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Elinor Fettiplace's receipt book: Elizabethan country house cooking
Paper cover of first edition with drawing of an English country house
Cover of first edition
Editor Hilary Spurling
Author Hilary Spurling, Elinor Fettiplace
Country England
Subject Elizabethan era English cuisine
Genre cookbook
Publisher The Salamander Press in association with Penguin Books
Publication date

Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book is a 1986 book by Hilary Spurling containing and describing the recipes in a book inscribed by Elinor Fettiplace with the date 1604 and compiled in her lifetime: the manuscript contains additions and marginal notes in several hands. Spurling is the wife of a descendant of Fettiplace who had inherited the manuscript. The book provides a direct view of Elizabethan era cookery in an aristocratic country house, with Fettiplace's notes on household management.

The book was well received by critics as revealing previously unknown aspects of Elizabethan household life. Spurling was praised for testing the recipes, a challenging task. The historian Elaine Leong cautioned that the homely title could obscure the complex history of the text's authorship and ownership.


The Fettiplaces were an aristocratic English family of Norman descent, who lived in Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Elinor (née Poole) was the wife of Sir Richard Fettiplace, who lived at Appleton Manor in what is now Oxfordshire (formerly in Berkshire). Born in around 1570 in Gloucestershire, she married Sir Richard in 1589 at the age of 19, and became part of an ancient land owning family that had acquired large debts and mortgages, having originally become wealthy from wool. The 'Book of Receipts', dated 1604, contained a relatively small collection of recipes that she had collected and annotated over the years. Her choice of subjects illustrates both her interests and needs, such as to preserve fruit, and her relationships with other women of her standing. Some of the recipes show the influence of Jean Liébault's La Maison Rustique, which was translated into English in 1616.

Fettiplace's manuscript is written in "fine, clear, cranky Shakespearean English". Many corrections are visible in the manuscript, from simple proof-reading to the addition of ingredients, changes to quantifies and preparation times, and alternative methods. The tone is practical and down-to-earth. Apart from Elinor's recipes, the book contains marginal notes, and additional recipes by up to eight different hands, indicating that it grew over more than one lifetime. Its plain appearance without decoration is typical of private works of the period, and is in marked contrast to professionally-produced books. Such books functioned as receptacles "for personal creativity and ingenuity... ...and a legacy for female inheritance".

In 1647 Elinor left the manuscript to her niece, Anne Horner, "desyring her to kepe it for my sake". More recipes were added later in that century. The book then passed down in the family until it reached Hilary Spurling's husband.

The manuscript was not published in Fettiplace's time. It remained a private working document, not intended for readers outside her family. The book was passed on to other women in the family, who would have copied it for their own use, and added other recipes that they liked, as was customary. Such personal preference leads to what Spurling calls "curious omissions": no pork, ham, or bacon dishes except broth for a person with consumption; no duck, goose, or venison; no carrot or parsnip, "and only one mention of onion", for stewed oysters. The manuscript was originally copied out from Fettiplace's notes by Anthony Bridges. The recipes, by Fettiplace and others, were in no special order until Spurling arranged them for publication. The manuscript was not illustrated. However it was made to look elegant, being copied out in a careful handwriting on high-quality paper and bound in leather covers. The front cover is embossed in gold with the Poole family's coat of arms. The endpapers are made from fragments of medieval manuscripts written by monks. The social historian Janet Theophano suggests that Fettiplace began the collection at her mother's request, writing that she "most probably began recording recipes for sweetmeats and preserves under her mother's supervision. At the time of her marriage and her move to Appleton Manor… she brought with her some sort of receipt book."


The book was published in 1986 by The Salamander Press in association with Penguin Books. It was then published in paperback by Penguin in 1987. The book includes an image of one page of the manuscript. The compilation gives a detailed view of Elizabethan era cookery and domestic life in an aristocratic country household. Editions include:

  • Elisabeth Sifton Books, Viking, London and New York, 1986.
  • Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1987.
  • Faber and Faber, London, 2008.


Elinor Fettiplace provides recipes for various forms of bread, such as buttered loaves; for apple fritters; preserves and pickles; and a celebration cake for 100 people. New ingredients such as the sweet potato, which had arrived from the New World, feature in the book. The following recipe for dressing a shoulder of mutton calls for the use of the newly-available citrus fruits: it also illustrates the nature of Fettiplace's spellings and her individual style of writing:

Take a showlder of mutton and being halfe Roasted, Cut it in great slices and save the gravie then take Clarret wine and sinamond & sugar with a little Cloves and mace beatne and the peel of an oringe Cut thin and minced very smale. Put the mutton the gravie and these thinges together and boyle yt between two dishes, wringe the juice of an oringe into yt as yt boyleth, when yt is boyled enough lay the bone of the mutton beinge first Broyled in the dish with it then Cut slices of limonds and lay on the mutton and so serve yt in.

Fettiplace included a recipe for "White Bisket Bread", nowadays called meringue, using one and a half pounds of sugar, a handful of flour, and twelve beaten eggwhites. The recipe is older than François Massialot's 1692 work Nouvelle instruction pour les confitures where meringues first appear in French cuisine.


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