Nancy Simpson-Younger

Early modern recipe books stand at the intersections of a number of concepts: theory and practice, medicine and cookery, individual and group knowledge, even poetry and prose. Because they can contain these multiple genres and multiple approaches, often in close proximity to each other, these collections are a key source for asking how early modern compilers used juxtaposition as a tool of meaning-making. At the same time, because we lack substantive data about book use in many cases, it’s impossible to assess the full net effect of juxtaposing a biscuit recipe with a poem or an ointment receipt. In other words, we have a record of small, self-contained artifacts in proximity, but we can’t make definitive claims about the implications of that proximity. Still, I argue, the proximal relationship of poems, medicines, food recipes, and accounts needs to be acknowledged and reckoned with, since receipt books are made up of both discrete parts and juxtaposed wholes. Using juxtaposition as a methodology, as well as a subject of inquiry, this experimental essay explores the potentialities of neighboring parts and wholes in the Baumfylde ms, in order to highlight the necessity of viewing receipt books as not only conveyors of sub-parts, but larger units of meaning themselves.