This is to learn ye how to make oyntments

On February 6 2000 I found a recipe handwritten on blank pages in my copy of The Tryal and Triumph of Faith, published in 1652. The content, style and spelling all indicate that it was probably written soon after the book was published. In other words, it was written nearly 350 years ago! You can study it in the reproductions below.

This is what the pages look like in this very old book, which is in poor condition.

A computer-enhanced version helps you to read the recipe, see the style of handwriting, and study the unusual spelling.

Transcription of the recipe for oyntment

Bruse those herbs, flouers or roots you will make an oyntment of & to [two?] handfuls of your brused herbs ad a pound of hogs greas beat them wel together in astone morter with awoden pestle put it in a stone pot The herbs & greas together cover it with paper & set it in the sun or some other warme place three or four or five days that it may melt then take it out & boyl it a Little while strain it out pesing it very hard in apress to this greas ad as many more herbs brused as before Let them stand in Like maner as Long then boil them as you did before if you think your oyntment be not strong anough you may do it the 3 or 4 time the fuler ye juse your herbs are the sooner your oyntment be strong the Last time you boyl it boyl it so long as ye herbs be crisp & the Juse consumed then strain it presing it hard in apress & to every pound of ointment ad to ounces of turpentine & as much wax because greas is offencive to wounds as well as oyl

oyntments are vulgerly known to be kept in pots & will last about a year or two year
This is to Learn ye how to make oyntments

Where the recipe came from

The great herbalist Nicholas Culpeper (1616–1654) published his Complete Herbal and English Physician Enlarged in 1653. In modern format, this is a tome of over 600 pages, covering every herb and plant known at the time, as well as many other organic and inorganic substances thought to have curative or healing qualities. The recipe for ointment was probably copied from this book.

Changes in spelling

In the above handwritten recipe, you can see boyl and oyntment and well as ointment. Other words which could have a y include joynt, juyce, moysture, onyon, poyson, soyl.

In this example, greas has no e at the end. Other words like this included alternat, bridg, knowledg, creatur, climat.

Some words could have an extra e, for example arrowe, blossome, childe, egge, legge, saile.

ad is probably a misspelling of add

anough is an old spelling of enough

bruse an old spelling of bruise

juse with juyce, juyse were old spellings of juice

warme many words had an extra e at the end

flouers one of several old spellings of flowers

fuler there were several spellings of full, fuller

morter a spelling of mortar in the 16th and 17th centuries

offencive could be used, as well as offensiff

pesing could be a misspelling of pressing or is a form of peising, peizing, to press down with a weight

vulgerly there were several ways of spelling vulgar, which at that time meant common or customary.

learn could also mean teach, impart knowledge.

The writer sometimes joins the indefinite article (a) to the following word. We can see astone (a stone), apress (a press). This could be the writer’s own style or simply due to lack of education.

English spelling was a free-for-all until printing commenced in the 15th century, but there were still variations. For example, in the 16th century, there were many different ways of spelling Shakespeare. It was not until people like Dr Johnson compiled dictionaries in the 18th century that standard spellings really became universal. There were and still are differences between British and American spelling and vocabulary. When Noah Webster compiled his dictionary, he selected English spellings that were in use at the time. Some so-called ‘Americanisms’ are actually from the British English of the 17th and 18th centuries, e.g., agreance, center, diaper, Fall, faucet, labor, neat (meaning ‘good, pleasing’), sidewalk, plow.

You can discover more about old books and how English developed, in my other website The Brain Rummager Too. There is a link to it on the opening page

Back to main Menu

Back to Home Page