Forme of Cury

Archive Collection
  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 7
  • Dates of Creation
      Late 14th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English  and Latin
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. iii + 35 + i + 50 + ii folios, foliated 1-91. Dimensions: 140 x 98 mm. Collation of ff. 4-89: 1-28, 38 plus a slip after 7 (f. 26), 48, 58 plus a modern leaf inserted after 2 (f. 39), 6-108, 118 lacking 1 and 2 before f. 86, and 7 and 8 after f. 89, plus a modern supply leaf after 6 (f. 90). Medium: vellum. Binding: vellum, possibly original (very worn and wormed), stuck to pastedowns conjoint with ff. 1 and 91.
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Scope and Content

Recipe book for the Royal Household of Richard the Second. The volume contains one hundred and ninety-four numbered recipes.

Headnote on f. 4: 'Copia domini Regis Ricardi secundi post conquestum Anglie. Thys fourme of Cury ys compyled of þe chef mayster cokes of kyng Richardus þe seconde after þe conquest of Englond by assent of maysters of physyk and of Phylosophye... '

Contents: Forme of Cury recipe book, ed. Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler, Curye on Inglisch: English culinary manuscripts of the fourteenth century (including the "Forme of Cury"), Early English Text Society, Supplementary series, vol. 8 (1985). This manuscript was omitted by Hieatt and Butler, but is described in Hieatt, 'Further notes on the Forme of Cury et al.: additions and corrections', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 70, no. 1 (1988), pp. 45-52. Collated by Hieatt as MS M; she states: 'MS M is in some respects the best, as well as the earliest, copy of what we have labelled the beta-version of The Forme of Cury, a group otherwise consisting of British Library Additional MS 5016... and the Morgan Library's Bühler 36... MS M ought to have been the base.' Preceded on ff. 4-11v by a brief preface and numbered table of recipes. Nos 184-186 and part of no. 187 are missing after f. 85, and no. 194 is missing at the end, according to the manuscript's numbering in the table of contents (i.e. nos 194-196, 197 and 204, according to the Hieatt/Butler numbering system). No. 37, Blank dessorree, was missed at first and added by the main hand on a slip, f. 26. Folios 39 and 90 contain modern copies from the 'Brander Roll' (British Library Add. MS 5016) of recipe no. 194 and of a recipe which was added to the 'Brander Roll' in a blank space.

Hieatt also states that Ker is wrong in dating the manuscript to the second half of the 15th century, suggesting that his '152' is a typographical error for '142'.

Script: Anglicana formata. Written space: 92 x 50 mm. 14 long lines.

Decoration: Crude 2-line initial T in blue ink within a red penwork frame on f. 12r.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 401. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Forme of Cury, 'the (proper) method of cookery', is by far the best known guide to medieval cooking. The name is taken from a parchment roll containing some two hundred recipes, compiled by the master cooks in the Royal Household of Richard II in around 1390 (now British Library, Add. MS 5016). An edition of the roll was published by the English antiquarian Samuel Pegge the elder (1704-1796) in 1780. It was re-edited by Richard Warner in 1791 without reference to the manuscript. The name has since been applied to several parallel versions of the manuscript, which all stem from a lost prototype. These vary in the number and order of the recipes and are grouped into two families by modern editors, alpha and beta. The recipes reveal the variety of foodstuffs available to the elite, including stews, roast dishes, jellies, tarts and custards, and the imagination of their cooks, although 'most foods were neither extravagantly sweetened nor extravagantly spiced' (Hieatt and Butler, p. 14: see Bibliography).

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Rylands in 1901 from James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford, and later transferred to the John Rylands Library.

Custodial History

(1) John Walsh. A name inscribed on f. 1 in a 16th-century hand appears to be 'Dominus Iohannes Walsh' (Ker); not 'Tilsh' as suggested by Moses Tyson in the Hand-list of the collection of English manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928.

(2) Lord Crawford. Alexander William Crawford Lindsay, 25th Earl of Crawford, purchased the manuscript in 1872 for £31 through the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch.

Related Material

For a list of other Forme of Cury manuscripts, see Hieatt and Butler, p. ix.

Bibliography

Constance B. Hieatt, 'Further notes on the Forme of Cury et al.: additions and corrections', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 70, no. 1 (1988), pp. 45-52. Contains a detailed discussion of the manuscript.

Constance B. Hieatt and Sharon Butler, Curye on Inglisch: English culinary manuscripts of the fourteenth century (including the "Forme of Cury"), Early English Text Society, Supplementary series, vol. 8 (London: Oxford University Press, 1985). However, Hieatt and Butler omitted the present manuscript.

N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 401.

G.A. (Godfrey Allen) Lester, The index of Middle English prose. Handlist 2, a handlist of manuscripts containing Middle English prose in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester and Chetham's Library, Manchester (Cambridge: Brewer, 1985), pp. 1-2.