Item of the month, December 2009

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By | From the Collections

As the season of good cheer inexorably draws nearer, it is customary to be bombarded with ‘essential’ lists of what to wear, buy or cook. If you fancy jumping off the consumerist bandwagon but would still appreciate a little festive guidance, why not print out and keep our Top 10 Tips for Surviving Christmas – 17th century-style.




1. How to reduce Subtraction of Money? Difficult in the short term, try making a New Year’s resolution and in the meantime if necessary resort to a syrup for melancholy

2. Surprise visitors with your idiosyncratic mince pie designs

3. If the mince pie pressure gets to you, try a spoonful of Lady Allen’s cordiall water (comforting and good for passions of the heart)

4. Or alternatively a bracing glass or two of cowslip wine

5. Hangover cure ‘for one that is paralettick’ – self-explanatory

6. Rejuvenate complexions dulled by too many mince pies and wine with a frog sperm and mercury face wash (‘Another water for the face’ on p.110)

7. House a mess? Your in-laws will be able to eat Christmas dinner off the floor after a wipe down with Mrs Mason’s spermaceti and camphor soft soap

8. But just in case, stock up with a good purge for any gastric problems

9. How to cook a husband – in case you leave it too late to order the turkey and have to make do with what’s to hand

10. And for when it all inevitably gets too much… laudanum


For further top tips, try browsing the digital versions of the library’s 17th century domestic recipe manuscripts.

Helen Wakely

Helen Wakely is Archives Project Manager at the Wellcome Library.

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