A spread from the manuscript Handley recipe book sold by Bonhams for £7500.

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Sold for £7500 by Bonhams (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) on March 21 was a 51pp recipe book which bears as the earliest of its ownership inscriptions the 1695 entries of a Hannah and Thomas Handley.

In the latter part of the 18th century it seems to have been in the hands of two ladies bearing the temptingly familiar name (in this context) of Beetson, but most recipes seem to date from the earlier period and to relate to food preparation in what must have been a large and well-to-do household.

Raspberry jelly and blackberry wine are among the recipes featured on the spread reproduced above. However, elsewhere in the book we find ‘Orangado-Pie’, for which one must first: “Take 2 Dozen of Chickens, and flea them, and cut them, then season them with Mace & Nutmeg, then put them in the Pie, and make the crust thin, then put in 2 ounces of Loaf-sugar, 2 ounces of candid orang, and as much Citron, as much Dates, and as much preserved Barberies, a pound of fresh Butter…

“ …and when the Pye is baked, put in a pound of Butter, the juice of a Lemon, a glass of sack, a quarter of a pint of creame, warme it over the fire well”.

‘Orange Tartes in Puff Paste’ were to be found in an 86pp recipe book of c.1680, compiled by a Mrs Beaulah Hutson, that was sold for £7000 by Forum Auctions (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) on March 22.

Like the pages from the Bonhams recipe book illustrated here, it offers a recipe for ‘wiggs’, which I have found online described as “slightly sweetened buns flavoured with carraway seeds… served at funerals in the North West of England”, and like so many other such manuscripts, it offered all sorts of medical recipes as well.

The following lot in the Forum sale, dated to c.1700, featured recipes in at least four different hands in its 140pp.

These included instructions on how to ‘Sowse a Pigg’ or make ‘A Harty Choke Pie’, as well as yet another orange treat, ‘Oring Pudding’. And what, one wonders, were ‘Burch Wine’ or ‘Mrs Boswell’s Eye Water’?

Foxed and browned but still in its original calf binding, it made £6000.

Potatoes and poverty

Published in 1664, “for the Good of the Poorer Sort”, John Forster’s Englands Happiness Increased, a… Remedy against all succeeding Dear Years… advocated the planting of “the Roots called Potatoes” to feed those who might otherwise struggle to feed their families.

Slightly browned in 19th century wrappers, a copy sold for a record £6500 by Forum in a sale held on December 6 last year refers to Virginia potatoes and gives recipes for puddings, cakes, bread, etc.