saffron 1/2 an ounce of London Treacle beaten together in a Mortar and with a little Carduus or some such Water, vapour it over the Fire…

One of the many recipes for the plague Scattergood copied from the Countess of Kent.
One of the many recipes for the plague Scattergood copied from the Countess of Kent.

To preserve a Man from the Plague
Take aloe Apaticum, & aloe Succatrine, fine Cinnamon & Myrrh of each of them 3 drams—Cloves, mace, Lignum aloe, Mantick, Bole Armoniack, of each of them 1/2 a dram, let all these things be stampt in a Mortar mingle them together, and keep them in a close vessel, take of it every morning 2 penny weight in half a glass of white wine with a little water, and drink it in the morning at the dawning of the day, an so by the grace of God you may go into all infection of the Air and Plague.

An Eluctuary for the Plague
Take the weight of ten grams of Saffron 2 ounces of the kernels of Walnuts, 2 or 3 Figs 1 Dram of Mithridate, & a few sage leaves stampt together, with a sufficient quantity of Pine kernal water, make up all these together in a lumb or mass & keep it in a glass or pot for use, taking the Quantity of 12 Grains fasting in the Morning, & it will not only preserve from the Pestilence but but expel it from the in fection

Another plague recipe from the Countess of Kent.
Another plague recipe from the Countess of Kent.

A most certain & approved Medicine against all manner of Pestilence & plague, be it never so vehement
Take an Onion, & cut in 1/2 then make a little hole in either piece the which fill with fine Treacle & set the pieces together as they were before, after this wrap them in sine white linnen Cloth putting it to roast, & covered in the embers or Ashes, and when it is roasted enough, press out all the Juice of it, and give the Patient a spoonful, and immediately he shall feel himself better, & without fail be healed—

For some reason he did not copy the other dozen or so plague recipes from the Countess of Kent’s A choice manual.[1] He did, however, copy other recipes from the her book:

Scattergood copied medicines for the yellow jaundice and “dead palsey.”
Scattergood copied medicines for the yellow jaundice and “dead palsey.”

A proved Medicine for the Yellow Jaundices
Take a pint of Mucadine a pretty quantity of the inner bark of a Barbarry Tree, 3 spoonfuls of the greenest goose dung you can get, and take away all the white spots from it, lay them in steep all night on the morrow strain it, and put to it one grated Nutmegg, one penny worth of Saffron dryed & very finely beaten, & give it to drink in the Morning.

Dead Palsey or those who have lost their speech
Take Borage leaves, Marigold leaves or Flower, of each a good handful boyl it in good Ale posset, the person must take a good draught of it in the morning, & sweat, if it be in the arm or Legs, they must be chafed for an hour or two, when they be grieved & at meals they must drink no other drink till their speech comes to them, if the herbs be not to be had the seeds will do.

Scattergood claimed to copy a recipe for kidney stones from Digby’s Medicine, though I have been unable to find Digby’s original recipe. Scattergood also copied recipes from other authors. Perhaps more likely, the source he was using collected together recipes from diverse other authors (I have not found sources for these recipes):

A French Cure for a cancer and to cure a “whenn.”
A French Cure for a cancer and to cure a “whenn.”

For a Cancer A French Cure
Pound Garlick fine on a puler plate, mix it with honey and apply it as a poultice repeating it. And if [??] in a hole, take a piece of Fresh lining [?] beef dip it in the Oyntment and lay it in the hole repeating it

Although the Countess of Kent offered a recipe to cure a wen, Scattergood did not copy out her recipe:[2]

To cure a Whenn
Mix powdered blue Vitriol in a sweet oil, make a plaster & apply it, until it breaks and runs out continuing the plaster until cured.

To make green salve or Ointment—
Into a clean pipkin that holds about a Quart put the bigness of a Pullets Egg of yellow rosin when it is melted over a midling fire add the same Quantity of Bees was, when that is melted pu t in 1/2 a pound of hogs lard when that is melted put in 2 ounces of Honey, when that is melted put in 1/2 a pound of common turpentine, when that is melted put in 2 ounces of Vardigrease, take off the pipkin or else it will [??] in the Fire in an Instant; put it on the Fire again and give it two or 3 wabbles & strain it through a course Sive into a clean Vessel through the dreggs away—An Extraordinary Ointment for a wound or a bruise — Nothing takes the Fire out of a Burn or scald so soon.

Finally, bed bugs seem to have been a problem. Fortunately, this last recipe not only killed the little critters, it also put a fine polish on the furniture and didn’t stink:

A recipe for killing bed bugs and polishing furniture.
A recipe for killing bed bugs and polishing furniture.

Destroying Buggs
Take 6 d worth of Quick silver and the whites of 6 or 8 Eggs heath them together until the Quick silver appears like a black sediment at the bottom of the basin, then rub it over the Joynts and crevices of the Bed stead with a Painters Brush
It will certainly have the desired effect with the addition of giving a varnish to the Furniture, and have not the least smell.

What we can’t tell from Scattergood’s diaries if he used any of these recipes or if he found them effective. We also can’t tell if he adapted them to reflect the ingredients available to him locally. Maybe clues to those questions are hiding in some of the other Scattergood papers.


  1. It is possible that he he was copying recipes from a copy that did not include these other plague recipes.  ↩

  2. “Whenn,” or “wen” as the Countess of Kent labels it, seems to be some sort of skin disease. Her recipe is:
    A Medicine for a Wen.
    Take black Soap and unquencht Lime, of each a like quantity, beat them very small together, and spread in on a woollen cloth, and lay it on the Wen, and it will consume it away.  ↩

Thomas Scattergood’s Medical Recipes

At the end of the 18th century Thomas Scattergood spoke out against what he considered the harsh treatment people suffering from mental illness and advocated for the “humane treatment” of patients in asylums. Scattergood was an influential local Quaker who traveled extensively in the states and in England. In the early 19th century, he suggested to the Philadelphia Yearly meeting that they should do more to care for members who suffered from mental illnesses, who “may be deprived of the use of their reason.” He worked with other members of the Philadelphia Yearly meeting to establish the Friends Hospital, an asylum

for their insane brethren, which would furnish besides the requisite medical aid, such tender and sympathetic attention, and religious oversight as may sooth their agitated minds and thereby under the divine blessing, facilitate their restoration to the inestimable gift of reason.[1]

The Friends Hospital is often celebrated as the U.S.’s first mental hospital.

Special Collections here at Haverford College has a large collection of Scattergood Family Papers. We recently acquired 17 volumes of Scattergood’s diaries, from late 1779 to 1811.

The earliest of the Scattergood diaries.
The earliest of the Scattergood diaries.

Along with all sorts of notes about travel, daily life, and personal reflections. He also records many of his dreams—in one diary, he seems to be troubled by a recurring dream about fishing: He hooks a fish and can bring it to the wharf, but he fails to land the fish even with the help of his friends. But when the fish escapes, it never seems to swim away but lingers near the wharf as if taunting him.

Interspersed through these diaries are various medical recipes. In his early diary, from winter 1779–80, he lists recipes for palpitation of the heart, tooth pills, and a violent tooth ache.

Recipes for generic problems, like tooth aches.
Recipes for generic problems, like tooth aches.

For the Palpitation of the Heart
Take 1/4 oz: Castor, 15 Grains of Salt of Amber 1/4 oz Galbanum 1/4 oz Myrrh & 1/2 an oz of assafectida Pound altogether in a Morter tip well mix’d Then add as much Honey or Mollasses as will make them into Pills. Take of these One or two after the Fit at going to Bed

Tooth Ach Pills
Burn an Oyster Shell red hot, & without slacking pound it to a fine Powder, Mix it up with powder’d Rozin, soften’d a little with clean Grease. Make it into Pills, & put one into the Hollow of the Tooth & it will eat out the Marrow

For a Violent Tooth Ach
Heat a Brick red hot, quench it in water wrap it up in a Cloth, & lay it to the Feet in Bed. It relieves by Sweating. or Skin & Bruise Garlick & apply to the Soles of the Feet

Sometimes Scattergood indicated his source. He copied a number of recipes from the “Countness of Kent” and from “Digby’s Medicine”.

Scattergood copied a bunch of recipes from “the Countess of Kent.”
Scattergood copied a bunch of recipes from “the Countess of Kent.”

His recipes range from the generic, such as those for wounds or tooth aches, to the specific. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of recipes for the plague, for “dead palsy,” and for the “Yellow Jaundice.”

Scattergood was particularly worried about the plague, judging by the number of plague recipes.
Scattergood was particularly worried about the plague, judging by the number of plague recipes.

An Eluctuary for the Plague
Take the weight of ten grams of Saffron 2 ounces of the kernels of Walnuts, 2 or 3 Figs 1 Dram of Mithridate, & a few sage leaves stampt together, with a sufficient quantity of Pine kernal water, make up all these together in a lumb or mass & keep it in a glass or pot for use, taking the Quantity of 12 Grains fasting in the Morning, & it will not only preserve from the Pestilence but but expel it from the in fection

Other recipes seem to apply less to illnesses per se and more to conditions. So Scattergood records a recipe for “old stiff joints” and for childhood worms and “the itch in Man.”

Recipes for old, stiff joints, worms in children, and “the itch in man.”
Recipes for old, stiff joints, worms in children, and “the itch in man.”

To Drive away Worms in Children
Take Human Hair & chop it very fine & give in Mollasses or Wine— The shaving of a Mans Beard Lather & all taken brought abundance away—

For the Itch in Man, & Scratches in a Horse
Take 2 Ounces of Venice Turpentine well washed add to that one pound of Butter from the churn stir in one Ounce of Red per [sic] cipitate of Murcury, take a long time to stir it well

The itch in man was a type of scabs or scurvy,[2] which appeared in sheep and horses.

One way to look at Scattergood’s recipes is to see them as reflecting the diseases that worried him. If we understand that plague and pestilence did not pick out unique diseases but were rather related to epidemics of various sorts, and we recall his having lived through the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia—at one point in a diary he laments that he has left his wife and children to suffer in a lesser epidemic (perhaps another Yellow Fever outbreak)—we can understand his interest in the many plague recipes. Generic recipes for cleaning and treating wounds shouldn’t surprise us.

Equally interesting are the ingredients Scattergood lists: butter, walnuts, mithridate, red precipitate of mercury, Venice turpentine, quick silver, saffron, oyster shells, galbanum, and asafeotida. Many of these ingredients are found in most herbals of the time. Others seem more exotic and probably harder to obtain. Others must have been purchased from apothecaries or chemists, e.g., Venice turpentine or red precipitate of mercury.

Perhaps spending more time with Scattergood’s diaries will reveal when and how he used these recipes. In any event, they offer a glimpse into late 18th-century life and medicine.


  1. Scattergood has become closely associated with mental and behavioral health. See, for example, Scattergood Foundation and Scattergood Ethics. The quotation is taken from Scattergood Ethics : Thomas Scattergood.  ↩

  2. Clearly what Scattergood and contemporaries understood scurvy to be and what we call scurvy are not related. Scurvy seemed epidemic in 17th-century England.  ↩