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Four Seasons in Shakespeare’s World…

By the Shakespeare’s World team

Cross-posted on The Recipes Project with some slight differences.

One year ago the Early Modern Manuscripts Online project at the Folger Shakespeare Library partnered with Zooniverse to officially launch Shakespeare’s World, in association with the Oxford English Dictionary. What better way to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016, than to invite people into our manuscript collection so that we could learn together about the everyday experiences and scribblings of his contemporaries? For 12 months we have been puzzling through thousands of pages from recipe books and correspondence (in 2017, further images and genres will be added).

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Screen shot taken from Shakespeare’s World main site

 

On our first day we put out a world-wide welcome all call to join us in transcribing “handwritten documents by Shakespeare’s contemporaries and help us understand his life and times. Along the way you’ll find words that have yet to be recorded in the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary.”

We were thrilled by the response! Transcribers in Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, UK and USA, as well as elsewhere, promptly jumped on board. At one point, within hours of launching, 300 users were simultaneously transcribing. From that day forward the Shakespeare’s World community was formed.

The handwritten words in Shakespeare’s World manuscripts are far more intimate than what you might read on a printed page. Their immediacy – a letter or recipe written in haste, a letter accompanied by a couple of old ling, a cheese or fresh nectarines, a pewter box of mithridatum and angelica roots sent in the time of plague – is compelling. We hope transcribing on Shakespeare’s World transports our volunteers from the modern day and drops them directly into the midst of the early modern world, with all the noise and smells (good or bad) that this entailed. Through the recipes and letters we encounter busy lives communicating, cooking, negotiating, quarrelling, cajoling, healing, burning, itching, vomiting, scolding, bleeding and more.

The website itself follows an inductive learning sequence. It has a brief tutorial with sample alphabets to help users identify early modern letters. Users have the option to skip an image if the writing or subject matter is not to their taste. Shortcut buttons make it easy to expand abbreviations (wch / which; wth / with; yr / your).

Here is a snapshot of what you would have encountered, should you have decided to transcribe a letter at 4.05pm EST, December 8, 2016!

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Screen shot taken from Shakespeare’s World, 4.05pm eastern time, December 8th 2016

Here is whistle stop tour of our very full year, season by season!

Winter

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Folger MS V.b.232, folio 14 verso

Shakespeare’s World has a ‘Talk’ platform which hosts interaction between transcribers and the research team, supporting wide-ranging discussions about paleography and specific manuscripts on a daily basis. When users log their transcriptions, they can comment on the image by adding #hashtags. Winter is a time of baking and nesting so it came as no surprise to see that our first #recipes2try were comfort foods such as marmalade, damson plum tart and caraway buns.

Throughout the year Shakespeare’s World transcribers have kept their eyes peeled for potential new early modern words or meanings to add to the OED. They ping these to #PhilipDurkin on Talk using #OED. Winter was probably our busiest time for #OED finds, with a flurry of words highlighted. You can read all about the first forays into word questing on Philip’s February blog post here including the Talk musings over what exactly arePortugall farts“? (answer: a kind of macaroon).

Spring

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Folger MS V.b.232, folio 6 verso

Spring saw a turn to matters of husbandry with animal care figuring largely. Transcribers discussed and observed many tips on keeping one’s horses, sheep, hens and hogs healthy. How to color paper and how to lure an earwig out of your ear with a slice of warm apple, were other charming finds.

Summer

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Folger MS V.b.232, folio 10 verso

 

As well as #OED, another popular tag among our transcribers is #paper. Shakespeare’s World transcribers have been tagging paper and its use as a tool (such as to apply a salve to a wound, or in baking) after learning that Elaine Leong was researching the use of paper in medical and culinary recipes.

One of the liveliest discussions on Talk took place in summer, over a recipe in Margaret Baker’s receipt book for convulsion fits in children, which required a mountain elf’s foot. To read more on paper and the mystery ingredient ‘elf’s foot’, or anything else, please check out our Shakespeare’s World blogs  by some great guest authors!

Also catching volunteers’ eyes were birch twigs used as whisks, pomegranate pill (the rind) used to make ink, and powders for childbirth. Timely for summer was a sunburn remedy from the diaries of John Ward, vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon from 1662 to 1681. He recommends a concoction of honey, nettle seed and daffodil roots.

Fall/Autumn

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Folger MS V.b.232, folio 11 verso

Moving into September, we were delighted that our number of registered users continued to grow. As the days grew shorter and the leaves changed color, the Shakespeare’s World community rounded up our favorite booze recipes, and the Folger received some excellent volunteer amendments to our catalogue records.

So far over 2,500 people have registered to take part in Shakespeare’s World (we have many more unregistered contributors as well). Together, we have transcribed 91,000 lines on over 3,000 pages. Shakespeare’s World’s #OED work also continues apace. The findings of our volunteers are particularly valuable because although OED lexicographers have considerable access to early modern printed material, they don’t have the same access to manuscript sources. We look forward to these word findings being incorporated into the OED in due course.

Please join us at shakespearesworld.org, if you haven’t already done so! Not only will you love the conversations on Talk, but you will also be helping to transform thousands of digital images of early modern manuscripts into a readable and searchable corpus on EMMO.folger.edu (coming soon in beta). We can tell you from experience that transcribing on Shakespeare’s World is strangely and satisfyingly addictive, like peeking into someone’s mail and Moleskins from four centuries ago. Surprises and discoveries are to be found on every page!

A huge thank you to all of our resident ‘experts’ & to you our community of valued volunteers, citizen humanists, transcribers, volunpeers…whichever term you prefer. Some familiar names on Talk are the brilliant moderators @mutabilitie & @jules – & of course our fantastic volunpeers @parsan, @Greensleeves, @IntelVoid, @Christoferos, @kodemonkey, @Cuboctahedron, @cdorsett, @Tudorcook, @Traceydix, @kerebeth, @Dizzy78, @mmmvv1, @fromere @ebaldwin @Blaudud  -but this list is nowhere near comprehensive.

Whether you chime in on Talk, or transcribe anonymously, we couldn’t do it without you. All of us at the Shakespeare’s World team look forward to greeting you back here next year!

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Folger MS F.c.21, fol 1r

Follow us on twitter @ShaxWorld

 

 

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nunc est bibendum…

Citizen-humanist (& one of our fabulous volunteers) @Greensleeves made a delicious sounding cherry brandy earlier this year using a recipe from Shakespeare’s World. It involved steeping cherries in brandy for months, with sugar, cinnamon & cloves. If you fancy trying out some of our ‘drinks’ recipes too, here are a selection taken from the project thus far. The main ingredients are also noted below. Most list water as an ingredient, though it is referred to differently as cold water, fair water, spring water or raw water. Another theme they have in common is time (you will need the patience of 6 or 7 days, 3 weeks…etc!). A huge thank you to all of our citizen-humanists who tagged &/or transcribed these recipes.

Grape Wine

To make Wine of graps:-
Ingredients: clusters of grapes, including the rotten ones!

Ale

Cocke Ale
Ingredients: 1 cockerel, 2 quarts of the best sack, 8 gallons strong ale, 4lb raisins, 1/4lb dates, a large nutmeg, cloves, mace & sugar.

Lemon Wine

Lemmon Wine
Ingredients: 8 lemons, 2lb sugar & spring water.

Gooseberry Wine

To make Goosberry Wine
Ingredients: 12lb green gooseberries, gallon raw water & sugar.

Bitters

To make a pleasant Bitter
Ingredients: 1 quart brandy, the peel of a dozen oranges, 1 ounce gentian, a little saffron & cochineal.

Mead

to make mead. Sister Alsop
Ingredients: 1 gallon honey, 6 gallons cold water & a crust of brown bread.

A Summer Water

To make a Water to Drink in Sommer
Ingredients: strawberries, cinnamon, fair water & cloves.

Elderberry Ale & Rhubarb Ale

And finally here are the two most popular ales over on @shaxworld…

rhubarbale

 

elderberry-ale

Enjoy!

By Sarah Powell
Sarah Powell is the EMMO Paleographer at the Folger Shakespeare Library: on Shakespeare’s World Talk as @S_Powell

 

@shaxworld #paper #baking #thankyou

 

Our kitchens are filled with paper. We make our morning coffees by dripping water through a paper cone filled with freshly ground coffee grinds. We wrap our sandwiches for lunch in wax paper and line our cake tins with baking paper. Dry kitchen paper is often used to dry food before deep drying and damp kitchen paper is often used to preserve freshly cut herbs in the fridge. Many different kinds of paper thus aid us in performing a variety of quotidian tasks in our homes. Paper, in fact, might be the unsung hero in modern kitchens. Recently, as part of a new research project (more on that here), I began to wonder whether paper also performed similar roles in kitchens of the past.

Early modern recipe collections record detailed instructions to produce foodstuffs and medicines and are revealing of the way householders carried out a range of daily tasks in early modern homes. In fact, they are ideal sources to explore paper-use in pre-modern kitchens. However, the sheer number of recipes in the hundreds of surviving recipe books, each containing scores of individual recipes, makes the search for paper-use a little overwhelming and, at times, challenging for a single researcher. In short, I desperately needed the help of the Shaxworld community!

Luckily for me, over the last few months, the kind and wonderful members of Shaxworld have been tagging instances of paper-use in recipes with the label #paper. So far, around 20 recipes in 10 different recipe collections have been identified. [1] A glance through these reveals that, like today, paper served a multitude of uses in the home and was a used as a tool in both food and medicine production. Two common usages emerge from our sample: paper was used to line cake/biscuit tins and to apply ointments and salves. A few months ago, I took a look at paper used as plasters for The Recipes Project blog and so today I’d like to further explore uses of paper in early modern baking practices.

Page from the cookery book of L. Cromwell with the recipe to make ‘Speciall Cake bread’. Folger MS V.a.8, p. 127.

Within our sample, seven recipes use paper as a kind of liner. The recipe book for Margaret Baker, for example, has a recipe to make Jumballs (a kind of fine sweet cake or biscuit). The recipe advises users to warm and ‘creame’ together flour, sugar, egg whites and rosewater and ‘mould’ the resulting light paste in caraway or coriander seeds. These are then shaped into knots and baked on ‘flowered papers or tinn plates’ (Folger MS V.a.619, fol. 95r). Another recipe to make ‘Speciall Cake bread’ in the cookery book of a ‘L. Cromwell’ advises the baker to ‘take a browne paper & dry it very well & strowe it with flower & lay it under the cake’ (Folger MS V.a.8, p. 127). In the early modern period, the brown paper was often used as a wrapping paper of sorts by grocers etc. The request here to ensure that the paper is dry suggests that ordinarily the brown paper might be damp or wet in some way – perhaps this is a case where the brown paper was first rinsed and then reused? Aside from the cheaper brown paper, more expensive white paper was also used to line cake tins. Examples include the recipe ‘To make very fine cakes’ in an anonymous recipe collection (Folger MS V.a.19, p. 132) and a recipe to make marchpane (Folger MS V.a.364, the recipe book associated with Nicholas Webster, fol. 12v-13r) which both suggest the maker to bake on sheets of white paper.

In addition to lining cake tins and biscuit sheets, paper was also used to shape baked goods. A recipe for almond lozenges tells the maker to ‘fashon’ as they like upon plates or paper moulds (Folger MS v.a. 8, p. 133). Another recipe for cheesecakes recommends the baker to ‘pin papers about them to prevent their falls’ during the baking process (Folger MS V.a.8, p. 147).

Recipe by ‘Mrs E’ for a biscuit. Folger MS V.a.8, p. 110.

Finally, paper, it seems, also helped bakers ascertain the heat levels of their ovens. One particularly interesting recipe for biscuits requires a particularly hot oven. The recipe instructs the baker to that the ‘oven must be soe hot as to turne a peece of white paper browne’ (Folger MS V.a.8, p. 110).

It seems that paper was a crucial tool for early modern bakers and was used in the production of a range of different baked goods. This discovery confirms recent suggestions that paper was not as scare, rare, and expensive in the early modern period as was previously thought. In fact, paper was used in a range of everyday tasks suggesting that it was readily available and probably fairly economical. Significantly, our recipe writers were, at times, quite specific about the kind of paper used. Our current sample is probably a little too small for us to tease out whether this was due to personal preference or whether particular baked goods (likely the more precious ones) required special lining papers. Moreover, the final example where white paper was as an indicator of heat demonstrates the ingenuity of householders in taking and re-purposing everyday objects.

The focus on paper-used in recipes has brought up a number of fascinating points and enabled us to delve deeply into everyday activities of early modern householders. I’m still at the beginning of my research and so if you spot paper in a recipe, please mark it with #paper and add it to our sample. I’m so grateful to everyone for your help with my project! A final word – every Tuesday in August, The Recipes Project blog will publishing posts on recipes and paper. So, if this topic tickles your fancy, do click, click, click over there and have a read.

[1] The collections are Folger Shakespeare Library MSS V.a.8, V.a.19, V.a.21, V.a.140, V.a.215, V.a.364, V.a.388, V.a.456, V.a.490, and V.a.619.

By Elaine Leong @elaineleong

Talking to culinary and food historians about Shakespeare’s World

I recently participated in a panel at the Manuscript Cookbooks Conference at Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University, along with my Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) colleagues Hillary Nunn and Jennifer Munroe. Each of us spoke about how we engaged various audiences in the activity of transcription, and how the process of transcription is an important form of close reading that can transform our understanding of a text.

This is particularly true of recipes. Being a close reader of historical recipes means learning how to recognize and interpret common knowledge (of course an early modern person would know the length of a “nail”) and gaps (of course an early modern person would know to add elderberries to elderberry wine).

Jennifer Munroe talked about her experiences with undergraduates in the classroom and the kitchen, trying to interpret a recipe with no previous experience or exposure to early modern ingredients or practices, relying on their critical and creative thinking skills as they did, for example, in working with a recipe for “A Medecine for a Pinn and a Webb, or any other soore Eye” from the receipt book of Mrs. Corlyon (Folger MS v.a.388).

Image from receipt book

A page from Mrs. Corlyon’s book of medicines (Folger V.a.388)

Implicit in this recipe is the specific “three leaued grasse” it features, and the recipe calls for the concoction to cook over a “soft fier” and add only enough honey for it to be “yellow,” but what shade of yellow is unclear. Students learn not only to fill in the gaps, to look for the absences as well as the details recipes in this and other books provide, but they also come to appreciate how users of these books possessed a working knowledge about plants and processes that we have largely lost today.

Hillary Nunn showed the new understandings we can extract from the most basic kitchen processes when we search transcriptions of recipe books. Her work demonstrated how easy it is to overlook the importance of seemingly common recipe ingredients. Water, she pointed out, was not just something that recipe writers could assume users got from the tap. Instead, recipe books require a wide range of different types of water, and often called for waters that has already been processed.

I spoke about you, our wonderful Shakespeare’s World contributors, and the fascinating discussions on Talk, and the “relatability factor” that is much higher for recipe books than other types of early modern manuscripts. We all prepare meals and take care of ourselves, after all, so of course we are fascinated by how earlier generations managed to do these same tasks–the similarities and differences are equally striking.

We were reminded by various participants at the conference that reading a recipe is very different from trying to make it. And, we reminded them that our goal was to transcribe the recipes precisely so that these early modern texts can be studied by scholars as well as followed by cooks (and the two are not mutually exclusive!)

At the conference we saw Irish, German, Swiss, American, and English manuscripts ranging in date from the seventeenth century to the 1960s. One of the recurring themes was how complicated it is to represent the multiple layers of production and creation, and to fully understand the two-way flow between handwritten and printed recipes. Another theme had to do with regionality, and whether or not names of recipes with geographic locations accurately represent where the recipes were “born.” Attempts to categorize recipe books can be tricky as well, but some of the suggestions included: planned vs. unplanned recipe books; recipe books acting as memory prompts for an individual vs. recipe books that are stand-alone, for anyone to use; and heirloom recipe books not meant for cooking vs. practical recipe books passed down through the generations. One of the most salient points for those of us interested in early modern recipe books was how they can be a source not just for recipes, but also for women’s history, biography, and autobiography.

The schedule of presentations for the entire conference is here.

by Heather Wolfe,
with contributions from Hillary Nunn and Jennifer Munroe

 

 

Living in Shakespeare’s World

If you live in Britain or listen to the BBC World Service you have probably heard the popular Radio 4 program Desert Island Discs in which guests imagine being shipwrecked and choose only eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item to keep them company. An article in The Guardian newspaper this week suggested that if Shakespeare were a guest on the show he would take a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses with him. Perhaps anticipating the most likely request, the castaways are already gifted with the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare certainly borrowed from Ovid; for example the story of Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream or a simile referencing Actaeon’s fate [torn apart by his hounds after spying a nude Diana] in Twelfth Night. There are countless other examples. Feel free to chime in with more!

Knowing your Latin was certainly a helpful tool for living an early modern life. On Shakespeare’s World I regularly see Ovid popping up in the manuscripts. Our transcribers can note any Latin aphorisms or musings they come across by using the Talk feature. They often see probatum est : it has been proved after a tested recipe, or some witty wisdom copied from Horace, Virgil, Ovid, and so forth, scrawled on a letter. Quotes from Cicero even appear before a collection of recipes for fruit conserves in one manuscript. The Latin below translates as all that is false falls quickly like blossoms.

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Folger Shakespeare Library: V.a.364

Here’s a pater noster : our father [Lord’s prayer] found in a recipe for a cheese tart, to help the cook keep track of time. The advice is to let it bake for the length of two prayers!

pater noster
For some more on interesting Latin in a 16th century drinking song, go to this Collation post: A monument more lasting than bronze.

After spending a day delving into our manuscripts on Shakespeare’s World I often wonder what it must have been like to live in Shakespeare’s time. What was considered a luxury? Perhaps an Orient Ruby – melted raspberries boiled candy high with sugar & rose water, then left to stand for eighteen days. Maybe other sweet treats such as buns, orange flower cakes or lemon creams? One of our volunteers @Traceydix told us yesterday that she had made a round of Mrs Hampden’s excellent sugar cakes to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary today. Here’s a picture of some delicious caraway cakes @SarahtheEntwife baked in February, also going that extra mile in her dedication to the project!

buns
Made by volunteer transcriber @SarahtheEntwife. Picture posted February 1st 2016, 11.33am.

Or would a luxury be the ingredients needed to concoct a miraculous remedy for a blinding headache, or a salve to heal every ache and pain possible on a desert island.

If you want more ideas log into Shakespeare’s World ‘Talk’ and use the #hashtags to navigate through the discussions that interest you. #Bleedthrough? #Medicine? #Cooking? #Recipe? #JohnWarddiaries? #Catholic? #Water? #OED#Latin#Letter? They are all there!

One thing is clear – early modern society was a vain one. Our transcribers regularly encounter evidence of concern for one’s outward appearance. We’ve seen a treatment for a face full of pimples, namely a mixture of quick-silver with spit, and stale beer to drink morning, noon and night.
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Folger Shakespeare Library: V.a.388

We’ve seen elixirs for a thick head of hair and how to stem baldness with elm roots.

Screenshot 2016-04-22 at 23.55.29

There’s advice on how to take away wrinkles, although frustratingly the page is blank. And there’s a most intriguing medicine for faking a maiden’s glow. See below A medycyne to make the face fare and well coloured.

Screenshot 2016-04-22 at 23.43.33.png

Other helpful tips contained among the thousands of digitized images from the Folger’s collection include: ridding ink stains from your linen cloths, successfully washing your silk hood, preventing vomiting on the sea, a recommendation to smell baking bread if suffering consumption, eating purple wood-louse for a kidney stone [hidden in obscure Latin translated by our volunteer @IntelVoid], cutting down on your beer intake by sucking it through a quill and a warning that the smell of sea air and flying ants induces lust…the list is never-ending and gives us an enchanting insight into the 1500-1700s.

Transcribing these manuscripts on a daily basis provides tantalizing glimpses into early modern life. My favorite remedy so far on Shakespeare’s World? A special drink for Melancholy and Weeping.

melancholy

It seems that then, like now, people still had worries which a glass of wine or a hot drink by the fire could help alleviate!

By Sarah Powell

Sarah Powell is the EMMO Paleographer at the Folger Shakespeare Library: @S_Powell

‘What’s up with those grey dots?’ you ask.

Most online transcription projects allow you to see or even review other people’s transcriptions, but Zooniverse projects (Operation War Diary, Ancient Lives, AnnoTate and Shakespeare’s World, to name a few) ask you to transcribe on your own. Rather than generating transcriptions and waiting for each one to be vetted by an expert, we try to harness what James Surowiecki calls ‘the wisdom of the crowd’—in this case multiple transcribers and their aggregated responses—to identify what is on a page without then doing a manual review of each page. If our small research team had the time to manually review every transcription, we would probably have the time to do it ourselves! But the dataset is much too large for that.

Multiple individuals’ responses are aggregated using two different algorithms. Blue dots The first is a clustering algorithm, which uses the blue dots to identify where a line or word is, and the second is MAFFT alignment which is traditionally used for amino acid or nucleotide sequencing, and has been deployed by our friends over on Notes from Nature (see blog).

Aggregating multiple people’s responses minimizes the burden of transcription, as well as the burden of accuracy, on the individual. It’s unlikely that any two people, much less three, five or a dozen volunteers reading the same word or line will make exactly the same mistakes. But asking multiple people to do each page independently has its perils, as we have discovered on other projects: if a page is dense or the handwriting is hard to read, the average person will do a bit on the top third of the page, but often can’t complete the whole page because they don’t have the time or inclination (life happens!).

Many moons ago, when I was first thinking through how to make text transcription efficient in a system that relies upon multiple independent transcribers who can’t see one another’s work, it occurred to me that we could use a visual clue that a line or word had already been completed. Hence the grey dots that started to appear this month. Grey dots

When you come across grey dots, this means that the section or line they are surrounding has been fully retired, but there may be more to do on a page. If you see a page where every line is encompassed by grey dots, this means you should click ‘I’m done’ and ‘yes, everything is transcribed’. Once three people have said a page is complete on the basis of having done the whole thing themselves or seeing the grey dots, the page will stop showing up in the transcription interface.

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